Originally published 6/11/17 on my Goodreads account: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2175747205?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1
Antony Flew was among the most celebrated philosophers of the twentieth century. His prime interest was of the Philosophy of Religion, however for the most part of his life, he was a convinced atheist. His 1976 paper “The Presumption of Atheism” was the holy grail of the non-theist community. Nevertheless, Flew adopted as his core principle the Socratic Method: “Question everything, and follow the evidence wherever it leads”. After an extensive career spent pondering the most diverse of arguments for and against the idea of a Creator, towards the end of his life the evidence led him to convinced belief in God.
The book is split into two parts. In the first, Flew describes his childhood and his academic background. Flew was, in fact, born the son of an English Methodist preacher. As he grew older and started to study for himself, however, he found that the foundations of his belief in God lacked substance. He devoted his career to creating reasonable arguments for atheism, all the while taking a deep interest in the inner workings of religion and religious beliefs. In part two, he presents several of the arguments that led him to believe again: the real game-changer for him was that of “Intelligent Design”. While earlier in his career he heavily denounced such arguments, advances in science led him to find the argument gaining in strength, until he himself eventually adopted it.
Personally I found the first part of the book overly technical and hard to follow. This may be due to my lack of philosophical understanding, however in general I found it too impersonal: Flew also doesn’t make any points of his own in this section, as it mostly makes reference to esoteric arguments of several elite twentieth century philosophers. Nevertheless, where Flew does mention his upbringing, it provides welcome context to his philosophical framework.
The second part was where the book really took off for me, as Flew rescinds his argument of the “Presumption of Atheism” and replaces it with the presumption of a Creator. He presents several convincing arguments for God, the strongest of all being that of intelligent design: he encourages the reader to consider the improbability of it all. First of all, the minute probability that a stable, operational universe should emerge from the Big Bang, and secondly, the even smaller likelihood that life should emerge and evolve into the self-conscious, responsible human being.
The reader should note that Flew does not believe in God in the conventional sense, as per Judeo-Christian doctrine, rather likens his understanding to that of Einstein or Aristotle: there is a single universal being who is the origin of existence. Neither does he believe in an afterlife.
On the whole I found this book deeply satisfying, as it not only presents a versatile intellectual argument for God, but also presents a viable case for atheism, or rather agnosticism, which unfortunately is rare to find nowadays, as the belligerent neo-atheists have taken the spotlight. I recommend this book to anyone who has the integrity to challenge their beliefs, believer or non-believer, and is willing to “follow the evidence, wherever it leads”.