Anthony Flew was the last generation’s Richard Dawkins. He spent the majority of his life debating God with fellow philosophers, until he shocked the world by one day revealing that he had changed his mind. He now believed that God did exist.
He was applauded by theists for seeing the truth and condemned by atheists for succumbing to pressures, but in all the noise surrounding his announcement the actual story of his reversal seemed to be lost.
So he wrote a book about his experiences, and he called it “There Is A God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind“. I read this book a while ago and it was only when writing my last post, in which I reference him briefly, that I realised the deep impact the book left on me.
In it, Professor Flew discusses how his early conversion to Atheism from his father’s Catholicism and his later reversal to theism were all the one journey. His life was framed around a singular paradigm. A command that Socrates supposedly gave to his student Plato:
We must follow the argument, wherever it leads.
I love this quote and I have always tried to live my life by it, and what I believe is the true path that has been set down in front of all of us.
This book does not contain an all compelling argument that could sway anyone from atheism to theism, for those who might try to look for it.
Professor Flew goes into the reasons that finally compelled him to change his position, and they are interesting points, but they are his particular reasons which have personal significance to him.
Instead I want to focus on his journey, rather than his destination.
Professor Flew left Christianity not because of a rebellious nature, nor because he wished to disassociate himself from the religion. It was centered around a number of questions that he felt could not be properly answered by Christianity. Problems many people have grappled with over the ages, such as why there is evil in the world if God is only good, etc.
He could not stay in a faith he didn’t believe was right and took the brave decision to seek the truth elsewhere. His journey lead him to the burgeoning atheist movement in the philosophy schools of Oxford, where he made a name for himself debating with theists.
This long career was not to ridicule or lord his greatness over others but was a genuine quest for truth. And when his heart told him that the truth was in God, he went back on decades of his own arguments.
How many of us would be willing to admit that the thing we had been fighting for for decades was wrong, and our opponents correct? I truly admire his courage in his pursuit of truth.
Many of us have questions similar to those that began his journey, and I have met many people who are afraid of voicing their fears in case their faith will be unable to answer them. Sometimes there are those who are brave enough to ask their parents or teachers only to be told not to ask such questions! This goes completely against the advice of the Prophet Muhammad pbuh, who commanded us to remove doubt with certainty.
It is perfectly normal to have doubts about this life, and especially about faith. A person cannot be forced to hold a belief they do not believe in. In doing so they risk becoming of those the Qur’an constantly admonishes: those who do as their parents did.
We are commanded to think, to ponder, to seek. Not all questions can be answered, especially not immediately. And it may be that it will lead someone out of the fold of faith, as it did for Anthony Flew, but only God knows where someone who devotes their life to truth will end up.
But in most likelihood you will find that the dark and dreadful doubts you have about your faith have already been answered, or at least have a very insightful discussion surrounding them. I feel that today we have a problem finding these interesting discussions and bringing them to a wider audience.
Fears, I believe, are like germs. Leave them in the darkness and they thrive and multiply. But bring them out in the light and they will be cleansed. I believe we must be willing to face our fears if we are to stand before God and say that we truly believed.
His story is inspirational to me because it reminds me to be strong and to face my fears, rather than to let them linger in the darkness and slowly eat away at my beliefs. It reminds me to always seek the truth, and not be afraid of where that path may lead me.
Because all truth, I believe, ultimately leads to God. We can’t say that we are true believers unless we are willing to answer any questions our hearts put forward.
Hope you all enjoy your weekend!