The Religion of Atheism

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The Religion of Atheism

14 March 2012 Hits:9114

The religion of atheism will once again be preached at the 2012 Atheist Convention coming up in April in Melbourne with an impressive lineup of preachers including Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Daniel Dennett.  Christopher Hitchens was also supposed to be there but he sadly passed away last year.  In the past Antony Flew may have been invited to speak as well but he’s also passed away – after converting to Christianity!

Flew was a strong advocate of atheism for most of his life arguing that one should presuppose atheism until empirical evidence of a God surfaces. He also criticised the idea of life after death and the meaningfulness of the concept of God. However, in 2004 he changed his mind stating that in keeping with his lifelong commitment to go where the evidence leads, he now believes in the existence of God.  He later wrote the book “There is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind.”

Flew’s conversion no doubt infuriated the likes of Richard Dawkins who regarded Flew as a mentor. Some ugly accusations ensued with some suggesting that Antony Flew was old and demented and didn’t really write the book.  How childish it is when people get personal to either win an argument or try and belittle someone else’s opinion.  Antony Flew wrote the following in response:

“My name is on the book and it represents exactly my opinions. I would not have a book issued in my name that I do not 100 per cent agree with. I needed someone to do the actual writing because I’m 84 and that was Roy Varghese’s role. The idea that someone manipulated me because I’m old is exactly wrong. I may be old but it is hard to manipulate me. That is my book and it represents my thinking.”

I admire Antony Flew for examining the facts and having the courage to change his mind in his old age.  As Leo Tolstoy wrote, “I know that most men … can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives.”  Antony Flew truly was a rare individual.

I’m glad I changed my mind in my youth.  I was an atheist until I was 19 but then had an unmistakably powerful encounter with God.  That encounter is just as real almost 35 years later.

The religion of atheism may have some good arguments but it can’t answer life’s most fundamental questions: Who are we?  Where did we come from?  What are we doing here? And where are we going when this life is over?

The religion of atheism can’t tell you where Christopher Hitchens is right now but the Christian faith can tell you with assurance where Antony Flew is.  I’m glad he changed his mind and I bet he is too.

Rob Buckingham

Senior Minister

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21 replies on “The Religion of Atheism”

Ian Mainsays:

I reckon Antony Flew is incredibly glad he changed his mind. I can just imagine him moping his brow thinking “I left it until I was 84…wow, that was SOOOO close!”

Pam Randallsays:

:)Hi Rob, I was just about to write to you from Perth to suggest you would be a great bloke to have at some of the official “Reason for Faith” things happening in Melbourne at the time of the Atheist conference. I received the news today from The Canberra Declaration Team. I am sure you have seen reasonforfaith.org.au
A Perthite, I love going to Bayside when I visit Melbourne to see family once or twice a year. Thank you. Sincerely, Pam Randall.

adam antichristsays:

Hey cool! So atheism is a religion now? That means we can get tax free status!!! I’m going to start a business selling food or property or whatever, and not have to pay tax on the income. AWESOME.

Paul xsays:

I’m sorry, I missed the point you made about atheism being a religion? It is the non belief In god. Thats it. Does being a vegetarian constitute being a religion now too?

smelbournesays:

If God is the answer to life’s most fundamental questions then that only raises the bigger question of where did God come from.

Lexsays:

Cool, so if Athiesm is now a religion, does that mean we atheists can be exempted from paying tax like folk from other religions. Will we get our conventions and “parliaments” similarly funded and supported by state governments too?

Roxane Paczenskysays:

Mr Flew became a Deist, not a Theist as your piece implies. This can be easily confirmed by anyone wanting to know the truth of his views. one simply has to Google his name. Wikipedia gives a referenced account: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antony_Flew Given that atheism in it’s most pure translation from Latin means absence of belief, or no belief, in a Theistic god, I, as an atheist, have no problem accommodating Mr Flews view. A Deist after all believes in a god who made everything and then left, which is the complete opposite of the god the Abrahamic religions speak of. A god that is very involved in every aspect of our lives: how we live, what we wear, what we eat, who we can love, how to discipline our children, etc etc. It is that god that atheists object to, or rather those that teach there is such a god, because those that teach it invariably want to impose that teaching on the rest of us by influencing the institutions that are there to serve us all whether we have faith, or no faith.

Steve Williamssays:

What utter nonsense. Firstly, atheism is not a religion, it is simply a lack of belief in any supernatural external powers. Secondly, someone with no religious views, indeed, very much an advocate of the opposite, changing their vocal opinions near the end of a life goes nowhere towards proving the existence of a deity, or disproving it for that matter. It just shows even the most intelligent of people will resort to superstition in the hope of something more when their time is ending. Religion does not answer any of the ‘fundamental’ questions you list, it just makes up answers that fit into its local superstition framework. There is no god. Get over it.

