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An Atheist Turns

An Atheist Turns

Unable to disprove the message, The NY Times tries to discredit the messenger.

by

On Sunday November 4, 2007, The New York Times Weekend Magazine featured an article, The Turning of an Atheist, written by Mark Oppenheimer. It describes the conversion of arch-atheist, philosopher, Antony Flew into a believer. In the article I am cited 21 times by name as the arch-offender in the abominable act.

Flew had authored an article in the mid-1950's, "Theology and Falsification" and presented this thesis at the Socratic Club of Oxford University, presided over by none less than C. S. Lewis. Many felt it was a brilliant and invincible proof for a godless world. Over the decades that have followed it became the consistently cited landmark confirmation for atheists

And then, a few years ago, Antony Flew met Roy Varghese, a successful high tech entrepreneur who spaces his time between Dallas, Texas and India. Roy had written several books on the magnificence of creation and urged Antony to read his book "The Wonder of the World" and my third book, "The Hidden Face of God." Those two books were Antony's undoing.

In 2004 Flew announced that the discoveries of modern science have made it abundantly clear that the creation of the universe must be the work of an infinite Intelligence.

In 2004 Flew announced that the discoveries of modern science have made it abundantly clear that the creation of the universe and of life and consciousness from non-living inert matter must be the work of an infinite Intelligence and not the result of random acts of an unguided nature. This revelation, in which Flew also apologized for having misled so many souls over the decades since his "Theology and Falsification," was extraordinary news. Yahoo, in its daily news summary, even listed Flew's recantation as one of the five major events of the day. Roy released a DVD titled "Has Science Discovered God?" In it, Flew and I discuss the facts of nature, not speculations, that had such an impact on Antony. Here in a bit of irony, Flew tells us that he follows the creed of Socrates, "I go to where the truth leads me." Recall that his original argument was presented at Oxford's Socratic Club.

In October 2007, Flew's book, "There Is a God: How the world's most notorious atheist changed his mind," was published by HarperOne. This was already too much for Oppenheimer and also so it seems for The New York Times. In a scathing article, Oppenheimer attempts to portray Flew as a duped and senile philosopher, unaware of the ways of the scientific world. Yet Oppenheimer brings no arguments against the science. Because he can't. The science is fine. So his only approach can be against the veracity of Flew and me.

The supposedly senile Flew sums up brilliantly Oppenheimer's vitriolic attack on him and me, "If you can't disprove the message, then try to discredit the messenger."

For me, this has been an awakening of the obsessive lengths to which the anti-God community will go to maintain its control over what is taught in schools. My reply, edited by the Times to the 150 word limit, appeared a few weeks later:

Mark Oppenheimer [NY Times 4 November 2007] mentions me as a source for "the science" that "turned" Antony Flew from skeptic to believer. Some people may believe that Flew, being old and therefore possibly senile, was duped by this "pseudoscience." Let's look at just one aspect of our cosmic genesis. As Antony Flew realized, as does any objective evaluation of this cosmic genesis reveal, the wonder is not whether it took 6 days or 14 billion years, or even an eternity. The wonder is that it happened. The energy of creation became alive, sentient, learned the emotions of joy, love, boredom. There is not a hint of sentience in the electromagnetic radiation that marked the creation or in the 92 elements that the radiation eventually formed. But in an exotic combination of these elements we discover the self-awareness of life.
Gerald Schroeder
Jerusalem

And that is truly the wonder of the world, our world. By a micro-second following God's creation of the world, the Big Bang Creation, the material world was composed almost exclusively of electromagnetic radiation, in simplistic terms, super powerful light beams. According to the Ramban, this was the only physical creation. All other creations were spiritual. Our bodies, not our souls, are made of the light of creation. No wonder that God, upon expelling Adam and Eve from the Garden dresses them in oahr spelled with the Hebrew letter ayin, which means "skin" in Hebrew. Before that while in the Garden they were dressed in oahr, but spelled with an aleph, meaning "light."

The most powerful challenge to an atheist's view of the world lies within the world itself: the simple reality of existence.

The most powerful challenge to an atheist's view of the world lies within the world itself: the simple reality of existence. Why is there existence? Forget things as complex as life. Just consider the being of anything: space, time, matter in any form. Is there some "law," some axiom, that demands there be existence independent of an underlying force that brought it into being? Even if we posit that the universe and all existence is eternal, the question remains: why is there an "is"? It's a question that calls out for an answer. Of course the facile response is if there were not existence, then we could not ask the question. True, but we do exist and so it is a puzzle that demands probing. The greatest self-revelation of a Creator is the creation It brought into being.

