A Sad Story


I’ve known Anthony Flew (but not well) for quite a few years. He very kindly commented on a paper I presented at a seminar at Oxford University twelve or thirteen years ago. Now he seems to be the victim of some rather unscrupulous people.

See the account in “The Turning of an Atheist,” Mark Oppenheimer, New York Times Magazine, November 4, 2007.

I think I would be rather less charitable than Oppenheimer in his description of Professor Flew’s new friends.

6 Responses to “A Sad Story”

  1. I didn’t know Flew or anything about this until now, but the story of the converted atheist is familiar. The atheist, in believing a god doesn’t exist, is showing the same capacity for faith as a Christian. Thus, it seems to me a matter of what they choose to believe, as opposed to a recognition of faith as irrational.

    (Apologies for the orthogonal comment. It’s late.)

  2. Here we go again with the “atheism is faith too” nonsense. I guess Mr. Hein, in presumably “choosing not to believe” in Zeus, Thor, the flying spaghetti monster, or the celestial teapot is showing the same capacity for faith as those who do believe in those things.

    Just because neither the atheist nor the theist can prove their respective claims does not make them equally likely (or unlikely) to be true. The default position with respect to fantastic and implausible claims should be skepticism. And we should only believe truth claims about the world when they are backed by some evidence. Choosing to disregard those claims without evidence is not “faith.”

  3. Disregarding the claim that god exists is agnosticism. Postulating the claim is false is not provable and therefore based in faith. I don’t understand why that should be so contentious.

    I find string theory implausible, yet physicists smarter than I stake their career on it. Your strict positivism is neither rational, since there are lots of things we haven’t observed and don’t know, neither is it useful, as it reduces the possibility of new discoveries.

    Your examples are not even that good. Serious people have suggested that some of the ancient gods were based on real people. It was common then to ascribe divine powers to particularly talented individuals.

  4. Henri: All faith is belief, but not all belief is faith. One might believe something on grounds other than faith, grounds such as logic or empirical evidednce. One might even believe something (e.g. there’s no god) because of absence of logic and evidence supporting the counter proposition.

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