Doug Steadmansays:

An atheist responds:
Who are we? We’re human beings – sentient, evolved primates.
Where did we come from? Probably Africa, though there’s always new research going on about that.
What are we doing here? Trying to live meaningful lives in the short time we have.
And where are we going when this life is over? Not very far, so see point three. Make the most of the time you have because you won’t get another chance.

samsays:

Wasn’t he a deist. Wouldn’t Sagan, Bill Gates, Zuckerberg or Dawkins be more famous? Isn’t atheism the absence of belief, not a religion?

Craig Hoopersays:

So an atheist converted to Christianity! That’s great news and will go a long way towards evening the score against the number of Christians who have converted to atheism over the last few decades. Only a few million to go and the score will be even!

Curioussays:

Do you mind if I ask, what was your ‘unmistakably powerful encounter with God’?

Ben Rombergsays:

Disappointing that the religious are still spitting upon Anthony Flew’s corpse. Dementia and alzheimers doesn’t mean he was wrong about atheism rather that he was an easy mark for the unethical and immoral – i.e. the religious jackals who try to claim the damaged as their own. Glad I am an atheist – we hold ourselves to higher standards than that.
I wonder how much of the writer’s atheism at the age of 19 was simply teenager rebellion and whether he actually was an atheist or was just “angry with god/s” and was still actually a christian underneath.

Lev Lafayettesays:

I’m not sure that Anthony Flew believes in the sort of God you think he believes in.

In a December 2004 video he said: “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”.

Further, in December 2004 by Duncan Crary of Humanist Network News if he still stood by the argument presented in The Presumption of Atheism, Flew replied he did but he also restated his position as deist:

“I’m quite happy to believe in an inoffensive inactive god.”

Apparently little honesty goes a long way.

I’m just a regular, church-going atheist. Unlike the author of the article, I’ve actually Anthony Flew’s “There is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind”.

Nicksays:

Flew actually converted was never a Christian or believer in the Judeo-Christian god. You’ve stolen half of this article from Wikipedia, word for word, and in the end have cut out the main part of his belief. Flew, as a philosopher, found that he logically could not remove a Deistic or Aristotelian God as a causal agent and thus he believed in the logic behind a being creating everything. That is all, no intervention after that, no prayer, heaven or hell, no satan, no sin, homosexuality is fine and he still followed the evidence. This article is fallacious to the core.

Danielsays:

I’m not that familiar with the works of Antony Flew, but I googled and wikipedia’ed him to refresh my memory and it agreed: he “converted” to philosophical deism, not to Christianity. He remained an opponent of Christianity and Islam.
Besides, I’m not sure why the previous 60-ish years of atheist work, till the age or 81-84 or so, should be less valid than his few years of desim in his 80s?

Ben Rombergsays:

Hi Bella,

I’ve watched the video of Rob Buckingham’s story. Rob, by his own account, followed and believed in astrology, the occult, mysticism and spiritualism. His non-interest in christianity stems more from disengagement and lack of emotional connectivity. I suspect if he’d been exposed to a more evangelical church than the gentle English one he grew up in, he’d have been quite christian. Atheists tend to place all of the supernatural together in one bucket labelled “needs more evidence” – and that includes religions.

His near death experience has occurred many times to numerous (millions? billions?) people across the ages. It’s very sad that people died in the accident, but there’s no need to posit a deity to explain Rob’s survival – in fact you have to ask why this god(s) couldn’t save the other two men in the other truck – were they “sinners”? Unworthy? The god(s) just didn’t care?

In the days that followed, Rob was exposed to a more evangelical stream of christianity, and he basically joined that church. Not surprising really – his “atheism” (and I use the term very loosely) was not based in intellectual rigour and scientific examination, and so it was very easy to supplant.

There is nothing miraculous about this story. As I said, it’s happened many times before. And has been used by the followers of many different religions as “proof” that their way is the “One True Way”. There is nothing new here. 🙂

Danielsays:

you write: “The religion of atheism can’t tell you where Christopher Hitchens is right now but the Christian faith can tell you with assurance where Antony Flew is. I’m glad he changed his mind and I bet he is too.”

interesting that you also don’t tell us where Christopher Hitchens is right now.
So Antony Flew is, I guess you’re saying, in heaven? Despite not believing in Jesus (or Mohammad)? So all that’s necessary is to not be atheist?

And why won’t you tell us where you think Christopher Hitchens is right not? If it’s to spare our feelings, does that make you more compassionate than God?

Duncan Portersays:

Is a person who changes their view on things supposed to be evidence of god? Fine, I’ll see your Antony Flew with a Michael Shermer and raise you with a Matt Dillahunty.

Paul Chaosays:

Since Atheism is a religion, then why aren’t atheists allowed to become chaplains as those from other religions even external to xianity are?

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