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Essay: From Atheism To Theism Add in library

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Question:

From Atheism to Theism

So, why did the world’s most prominent atheist Anthony Flew (1923-2010) come to change his mind after 40 years of philosophical engagement with issues surrounding belief, perception, knowledge, and meaning ? You could read through the (eminently accessible) book he wrote with Roy Varghese, Why There Is a God (New York: Harper One, 2007), distil from it the main reasons for his “conversion”, and spell out in greater detail just what it entailed.

 

Answer:

Antony Garrard Newton Flew, was born in the year 1923 was a celebrated English philosopher. Antony was a strong atheist and possessed an analytic and evidentialist thought regarding life and the existence of God. Antony Flew was never ready to believe in the God or the presence of superpower until he gets empirical evidence about the existence of God in the universe (Blackford, & SchuÌklenk, 2013). His belief on the non-existence of God was so strong that it was from the age of 15 that he started believing that there is no God. Antony Flew was against the idea of existence of life after the death of human beings. In his entire lifetime, he only believed in evidence and finally in the year 2004, he started believing in the Aristotelian God. While he started believing in the Aristotelian God, he stated that it is his lifelong motto to follow where the evidence leads and finally when he got the evidence of the existence of God, he is ready to believe in the presence of the superpower (Curran, 2012).

The highlighting work in the lifetime of Antony Flew was the book, ‘There is a God: How the World's Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind’ which Antony Flew has written along with Roy Abraham Varghese (Crawley, 2015). However, the book was made a subject of controversy when an article claiming that Antony Flew mentally declined that was published in the New York Times magazine. The article also claimed that the book was mainly a work of Varghese. However, Antony Flew denied the allegations by the article. Flew stated that the ideas presented in the book belonged to flew himself but due to the old age, it was Varghese who did the  most of the writing part in the book (DeWitt, & Brown, 2013).

Some of the distinct works by Antony Flew other than the book with Roy Abraham Varghese are (Goodreads.com, 2015):

• How to Think Straight: An Introduction to Critical Reasoning
• A Dictionary of Philosophy
• An Introduction to Western Philosophy
• God & Philosophy
• Thinking about Social Thinking
• New Essays In Philosophical Theology
• Body, Mind, and Death
• Thinking Straight
• Essays On Logic And Language
• Darwinian Evolution
• Dios existe
• Hume: Philosopher of Moral Science
• Hume's Philosophy of Belief: A Study of His First Inquiry
• Merely Mortal?: Can You Survive Your Own Death?
• What Universal Natural Rights? 

Antony Flew was a strong atheist from the age of fifteen. In addition to this, Flew had a tendency of believing something, which has a strong evidence to support the claim. Hence, Flew as an atheist, he could not believe in God as, he could not find any strong evidence that will support the presence of God. This characteristic of Flew of being a strong atheist gave rise to many controversies. While Flew was in Oxford, he was the part of the Socratic club, which was the main place of debate between the Christians and the atheists. The president of the Socratic club was C.S Lewis. Flew in the club presented a paper with the title, ‘Theology of Falsification’, which argued there are many statements on the theory regarding the existence of god (Flew, 2000). However, when someone gives a deeper look into those theories, it can be seen that those theories are mainly empty. Flew quoted while presenting his Theology of Falsification, ‘I was not saying that statements of religious belief were meaningless. I simply challenged religious believers to explain how their statements are to be understood, especially in the light of conflicting data’ (p. 45) (Goodreads.com, 2015). The Theology of Falsification, which was presented in the year 1950, was the centre of argument even years after it was published.

 

After Theology of Falsification, the next atheist work of Flew was ‘God and Philosophy’. In God and Philosophy, Flew attempted to evaluate the Christian belief on theism. Flew sported atheism in the book by saying, ‘the design, cosmological, and moral arguments for God’s existence are invalid’ (p. 49). He later argued that one should first define the concept of god before believing in the existence of god in the universe (Fradd, 2015).

It was in the ear 1971, that Antony Flew published the book, the ‘Presumption of Atheism’, which is considered to be the final book of Flew on the concept of atheism (Flew, 1976). According to the book, the atheists hold a more rational position in the argument between atheism and theism. The atheists hold a much position by questioning the existence of God in the universe and it is the theists, who bear the burden of proving that God exists in the society. Alvin Plantinga who was a critical logician criticized the book (Williams, 2005). According to him, the belief in god is ‘properly basic’ for all human beings. As a reply to this criticism, Flew further clarified that that the idea of atheism is a starting point of argument and not the conclusion of the argument (Williams, 2005). By keeping atheism the base, people should start finding evidence of the existence of God, which will finally lead to the acceptance of God by human being. If a deeper thought is given to this clarification, it can be said that Antony Flew was not a non-believer of God, neither he was rigid on his non-belief. He just a wanted a proof of existence of God. When he will get an evidence of the presence of God, he will start believing on the existence of god.

