Thursday, November 08, 2007

A Troubling thought

We often see the “Who’s Who?” game in this debate. We want some intellect to be on “our side” while pushing the moral miscreant on to “their” side. Everybody wants Einstein. Everybody wants Hitler…to be on the opposing team.

So we enter (in my opinion-- ridiculous) debates over what teams certain individuals played for. As if the theistic belief of Abraham Lincoln, or Ghandi, or Stalin makes a wit of difference to the viability of anyone else’s belief. (And I should note we ALL play this game. No particular group is any better or worse than another.)

Recently, the hot, hot person of the hour is Antony Flew. A formerly atheist philosopher, who now is a deist. Two or three years ago, if the name “Antony Flew” was mentioned, most people, Christians and atheists alike, would have said, “Antony who?” But now, apparently his change in beliefs is supposed to be making tsunami-like impact throughout the world.

The recent salvo is his book, “There is a God,” in which he describes his conversion. To be honest, this was book 1,009,978 on my list of books to read. And not moving up any, either.

However, an extremely perturbing item regarding this book has come to light. According to this blog by Richard Carrier, Antony Flew didn’t write it. If you read the blog, and the articles cited, Mr. Flew may not even have any knowledge of what is in it! (Thanks to two of my blogger friends for pointing out this item, by the way.)

If this is true, and I have no way to confirm or deny it—I seriously question the truthfulness of its authors. If (and I know this is a big “if”) Christian apologists wrote this book, and had a feeble-minded man mumble his unknowing assent, in order to “make a point” this severely degrades the viability of Christianity.

If you have to lie to “win” your argument; your argument is lost.

I am particularly dismayed by some of the notations by Mr. Carrier, which it has been my experience Christian apologists DO use in their books. Anecdotes at the beginning of chapters. Appeals to authority. Long quoted conversations.

If this book was NOT written by Flew—it should absolutely positively declare it. I would hope Christians such as Habermas, Varghese and Hostetler take these claims by Mr. Carrier extremely seriously and address them. Explain them. If they do, I would appreciate anyone providing me a link here.

I don’t care about “Who’s Who?” But if people are deliberately lying in order to play the game…THAT I care about.


  1. Well said, DagoodS. Of course, ghostwriting isn't an uncommon practice. I really wish it was, and in this particular case I can certainly see how it could leave a bitter taste in your mouth.

    I still hadn't heard yet of Antony Flew before you mentioned him here, and doubt he'll cross my thoughts much in the future.

  2. Dude, this sort of thing has been happening for years, most notably (but not exclusively) in the discussion of Evolution; it goes back to the Shroud of Turin, faked in the 14th Century.

    Religious people, even Christians, are no more honest than anyone else, and if power, fame or money can be gained with a lie, someone will be there to speak it.

    As you have discovered, Christianity and theism are not actually true; they must at some level rest on a foundation not just of delusion or mistake, but intentional outright mendacity.

  3. I echo what Micah said: "Well said." If Flew had very little input in this, then it's not making the "other side" look that well. Or intellectually honest.

    Plus, if Christianity (well, deism, I should say) is that much of a stronger position, then any subterfuge or lies or re-interpretation after re-interpretation should not be necessary.

  4. Interesting piece. But what of the interview here or this one here? It doesn't sound like he's senile or off his meds.

    It's a good point that few people knew Flew before, but now he is a hot commodity. But this is an understandable reaction. If Billy Graham, or even an accomplished apologist lesser known, came out and said "hey, I'm now an atheist", are you saying that would be no big deal? You wouldn't do a post on it?

  5. The Barefoot Bum,

    You are correct. The duplicity of Christians should not surprise me. Yet it does…

    I guess I fear the inevitable:

    Christian: The famous atheist Antony Flew converted.
    Me: No, he became a deist at best.
    Christian: But he believed in a God!
    Me: Do you know the contents of his book were not written by him?
    Christian: You are just saying that!

