Tuesday, August 31, 2004

The Twilight of Atheism

Evangelical Outpost brings word that one of the most famous contemporary atheistic philosophers, Antony Flew, is apparently moving away from atheism toward some sort of deism.

Joe Carter explains the significance of the move:

So why does it matter that a retired philosopher is abandoning atheism for a Spinozian deism? The main reason is that few philosophers have thought longer or harder about atheism than Flew. When someone of his stature gives up the "faith" then it appears that we truly have entered what Alister McGrath refers to as "the twilight of atheism."

One shouldn't make too much of a single instance of a repudiation of atheism, if that's indeed what Flew is doing, but perhaps it isn't premature to suggest that naturalism, the view that nature is all there is, is in the early stages of terminal exhaustion. There are many atheists who will never give up the cause, of course, but there seem to be many others who are coming to realize that any view of life that leads to moral, epistemological, and metaphysical nihilism (see here, for example) is left with very little to commend it. When adherents of that same view find that it is also unable to offer a plausible explanation for the astonishing fine tuning of the universe, or a compelling explanation for the ubiquity on this planet of biological information, or any explanation at all for the existence of consciousness, they tend to become intellectually and spiritually restless.

Few people actually want to believe the things one is logically compelled to believe if he is an atheist, which is why most atheists don't follow their atheism to its logical conclusions. Some are beginning to realize, evidently, that there is something amiss with a worldview whose entailments are so repugnant to the human spirit. They're saying, like Flew, that we can no longer remain bound to the shibboleths of the nineteenth century but rather we need to go wherever the argument leads. For some (who knows how many) the argument is leading away from the sterile, arid deserts of naturalism to something brighter, richer, and more fertile.

It'll be interesting to trace this cultural development throughout the coming years. It may amount to nothing much, but on the other hand it may well presage a spiritual revolution.