Moses, in his closing message to the Jewish people, tells us that if we want to discover the Creator, "Remember the days of old; consider the years, generation by generation" (Deuteronomy 32:7). "Remember the days of old" -- the Ramban relates this to the six days of Genesis, the wonder of the flow of nature. If that is not enough to convince one of a God active in this magnificent world, then consider the years, generation by generation -- the flow of social history. In every age there are miraculous wonders that reveal the hand of our Creator active within the creation. We don't have to go deep into history. The past 60 years are more than adequate to show God's hand. As David Ben Gurion is quoted, "If you live in Israel and you don't believe in miracles, then you are not a realist." We live in a land of miracles. Just look around.

Published: February 16, 2008


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Visitor Comments: 36

(35) machinephilosophy, August 30, 2013 12:01 PM

The criteria is already God-level

Dr. Schroeder
Thanks for ths article and your video lecture on youtube.

I'd like to know what you think of the criterial argument. It's based on Kai Nielsen's argument for an independent moral criterion from page 31 of his 2nd edition of Ethics Without God, 1990. Although he intended that argument as a refutation of belief in God, it's actually a moral argument *for* God. The criterial argument is the generalized version of that argument's form, arguing that universal background criteria already implies God prior to any discussion of the standard arguments. This argument is at ultimateobject.blogspot.com.

There's a glaring self-referential issue in arguments against God: namely, what's the authority of the universal rational standards we use, to adjudicate the explanatory value, adequacy, etc. of belief in God in the first place? If those standards have invariant ultimate authority to supervise the evaluation of the issue and decide it, that's God level already. Either we're assuming those principles as God-level determining factors, which already implies God by the principle of the identity of indiscernibles---or else we've got an invisible cognitive friend in reason that we're keeping insulated from analytic scrutiny---and being careful not to mention--in the analysis of the issue. This is the ultimate fatal issue for atheism, while merely an explanatory reworking issue for deism and theism.
Cheers

(34) michael falsia, August 11, 2013 7:47 PM

prejudice

The fact that one of the great philosophical minds of our age dared to break ranks and turn the conventional wisdom of academia on its head demonstrated just how defectors are treated should they venture away from the accepted canons of orthodoxy revered by the intellectually elite. Its not so much that they may take umbrage with Mr.Flue's thesis as it is the attitude and angst which he has received since his purported heresy became public knowledge. Obviously good will and academic respect is not an immutable quality held sacrosanct by the established customs of our Intelligentsia? Perhaps humility and even honesty are not cherished values for this class of sophisticates? At any rate one thing is apparent that any deviance from a brute naturalism and an atheist outlook wil not be accepted by any standard of grace and integrity so long as people remain obstinate in their resistance to even the possibility of the Divine! Sadly this inveterate resistance to even the possibility that the evolutionary-atheist model may be wrong and subjected to the kind of scrutiny that may indeed lead one to conclude that " There is a God", (pun intended) is simply intolerable no matter the merits of the argument. Even Voltaire"s atheism would not abide this herendous attitude! Mr. Flew has been for all practical purposes excommunicated by those who are now his former peers and colleagues! And that is a shame! Compare the animus Rich Dawkins has for a brilliant MIT Scientist as Dr.Schroeder and others like him who see the relevance for God in a universe that would be quite inexplicable without. Thankfully his genius and erudition prevents any foolish prevention and prohibition from reaching his high position and the riches of the knowledge he has bequeathed to his students and to the world! May Ha Shem be with him! Truth Freedom And Respect Always

(33) Michael Groetzinger, July 12, 2011 12:42 AM

May Hashem keep you

Dr. Schroeder, may HaShem keep you and bless you as you continue to illumine Jew and gentile alike with the light of Torah. Shalom

(32) M Mos, February 25, 2011 9:42 AM

Flew is fair game

This article has a "bait and switch" character. It begins by telling what a momentous event it is that Antony Flew changed his mind. The significance is attributed largely to the specific man, and initially there is no discussion of arguments for or against God. Then, when the NY Times writes an article addressing the credibility of this story, Dr. Schroeder changes his argument. He says that the article didn't mention any science. Well... of course. When you made the issue about the specific man, then the credibility of the story is about that man. When you make the issue about Flew, you are in fact doing the same thing you accuse the NY Times of... ignoring science and argument in favor of a good headline. You should be honest about what kind of argument you are making. And you are on the spot to defend the credibility of Flew's conversion as an issue aside from the God-question.

William053, January 5, 2012 3:15 AM

He did what he set out to do

The article is about the conversion of Flew. The NY Times blames Schroeder for it. Schroeder says he presented the science to Flew and the science is sound. They couldn't attack the science so they attacked the man. Schroeder writes this article laying out the same case he used with Flew for you to decide for yourself. It's not a difficult article to grasp. There is no ulterior motive.

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