Famous Atheist Antony Flew Now Believes in God

Famous Atheist Now Believes in God (AP)

A British philosophy professor who has been a leading champion of atheism for more than a half-century has changed his mind. He now believes in God — more or less — based on scientific evidence, and says so on a video released Thursday. At age 81, after decades of insisting belief is a mistake, Antony Flew has concluded that some sort of intelligence or first cause must have created the universe. A super-intelligence is the only good explanation for the origin of life and the complexity of nature, Flew said in a telephone interview from England.

Flew said he’s best labeled a deist like Thomas Jefferson, whose God was not actively involved in people’s lives. “I’m thinking of a God very different from the God of the Christian and far and away from the God of Islam, because both are depicted as omnipotent Oriental despots, cosmic Saddam Husseins,” he said. “It could be a person in the sense of a being that has intelligence and a purpose, I suppose.”

Flew first made his mark with the 1950 article “Theology and Falsification,” based on a paper for the Socratic Club, a weekly Oxford religious forum led by writer and Christian thinker C.S. Lewis.
Over the years, Flew proclaimed the lack of evidence for God while teaching at Oxford, Aberdeen, Keele, and Reading universities in Britain, in visits to numerous U.S. and Canadian campuses and in books, articles, lectures and debates.

There was no one moment of change but a gradual conclusion over recent months for Flew, a spry man who still does not believe in an afterlife. Yet biologists’ investigation of DNA “has shown, by the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce (life), that intelligence must have been involved,” Flew says in the new video, “Has Science Discovered God?”

I find the whole thing amusing, really. For one thing, like Steven Taylor, I’d never actually heard of Flew–so how famous could he be, really? Further, the headline is also rather misleading, as there is no real sense in which Flew believes in God. And, while I remain anti-theistic, I know few Christians who view God as in any way similar to Saddam Hussein.

I’m insufficiently steeped in the scientific research to debate Flew on the merits of ID, although he’s certainly not alone in the scientific community in belief in the theory. Indeed, science isn’t necessarily incompatible with belief in a creator. Whether an intelligent being created the universe is probably not subject to scientific verification, since I don’t see how one could possibly falsify it.

Steve Verdon has several posts in the archives on the subject of ID.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Alex Knapp says:

    The article is kinda misleading about Flew. He’s fairly well known in the freethought community, and his position isn’t even as certain as the rather uncertain position described in the article. He’s more thinking along the lines of, “you know, I think that maybe, possibly, there’s something to this whole creator business. Maybe.”

  2. Bithead says:

    Losely translated, this whole story can be expressed in one line from Marshall Foche: “There are no atheists in foxholes.”

    At 81, Flew recognizes the foxhole of his own mortality.

  3. KipEsquire says:

    Classic man-bites-dog story (or: the exception proves the rule). How many people, every single day, go from being theists to atheists (or agnostics)? No major news headlines about them. Go figure.

  4. JakeV says:

    Bithead, you might want to note that Flew still does not believe in an afterlife.

  5. Kenneth Burke says:

    As an agnostic, I’m interested in the question of where the universe came from. That it was created is, I agree, not a scientifically verifiable proposition. I can only think of two other propositions: that it always existed or that it came into being out of nothing; i.e., that it is an uncaused effect. Is there another possibility I’m overlooking? If not, I wonder which of these latter propositions our host thinks is scientifically verifiable.