Sunday, May 18, 2008

There Is A God

book coverI remember seeing the headlines in late 2004/early 2005.  One of the world's most famous atheists, Anthony Flew, had declared his belief in "a God". This was a major coup for the theists in the atheism versus theism battle.  So, when I saw the book "There Is No A God" had been published, I had to get it.  I had to see what new evidence had persuaded one of the most prominent philosophers of our time.  Anthony Flew was an atheist for more than 60 years.  He spent time debating Christian apologists (including presenting papers to C.S. Lewis.  You may know that C.S. Lewis was, at one time a pretty staunch atheist before he became of the best known apologists for Christianity.  I want to know what makes men like that tick; men who are willing to completely change their views on something as critical on whether or not there is a God based on reason and logic.

The subtitle of the book is "How the world's most notorious atheist changed his mind". The book begins at the beginning- talking about Flew's youth, his days in school and what led him to being an atheist in the first place.  His father was a minister.   So, he did not start off as an atheist. But, in his teens he had already decided there was no God.   The book takes through his formation as an atheist and the reasoning that led him there.  Early on in life, he decided to "follow the evidence wherever it may lead", which is a Socratic principle.  When I made that commitment to myself a couple of decades ago, I didn't know it was a Socratic principle.  But, I decided that I would pursue truth above all else, even if it led me away from Christianity.  It's fascinating that the same commitment that led Flew away from being a theist over 60 years later brought him right back. He did not become an atheist out of personal preference nor did he return to theism out of personal preference.  He followed the evidence (as he interprets it of course).

The book is written in language a layperson can understand.  I've struggled to read some philosophers as they speak their own language and even seem to use their own logic.  However, Flew and his co-author Roy Varghese speak in language the common man can understand. Flew's "religion" would probably be called Deism. He is not a Christian, even though he has acknowledged that the Christian argument for revealed religion is probably stronger than any other.  Flew's religion is not "revealed" and is not based on either faith or personal experience.  He came to the conclusion that there is a God simply based on logic/reason/philosophy although recent scientific discoveries (including the Big Bang theory) certainly helped.  Actually, the core of Flew's argument, IMO is the fact that there is something rather than nothing.  He goes on to talk about the fact that there seems to be a goal or a design to life, talks about the rising of the living from the non-living and the intelligent from the supposedly non-intelligent.  In each case, he tells why materialism/atheism simply doesn't work to answer the questions that a simple acknowledgment of a Creator answers.  IMO just the fact that there is something rather than nothing means that there has always been something because every effect must have a cause.  Nothing exists completely independently of everything else.  Materialists choose to believe the universe has always existed and have come up with some fanciful and intellectually dishonest ways of explaining how something can come from "nothing" (like "nothing" is unstable and decays into "something") or the multiverse theory which attempts to explain the fine-tuning of the universe with the theory that there are an infinite or almost infinite number of universes.  I've actually come to the conclusion it takes a lot more faith to be a true atheist (as opposed to an agnostic) than it takes to be a "believer".  Some philosophers get themselves so twisted up that they begin to doubt the existence of their very selves and their own minds.  As one philosopher said to another in the book some of their theories don't really require refutation.  If they actually believe the stuff they say, they need (mental health) help.  If your philosophy causes you to doubt your own existence or the existence of your mind, it's time to put down the books and get back to the real world.

The description of Flew's journey from atheism to theism is followed by two appendices.  The first is a refutation of the "new atheism" which is really a rehashing of materialism or positivism and is nothing new.   The second is a defense of the divine relevation of Christianity.  I didn't find this defense to be particularly strong and I'm kind of surprised Flew does.  But, when it comes to believing in a Divine Mind, a Creator, a First Cause, I think Flew shows conclusively this is exactly where the evidence leads us. Whether one chooses to call this "God" or not is a matter of preference.  But, there is sufficient reason to believe that the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent Being does indeed exist and to believe so doesn't require a great leap of "faith" or really any faith at all other than the faith to honestly follow the evidence where it leads.

No comments: