Antony Flew 1923-2010: The Remarkable Story of Professor Antony Flew-The World's Most Notorious Atheist Who Changed His Mind
Grubbs, Kenneth, Skeptic (Altadena, CA)
ON APRIL 8, 2010, THE BRITISH PHILOSOPHER ANTONY FLEW PASSED AWAY AFTER A LONG LIFE in academic philosophy, having taught at Oxford, Aberdeen, Keele, and Reading universities. For most of his career Professor Flew was one of the world's most outspoken and prominent atheists, until he changed his mind in the closing years of his life, apparently impressed by the arguments from Intelligent Design creationists, most notably with regard to the complexity of DNA. In 2007, Flew co-authored a book entitled There is a God: How the World's Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind. The co-author was Roy Abraham Varghese, who became the center of controversy when the New York Times published an article alleging that Flew was in serious mental decline and that the book--and by implication the conversion itself--was perhaps contrived or highly influenced by Varghese. The following article was written before Flew died and aims to get at the truth of his conversion.
A BRISTLING CHILL SWEPT THE DIMMING colorless sky over Reading, England one evening earlier this year. In weather uncannily, perhaps even poignantly, similar it was my profound pleasure to speak at length with the delightful and charming Annis Flew, wife of the now notorious Antony Flew who, after almost 70 years vigorously defending atheism apparently changed his mind. Today, at the age of 87, Flew considers himself a deist. At least that is what Annis made clear to me when we spoke in January.
Flew, The Man
At the University of Oxford, during the war-ravaged 1940s, a group of undergraduate students, presided over by C. S. Lewis, gathered each Monday evening below ground in the Junior Common Room of St. Hilda's College to passionately debate Christianity and atheism.
This elite group, known as The Socratic Club, was the "intellectual hub of Oxford." At its core is the Socratic maxim to "Follow the argument wherever it leads" a principle that would guide Flew his entire life. It was here at the Socratic club in 1950 that a 27-year old Flew presented his first relevant work, Theology and Falsification. It was also here at Oxford that he would meet Annis, the woman who would become his wife and lifelong friend--the woman with the kind and steady voice with whom I would speak on a crisp January evening, some 60 years later.
Professor Flew authored more than 35 books and essays on such diverse philosophical topics as free will and determinism, crime, evolution, logic, ethics, and language. His landmark works include God and Philosophy (1966), The Presumption of Atheism (1976), and now, of course, There is a God: How the World's Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind (2007). I tried to gain access to Professor Flew for this story, but he was in an Extended Care Facility in Reading, England, tired, confused, and in the paralyzing grasp of advanced dementia. He had been there for well more than a year, and Annis informed me that "Tony is rarely aware of his surroundings anymore." There would be no interview.
Flew, The Book
There is a God was published in 2007 by Harper One, the imprint of Harper Collins focusing on predominantly religious and spiritual works. The book is "about why I changed my mind" Flew writes. His name appears in large print on the jacket. Below it, in considerably smaller type, it reads "with Roy Abraham Varghese." From the jacket we also learn that the book is the "Winner of the Christianity Today Book Award" This is a curious honor, given that deism shares almost nothing with Christianity, nor any other religion; but far more importantly, Annis informed me without hesitation that "Tony never came to recognize any of the revealed religions" Roy Varghese penned the 18-page Preface. The Introduction is written by Flew, spanning four and one half pages. In it comes the thunderous recant, "I now believe there is a God." There are two Appendices.
Roy Varghese writes the first. …