Antony flew believed that everything that is happening in the universe should be understood in the terms of laws of nature. Flew states that, when on one hand, the theists’ fundamental assumption is the presence of god in the universe, on the other hand, flew presumed the universe the fundamental assumption (Frede, 2011).

Flew’s belief was strongly presented in the book, Philosophy of religion a guide and anthology by Brian Davies (Davies, 1993). In the book of by Brian Davies, the parable by Antony flew as he mentions in Theology of Falsification gets a special mention. Antony Flew’s disbelieve in God was strongly felt in the work, Theology and Falsification. In the theology of falsification, refers the work of John Wisdom where he argues upon the presence of God by giving the example of a garden. Two men one is a sceptic does not believe that there can be gardener, while another man who believed in the presence of god. To feel the presence of gardener, the two men set up a barbed wire with electric current in the wire and keep a bloodhound. However, there was no disturbance. The person who believed that there is God, states that the gardener was someone who is invisible, cannot be torched, without any scent and insensible to any electric shock or pain. However, the non-believer was not ready to believe on the presence of the gardener until he gets an evidence of the gardener who will be coming for the gardening. Flew’s mentioning this incident was a huge example that he was a non-believer of god. In addition to this, it can also be seen that Flew was a ardent believer of evidence. He mentions this parable to make the readers understand that evidence the best way to prove that there is God who is the creator of everything in the universe (Gravil, 2011).

After spending his life as an atheist, at the end of his life, Antony Flew started believing that there is the presence of God in the universe. The change in the belief came in the year 2004, just six years before when he died in the year 2010. Some critics say that at the end of life, the mental condition of Antony Flew declined and hence, he wrote the book, ‘There is a God’ the ending years of his life peacefully. The book, ‘There is a God: How the World's Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind’ was written along with the co-author Abrahams Varghese (Flew & Varghese, 2004). Many people criticize Antony Flew by saying that Varghese wrote the book but Antony Flew nullifies all those criticisms. Antony flew opened up in an interview with Dr. Benjamin Wiker. Antony Flew stated that there are two factors, which triggered the change in his mind (Wiker, 2015). The first factor is the growing empathy of Flew with the insight of some notable scientists, which includes Einstein. Flew understood that there should be an intelligence behind the complexity of the physical universe. The second factor was the insight of Antony Flew himself. According to Flew, the complexity of human life is even more complicated than the physics of the universe. Hence, it made him to think that there should be one source of energy, which is controlling the physics of human life as well as the physics of the universe (Collins, 2015). Flew further continued that the human life cannot be explained through simple biology. There should be something more to this, the human life, which the genetic code must not be able to identify. Flew further discovered that the difference between life and non-life has something to do with more than biology. The force that controls the time between life and non-life is not chemical but ontological (Collins, 2015). Flew even answered the critics who criticized his decision regarding changing to a theist from an atheist by saying that it is not that he heard a voice, but he followed the evidence and it lead him to theism.

 

Wiker’s next question was about the book by Flew, ‘Presumption of Atheism’. Flew has argued that atheism is the starting point from where the argument should start reading the existence of god in this universe (Wiker, 2015). However, now that flew has changed his views existence of the God, then the burden of proof will also be on Flew now, to this Flew replied that many philosophers also believe that the burden of proof is on the atheists. He further added that the he has mentioned in the book that a central and stronger force controls the origin of the laws of the nature and the physics of life. The burden of proof is neither on the theists or the atheist but in those people who do not believe that the there is a central force in the universe who control the forces in the universe (Herzman, 2013).

Wiker also asked Flew regarding the scientific approach that the author has used to draw the evidence, which led him to the inference that there is an existence in god. Flew answered the inference that he had drawn from the approach was philosophical in nature. The scientists being steeped into science will not be able to draw philosophical inference. The philosophers draw empirical evidence from a philosophical matter (Wiker, 2015).

