If Antony Flew Believes In God, Isn’t That Good Enough?

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Now, this is a recurring trend in fundamentalist debate (and there are so many recurring trends . . . just so many, and it hurts a little). It’s a variation on the “Einstein believed in God, and he’s the father of science, so just . . . shut up, ok? Shut up and take it” argument.

The difference is that most of the notable figures who fundies claim to have believed in God didn’t, of course. Einstein didn’t, Darwin didn’t – claims to the contrary are supported by careful quote mining. But Antony Flew is a goldmine for the right kind of fundamentalist mindset – a notable atheist who decided he believed in a higher power after all. This, despite the possibility of his advancing years causing mental decline, is sadly – or happily, depending on your outlook – incontrovertible.

The thinking is always that, if someone like Flew can renounce atheism, surely that’s good enough for you? There are a few other names of deconvertees that occasionally arise at this point in the debate (generally, it’s around this time that fundies will start to link you to Hovind videos as well) but I can’t recall them. There aren’t very many, though. Fred Hoyle is sometimes used, as his perception of the fine-tuning of physical laws led him to theistic views.

How to defeat this argument? Simple. As with most of the logicfails committed by our opponents, the best way to rebuke is to turn it back. So if a famous atheist deconverting is proof for God . . . surely a famous theist deconverting is proof for God not existing? Douglas Adams, say. He’s famous. He used to believe the whole thing, until he stopped and listened to a street preacher and decided it was nonsense. Is that proof of God being nonexistent? No, of course it isn’t! Neither argument is worth anything; the thing is to get fundamentalists to realise that if our version is meaningless, so is theirs.

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