Unless you are a professional philosopher or a committed atheist, you probably have not heard of Antony Flew. Eighty-four years old and long retired, Flew lives with his wife in Reading, a medium-size town on the Thames an hour west of London. Over a long career he held appointments at a series of decent regional universities — Aberdeen, Keele, Reading — and earned a strong reputation writing on an unusual range of topics, from Hume to immortality to Darwin. His greatest contribution remains his first, a short paper from 1950 called “Theology and Falsification.” Flew was a precocious 27 when he delivered the paper at a meeting of the Socratic Club, the Oxford salon presided over by C. S. Lewis. Reprinted in dozens of anthologies, “Theology and Falsification” has become a heroic tract for committed atheists. In a masterfully terse thousand words, Flew argues that “God” is too vague a concept to be meaningful. For if God’s greatness entails being invisible, intangible and inscrutable, then he can’t be disproved — but nor can he be proved. Such powerful but simply stated arguments made Flew popular on the campus speaking circuit; videos from debates in the 1970s show a lanky man, his black hair professorially unkempt, vivisecting religious belief with an English public-school accent perfect for the seduction of American ears. Before the current crop of atheist crusader-authors — Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens — there was Antony Flew.
Flew’s fame is about to spread beyond the atheists and philosophers. HarperOne, an imprint of HarperCollins, has just released “There Is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind,” a book attributed to Flew and a co-author, the Christian apologist Roy Abraham Varghese.
more from the NY Times Magazine here.