Wiker questioned Flew regarding the works of the Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens who believe that those who follow God are behind times. To the question, Flew again referred to philosophical implications. He calls Dawkins dishonest because Dawkins is trying to infer a philosophical implication by applying scientific perspective. In addition to this, two famous philosophers, Thomas Nagel and Anthony Kenny have also pointed pot that the Dawkins has failed to refer three major issues related to the existence of God (Wiker, 2015). Dawkins support the issues, but those are the same issues, which led Flew to believe that there is God in this universe. The three major issues are life with its teleological organization, the existence of the universe and the laws of nature. These three major issues support the fact that there is a central power that controls the living beings and forces of the nature (Holden, 2012). The change in mind of flew is the result of this major issues which is identified in the chapters.

Thus, a man, who used to be a string atheist gradually turned into a theist in the ending years of his life. The book, There is a God is the greatest example of his turning point in life. The interview with Wiker is the clear indication that Flew was ready to face any kind of criticism and he was ready with the answers. Flew entirely believes in science and according to him, science is the only truth which led him to believe that there is a presence of God in the universe (Kazan, 2010).

The fine-tuning argument mainly leads to the pointer of God. The fine-tuning argument presents how the physical constant of the nature and the beginning of the universe beautifully converge to a common point that there is one creator of all the activities in the universe (BioLogos, 2011). It seems that the physical constant of nature like the gravity and the density of the universe is created at one point of time and gave rise to life in the universe. A slight variation in the theories or the density would have resulted in a great distortion in nature (Logicmuseum.com, 2015). However, as it did not happen hence, the fine-tuning argument proves that there is tuning between the scientific theories and the beginning of the universe which is done by a single creator in the universe (Hudson, Diego, & Wigelsworth, 2014).

While talking about the existence in god in the book, There Is a God, Antony Flew presented the fine-tuning argument. Antony Flew explained the presence of God by comparing the life of a man being with a hotel room. He asked readers to imagine that a person has entered a hotel room. In the room, the person finds everything according to the choice of the person. The room is decorated according to the choice of the individual, there is music playing which the person likes, the bar possess the drinks that the person likes with the favourite candies and cookies. In fact, the mineral water bottle is according o the choice of the person. The person will become overwhelmed by the idea. Gradually, the person will start thinking that the hotel managers and the officials had an idea about the choice of the person and they had decorated according to the choice of the person. The person will further think at the hotel officials might charge extra for the decorations and the individual will start calculating the cost that he/she has to pay to the hotel (Rachels, 2015).

While the person is thinking about the concrete part of the arrangement, the individual at some point of time might think that someone is there who knew all about the choices and has informed the people who in turn has arranged the things (Joshi, 2011). The person might not be able to explain who that person is but might have a feeling of a presence of an invisible person who has a prior idea about the choices of the person (Rachels, 2015).

Antony Flew was attracted to the fine-tuning after he was influenced by the intelligent debate, which was initiated by Michael in the book, Darwin’s black box: the biochemical calling to evolution. Antony Flew was also interested in William Dembski’s book the Design  Inference: eliminating chance through small probabilities.

When on one hand, the fine-tuning argument support the scientific theories and the beginning of the universe to prove the existence of god, on the other hand, cosmological argument says that the existence of the universe and the world is itself the biggest example of the existence of God. The simple cosmological argument states the following facts (Christianteaching.org.uk, 2015):

Everything that exists in the inverse must have a cause behind the existence of all the things

As the universe exists, this is a fact, hence:

  • The universe will also have a cause why it is existing
  • He only cause that is behind the cause of the existence of the universe and the only cause of existence is god
  • Thus, god also exists

However, Antony Flew when he was an atheist rejected the cosmological argument as the argument fails to provide a strong of evidence to support the fact. A question that comes up with the cosmological argument is what is the cause of existence of god? If everything has a cause of existence, then God should also have a case of existence (Deem, 2015). As God is the cause of existence of the universe then when there is no cause of existence of God then the universe should also not exist. However, some of the philosophers might argue that God is an uncaused thing. Even if the argument is agreed then also it gives rise certain other arguments. The entire cosmological argument, which is based in the cause of existence, becomes false (Goodreads.com, 2015). In addition to this, the philosophers who support the cosmological argument will have nothing to prove further to evolve the cosmological argument as the base if the argument is false (Kaku, & Cohen, 2012). Thus, the cosmological argument takes the path to nowhere.

Antony Flew who was an ardent follower of evidence could not follow the cosmological argument of existence of God. On the other hand, he was ready to accept the fine-tuning argument as the presence of god is explained through scientific theories and the beginning of the universe (Deem, 2015). Thus, it can be said that the perspective of Antony Flew is based in pure science and evidence. Flew very intelligently made out the difference between the fine-tuning argument and the cosmological argument. Moreover, the constant stress on the fine-tuning argument is another proof that the path of atheism to theism for Antony Flew is entirely based on evidence.

The argument of first cause can be an extended form of the cosmological argument that its god who created everything in the universe. God is the one who created the universe and the life in the universe. God is the one who has been the creator of every single being in this earth as well as other planets in the universe and the life on the planets. The fist cause argument keeps god as the cause and then develops further theories on this cause (Leech, 2013).

However, the atheists argue the theory by saying that what is the cause of God when there should be cause behind everything (Luehrmann, 2011). However, the scientists are then challenged by the big bang theory, which is taken to be the birth of the universe by many scientists. When the big bang theory is further examined, it can be seen that at one pint of time, the big bang theory fails to prove nay law that proves that big bang theory is the ultimate cause of the birth of the universe.

Thus, the problem between the atheism and theism will keep on going, and it will impossible to reach a decision regarding the birth of the universe and the existence of God. When on one hand, the theists believe that God is creator, the atheists will prove them wrong and vice versa (McCormick, 2012). This can be the main reason why Antony Flew lived the life of both a theist and an atheist. Though he says that he has found a proper reason and evidence of the presence of god, yet he was unable to prove with evidence. However, it is also true that there is a fine-tuning that the birth of the universe took place at the correct time and the correct place. The human being came in the earth at the right point of time. Hence, one cannot entirely overlook this theory by Antony Flew.

However, it is not possible to know nothing more about the first cause as the argument will be ever ending. The argument starts from a point where God is taken to be the creator of everything in the universe; however, the philosophers are not able to prove the argument, as there is no cause of the existence of God (Meynell, 2011).

 

Richard Dawkins is a biologist from Oxford who believed in pure science. According to Dawkins, believing in God is like believing a teapot revolving around Mars (Dawkins, 2006). It is the human nature to develop a sense of gratitude towards a being and they believe in thanks giving. Hence, human beings searched for giving thanks to someone for the good things in life and when they found nobody, they created the figure of god and religion to give thanks to.

He applied pure science to everything happens in the universe. Dawkins said that the stars are made not due to accident but they are important parts of the universe, which keeps the ability to make us (Collins, 2015). However, it was nit the job of the stars to make us. According to Dawkins words in the Ancestor’s Tale- a pilgrimage to the dawn of evolution, “It is just that without stars there would be no atoms heavier than lithium in the periodic table” (Dawkins, 2006).

Once in a speech that Dawkins delivered in an auditorium at Christchurch, New Zealand he said it is just luck, that the human beings are in the earth. Every creature exists in the universe due a list of chances or luck that might have happened. The evolution of mankind and all other creatures in the earth is ‘pure luck’. There is no other truth beyond this luck or chance. (Kazan, 2010)

Dawkins also believes that just as life has developed in the earth, similarly by stroke of luck, life must have developed in some planets in the universe. Dawkins has explained himself as religious non-believer. In addition to this, he is an ardent follower of Darwin  and believes in origin of species(Kazan, 2010). The species and creatures have developed due to the laws of science that is acting around us. It is because the planet revolves and rotates due to the cyclic law of gravity, there is birth of creature as well as end (Palmer, 2013).

Antony Flew also believed in evidence to reach a proper conclusion. As an atheist, he has a thought quite similar to Robert Dawkins. He was not ready to believe that there is a superpower that should be prayed. Every end and beginning has proper science. However, as a theist, he believed there is one invisible being that is controlling the activities (BioLogos, 2011). However, after he became theist, he claimed that he has a got the evidence that he was searching for and was sure that there is a science that has given birth to the universe. To be accurate, he related science with God and eventually started believing in god. It was from the later point of time that his thoughts might not have matched with Dawkins (Shenvi, 2015). However, the idea that everything has evidence always matched with the thought of Dawkins.

The life of Antony Flew took an about turn in the year 2004. A strong believer of atheism started believing in god. A being, which he used to believe, does not exist started believing that being to be the creator of the universe. The sudden change gave rise to various criticisms. Through an article published by Richard Carrier it was understood how flew started believing in religion (Carrier, 2015). However, his take on religion was questionable. According to Richard flew is confused about his take in religion as flew has not yet decided that what he believes in. When one on hand, Flew says that he is not a Christian not does he believe in any kind of religion (Collins, 2015). In addition to this, he also does not believe in afterlife as mentioned in ‘Merely Mortal: can you survive your own death’, on the other hand, he believes there is a presence of almighty in the universe that is controlling the life in the universe (Carrier, 2015).

