Friday, April 30, 2010

From atheist to deist is not far

Antony Flew, lifelong atheist philosopher has died at the age of 87.  Much has been made of his admission, in his 80's, that an intelligent supernatural creator could exist.  But this was not the full conversion some have crowed over.  Flew did not become a Christian, he became a probable deist:
But believers waiting to welcome this most prodigal of sons back into the fold were to be disappointed. Flew's conversion did not embrace such concepts as Heaven, good and evil or the afterlife – let alone divine intervention in human affairs. His God was strictly minimalist – very different from "the monstrous oriental despots of the religions of Christianity and Islam", as he liked to call them. God may have called his creation into existence, then, but why did he bother? To that question, it seemed, Flew had no answer.
Like Einstein, another supposed believer, Flew leaned toward the idea that a higher power could have originated the universe.  But he saw no evidence of day-to-day interference, nor did he see any truth in revelation.  This is the higher power as divine clockmaker, and far from being a rejection of humanism or atheism, this is a compatible position.   A rationalist cannot prove a negative, such as that no supernatural powers ever existed.  And a rationalist can also see that prayer has no external effects, verifiable miracles are non-existent, and the holy scriptures are myths written by people.  So even if there were somewhere, somewhen, some kind of supernatural intelligence, that knowledge does us little good.  Look instead to the laws and arguments of nature and mankind for direction in your life.

And that inverted bowl we call the sky,
Whereunder crawling cooped we live and die,
Lift not thy hands to it for help, for it
Rolls impotently on as thou or I.

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