    (Do you see it happening already?)

  6. Jim Jordan,

    Did you read the article where Flew states he doesn’t even remember who Habermas is? Or his letter to Carrier after the Habermas interview where Flew realizes he was wrong about Schroeder? But in Wiker’s interview he doesn’t mention Schroeder at all and changes what he says caused his deconversion?

    You are right, if Billy Graham deconverted, I would blog on it. Because I would be curious as to the reason why. What changed this man’s mind? Do you know what changed Flew’s mind? Go back to 2001. Trace the steps through today. He goes back and forth, believing what the last person who talks to him says. He is consistently inconsistent. And this book written by him…most likely is not.

    If that is what you want as a “win” for the theistic side—take it.

  7. If that is what you want as a “win” for the theistic side—take it.

    No, siree. I'll wait on more information.

    What if Flew flew the coop but couldn't recoup in lieu of the truth he hadn't a clue?

    Sorry, the poet in me....

  8. In this corner is Richard Carrier!!

    And in this corner is Gary Habermas!!!

    Wow, this is really turning into a he said she said he said war. I just picture atheists grabbing Flew's ankles and Christians his shoulders, each pulling as hard as they can at his poor body and desparate to win their prideful tug of war.

    Believe it or not this book did interest me, not in Anthony Flew's personal beliefs but more his thinking. But now with all the mud slinging, it is just nothing but dirty politics. No matter what old Anthony Flew really believes these days, I have no interest anymore.

  9. If anything, this should open our eyes to the aging process and the possibilities of what lies ahead. Some of us are going to lose our minds. Some of us are in the proces of losing ours now.

    If we have something to say, say it now and if you write a book, place a *Notice* in it, warning others that if someone comes along and makes any claims that do not hold up to my previous beliefs, research &/or scholarship...ignore it!

  10. Anthony Flew's supposed conversion might be newsworthy, but it's of little philosophical moment, even if he had been fully compos mentis. He's just a guy: His arguments stand or fall on their own merits, not on his credentials or authority.

    In precisely the same way, if Billy Graham were to deconvert, that would certainly be newsworthy, but equally philosophically unimportant.

    Religious people think everyone else is as hung up on authority as they are. The conversation goes:

    Christian: Anthony Flew converted to theism!

    Atheist: He did? Interesting. Why did he convert?

    Christian: It's Anthony Flew, famous atheist philosopher! He converted!

    Atheist: Yes, I know who he is. Why did he convert?

    Christian: Aren't you listening? A famous atheist philosopher converted to theism!

    Atheist: shakes head and wanders off to find a sensible conversation

    People convert and deconvert all the time. What's important is not who does so, but why they do so.

  11. oops...

    "but just the mere fact of Graham's deconversion would be equally philosophically unimportant."

  12. Dagoods are you sure you thoughts about Flew are accurate? That he was not sure of what he was doing? If you claim this is related to being old (dementia/alzheimers or whatever) - I personally would have to wonder on that one. Maybe he just made a choice?

    The reason I mention is this I my wife's grandma has alzhemier's/dementia and from what I have observed first hand - Flew might not even know he was an atheist at all (does he show symptoms like that?). I think to insinuate the ghost writer's wrote for him might be a stretch - just my opinion.

    Either way, it's not a win either way - but I do think Flew is important and I want to read him (if it is him - now you got me doubting).

  13. No, SocietyVs, I am not sure my thoughts as to Flew are accurate.

    All I can do is report what is being said. You can make your own conclusions. I will say the Oppenheimer article is very disturbing as to Flew’s inability to even define abiogenesis, for example, especially if this book claims one of the biggest reasons for him to become a deist is science’s inability to adequately explain natural abiogenesis.

    How can he come to that conclusion if he doesn’t even know what it is? Further, I think, if he has changed his mind, a book responding to his previous books in support of atheism would be fascinating. But that is not what we have.