According to Flew, he believes in the religion of Aristotelian metaphysics. He believes in gods who is more like an Aristotelian god. Flew believed in a God is present at a distance from the human beings and an impersonal prime mover (Power, 2012). According to Carrier, the existence in God is a hypothesis for him. He is experimenting about the existence of god and once he is done with the experiment, he will be able to give his final thoughts regarding the presence of God in the universe.ths, the God according to Antony Flew, is like science. Similarly, as the scientists who are experiments with different scientific element and after the experiments are done, the scientists are able to reach a decision. Flew also experimented with God as the prime force and then he tried to position all his assumption and depending on that, Flew drew a conclusion that there is a being called God who is capable of creating the universe and is responsible for all the happenings all around the world (Deem, 2015).  Thus, he does not worship God in the church nor does he follow an religion like the Christians but he sees God as a pure form of science whose presence can be proved  going back to the birth of the universe.

As flew was not ready to submit to any kind of religion to prove his belief in god, similarly, he did not believe in worship. However, he believed that whenever a person is commenting on an issue or an existence, then the person should be moral in the approach (Silversides, 2012). If one of the people is trying to prove a point then the person should not adopt an immoral way of proving the point. In fact, Flew himself followed the path of morality. His actions suggested hi attitude. Though he believed in God in the later years if his life but he never promoted any religion as he said that he believes in god as a form of science. In addition to this, the theme of morality extends to the presence God as well. Flew suggested that the presence of God is the justification of morality in the society. Antony Flew even went ahead of mentioning C.S Lewis of the Socratic club where Lewis used to teach about morality and God (BioLogos, 2011). Flew could not relate to the morality as taught by Lewis. According to Lewis, half of the shelves in the university library were full of books written by Lewis. When a person is teaching about morality then he should be able to refer other authors who have talked about the meaning of morality (Aikin, & Talisse, 2011). It is then that the work of the teacher will be well appreciated by other authors and his teachings will gain a true meaning.

Flew refers to the Aristotelian god whenever he was questioned about his belief in God. Flew believe in  a God who has the power to create the universe as well as possess the intelligence to create the living beings at the correct time and at the correct place (Rachels, 2015). After becoming an atheist, the God is much more stringer to flew than he was ever before.

However, later in his life when he became a theist, he even started believing in the cosmological argument. This turning point also gives rise to the question of argument. The cosmological argument fails to find a cause of the existence of God. Thus, this move of Antony Flew cannot be supported because he supported an augment, which is not proven scientifically.

 

Much has been written about the concept of atheism and the theism. Thus, it can be concluded that the conflict between the atheist and the theist will never end. One of the most famous names among the conflict between atheism and the theism is Antony Flew. The most interesting thing about Antony Flew is that from being a strong atheist he went on being one of the strongest believer of theism. The essay has thrown light on the journey of Anton Flew from a celebrated atheist to being a theist. As a result, many arguments have been cited in the essay to support as well as question the change of mind of Antony Flew (Habermas, 2004).

Throughout his life, Antony Flew only believed in evidence. As an atheist, he was not ready to believe in God, as he was not able to find any evidence that will support the existence of God. As a theist as well, he said that it is the science and the laws of nature that made him believe there is a superpower that is controlling the universe. He was an ardent supporter of the fine-tuning argument as it says that the creation of the universe and the birth of the human being at the correct time indicate that there is a superpower who is responsible for the happenings around the universe (Watkin, 2011).

Though much criticism has been done regarding the change in mind of Antony Flew, yet both the perspective of Antony Flew cannot be overlooked. As an atheist, he made a strong point that people should be able to present evidence about the presence of God in the universe. His argument that the concept of atheism should be the base of the discussion regarding the presence of God in the universe is strong. Based on the disbelief in God, the theists can present the argument that there is the presence of God in the universe (Logicmuseum.com, 2015). As a theist as well, his idea cannot be overlooked. Flew’s point of view that there is a superpower who is controlling the laws of nature and the beginning of the universe has a strong base.

However, Antony Flew was unable to give any proof regarding the presence of God in the universe. He said that he followed evidence to reach the final decision that there is a God, but he was not able to give any prove to the readers regarding the presence of God in the universe. Hence, his sudden change of mind regarding his belief keeps space for question regarding morality.

 

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