Antony Flew dies at 87; atheist philosopher who changed his mind late in life

Associated Press

Antony Flew, an academic philosopher who expounded atheism for most of his life but made a late conversion to belief in a creator, has died in England. He was 87.

Flew died April 8 after a long illness, according to a notice his family placed in the Times of London.

The son of a Methodist minister, Flew abandoned belief as a teenager because of the problem of evil.


“It just seemed flatly inconsistent to say that the universe was created by an omnipotent and perfectly good being. Yet there were evils in abundance which could not be put down to a consequence of human sin,” he was quoted as saying in a 2004 interview with the Sunday Times.

In the last decade of his life, scientific discoveries about the complexity of DNA led him to believe there was an intelligent creator.

Flew’s belief was in deism, involving a remote creator who takes no interest in human affairs.

Flew said he was impressed by the work of Gerald Schroeder, a physicist and Jewish theologian who wrote “The Hidden Face of God,” published in 2001.

“He pointed out the improbable statistics involved and the pure chances that have to occur. It’s simply not on to think this could occur simply by chance,” the Sunday Times quoted Flew as saying.

Flew was born Feb. 11, 1923, in London. During World War II he served with the Royal Air Force intelligence unit, then studied philosophy at Oxford University. He participated in C.S. Lewis’ weekly Socratic Club meetings, and a paper he presented to the group in 1950, “Theology and Falsification,” became a much-quoted argument against the existence of God.


Flew’s academic career included stints at universities in Aberdeen, Scotland; and in Keele and Reading, England. He was author or coauthor of more than 30 books, including “God & Philosophy” (1966), revised as “God: a Philosophical Critique” in 1984; “The Presumption of Atheism” (1976); “Social Life and Moral Judgment” (2003) and “There Is a God” (2007).

He is survived by his wife and two daughters.

“I don’t want a future life,” Flew told the Sunday Times. “I want to be dead when I’m dead and that’s an end to it. I don’t want an unending life. I don’t want anything without end.”