Changing your mind about God

This guest blog post is by the author and blogger Simon Parke

Over the weekend, I read There is a God by Anthony Flew, who died in 2010 after a distinguished and lively academic career.

He was the philosopher and world-famous atheist who arrived at a belief in the existence of God towards the end of his life. And what made him different was this: he arrived there not through religious talk but through evidence of science.

In his Oxford days, he had brilliantly mocked the value and meaning of religious statements. He introduced the phrase ‘death by a thousand qualifications’ to describe theists’ descriptions of God. Theists used fancy words about the Divine such as ‘omnipotent’ and ‘loving’ – but what did they add up to when faced with the world as it is? They had to be so qualified as to become meaningless.

But he arrived at belief, belief in the necessary existence of God, through the old Socratic principle of ‘following the argument to wherever it leads’. And sometimes it leads to discomfort and a change of mind.

There’s not time here to describe the journey travelled. It was one that caused predictable consternation among his spiritual children, the ‘new atheists’ such as Richard Dawkins. But perhaps at the heart of it was this question: ‘How is it that we have a set of laws that drives featureless gases to life, consciousness and intelligence?’

For Flew, when facing the question of the origins of life, it was the theists rather than the atheists who appeared more sensible, less absurd.

What was there to suggest a marble table left for 3 billion years would become a sentient human being who could write War and Peace and be aware that he was doing so as he did?

He followed the argument wherever it led, and for this particular professor, it led to a rather humbling change of mind and a world freshly viewed… a world so remarkably ordered for life and growth that it almost seemed like ‘someone knew we were coming’.

Should you wish to follow the argument and draw your own conclusions, There is a God by Anthony Flew is published by HarperCollins.

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