Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Interview with an ex-atheist

Anthony Flew was once a militant atheist, but is now a deist. Read about his impressions on the God debate in this interview.


I believe that the origin of life and reproduction simply cannot be explained from a biological standpoint despite numerous efforts to do so. With every passing year, the more that was discovered about the richness and inherent intelligence of life, the less it seemed likely that a chemical soup could magically generate the genetic code. The difference between life and non-life, it became apparent to me, was ontological and not chemical. The best confirmation of this radical gulf is Richard Dawkins' comical effort to argue in The God Delusion that the origin of life can be attributed to a "lucky chance." If that's the best argument you have, then the game is over. No, I did not hear a Voice. It was the evidence itself that led me to this conclusion.

I have strong feelings about God's existence, as asking me to believe that God doesn't exist is like asking me to believe something comes from nothing: it's an absolute impossibility.

The argument that "we just happened" works in a post-modernist mindset, because logic and causation don't matter. They're illusions in the post-modern mind. We've so abandoned the notion of the power of reason, that we can't even accept rudimentary philosophical principles any more.

Which takes me to another subject. People often speak as if religion is the enemy of reason.

Some religious beliefs and some religious people are absolutely unreasonable.

Yet, we've abandoned reason as a culture. We don't believe in logic, principles, universals, or basic ideas like cause and effect.

Where do secularists propose we derive our beliefs if not from reason?

Naturally, some people will say that they reason-- they just don't believe in absolutes. Or that logic isn't always straightforward.

What does that mean then? Are their beliefs just as blind and foundationless as the beliefs of religious "fanatics"?

And have you ever noticed that the people who are often the most opposed to religious dogmatism are philosophical relativists who are equally as dogmatic as the people they denounce?

It seems to me if there's any group of people who uphold the value of reason, it's Catholics. Some Jews. Probably people of other religions, too, but I don't know which ones and I'm not about to venture a guess.

Catholic tradition upholds the idea that through reason you can discover Truth-- many truths. Like this man, Anthony Flew, did. He used reason to discover that God exists.

You can arrive at universal truths about the nature of the supernatural, creation and moral behaviour.

You do not need religious guidance for this, although it can help. But it is not absolutely necessary.

The opponents of faith generally say that you cannot know anything absolutely through reason. We're so liable to error, reality is so complex and undiscernable, that we can only arrive at good guesses and contextual answers.

Does that sound like faith in reason?

People who are opposed to religion make it sound like faith and reason are the enemy, when they exercise their reason more poorly in the first place.

Maybe it's the abandonment of reason that is the true cause of our loss of faith. If you think that truth cannot lie outside your self (or can't be discerned outside your subjective framework) why would you believe in an objective framework?

I suspect though that people are really double-minded about this. On the one hand, they say that truth is ultimately subjective; on the other, they act and reason like it's not. Because people cannot live as if all truth is subjective. It simply does not happen. You cannot live in a state of uncertainty about everything. We make assumptions about what is absolutely true, even if it goes agaisnt our own stated beliefs.

If we need those rules, then they must exist. We unconsciously know that there are principles to happiness and paths to misery, and we try to find the ones that lead us to happiness. And seeing as we are all essentially the same, those principles apply universally.