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The Turning of an Atheist - Comments

mummymonkey's Avatar Comment 1 by mummymonkey

Shame on them.

Sun, 04 Nov 2007 08:31:00 UTC | #81069

Richard Dawkins's Avatar Comment 2 by Richard Dawkins

This is one of the most damning pieces of investigative journalism I have read for a long time. Congratulations to Mark Oppenheimer. The cynical exploiting of this poor old man is nothing short of disgraceful. I wish there were some way for Varghese and the publishers to be taken to court. At least, this whole distasteful episode will serve as yet another telling example of the desperation of the religious lobby -- that they are prepared to stoop so despicably low.


Sun, 04 Nov 2007 08:47:00 UTC | #81070

gyokusai's Avatar Comment 3 by gyokusai

This is really despicable. And it comes from the same mindset, I think, that revels in the religious indoctrination of children.


Sun, 04 Nov 2007 09:20:00 UTC | #81072

prettygoodformonkeys's Avatar Comment 4 by prettygoodformonkeys

Excellent job, Mr. Oppenheimer; and very even-handed considering the despicable methods used.

We may have a new category here:

"argument from hijacked authority".

Sun, 04 Nov 2007 09:20:00 UTC | #81073

Nusmus's Avatar Comment 5 by Nusmus

Well, perhaps a potent argumentum ad verecundium, but a fallacy none the less. I'm not that worried. Especially as a younger atheist, Flew isn't really anybody to me, so no chords are struck.

"I wish there were some way for Varghese and the publishers to be taken to court."

What!?!!? Richard, I hope you're not serious. Be careful what you wish for, especially in this case, or you might find yourself on the end of a blowback.

Sun, 04 Nov 2007 09:34:00 UTC | #81075

Titus's Avatar Comment 6 by Titus

The increasingly loathesome and underhand methods of the god squad should be exposed at every opportunity. They are tactics indicative of a last ditch, and desperate, defence of an impossible position.
Give these people enough rope and they will surely hang themselves.

Sun, 04 Nov 2007 09:52:00 UTC | #81079

BicycleRepairMan's Avatar Comment 7 by BicycleRepairMan

I'm not that worried. Especially as a younger atheist, Flew isn't really anybody to me, so no chords are struck.

Did you even read this article? Quick recap: Flew never really was an atheist, he's a deist, and Christian zealots are exploiting his aging mind to further their own cause, they've even written a book in his name, that Flew agreed to basically because he trusted these frauds, and he really has no interest in the ongoing debate.

Disgusting, and good one on Mr.Oppenheimer for exposing this.

Sun, 04 Nov 2007 10:13:00 UTC | #81086

Roger Stanyard's Avatar Comment 8 by Roger Stanyard

Varghese seems to be in the habit of manipulating old men who are losing their faculties. See the photo at

The Intelligent Design crew look to be damn desperate as they preside over the stinking rotting corpse of their pseudo-science.

Why is it, time and time again, as soon as someone starts digging around on these people, they turn out to be so damned second rate?

Sun, 04 Nov 2007 10:25:00 UTC | #81094

kaiserkriss's Avatar Comment 9 by kaiserkriss

The ironic thing is these Christians always claim to have the moral high ground.. Disgusting!

Taking advantage of the old and weak, is similar the child abuse. Surely there are laws in "Blighty" protecting the old from exploitation by scrupulous shysters? jcw

Sun, 04 Nov 2007 10:40:00 UTC | #81096

Corylus's Avatar Comment 10 by Corylus

Utterly heartbreaking when a philosopher's mind goes.

As for the people exploiting him, they take the epithet "Liars for Jesus" to a new level. Maybe "Vultures for Jesus" would be more appropriate.

Dishonourable and despicable.

Sun, 04 Nov 2007 10:46:00 UTC | #81099

Russell's Teapot's Avatar Comment 11 by Russell's Teapot


I picked up a pamphlet at a local store entitled "has SCIENCE found GOD" and the main article focuses on Flew's "conversion" then goes into your typically inane arguments from design. If anything, it provided some chuckles on the bus ride home, but the exploitation showed by these theists on a consistent basis is just outrageous.

Sun, 04 Nov 2007 11:26:00 UTC | #81106

nancy2001's Avatar Comment 12 by nancy2001

The moment I saw the photograph of Anthony Flew, with his sad eyes staring blankly into space, it was obvious he was suffering from dementia. It is despicable that the religious right would exploit this private tragedy in such a public way.

Sun, 04 Nov 2007 11:55:00 UTC | #81118

Nick Good's Avatar Comment 13 by Nick Good

It was painful to read; heart wrenching stuff.

That said; what does rather strike me, is that there is not more of this sort of thing. It's uncommonly rare to find an atheist, with any kind of track record as such, that ends up as a vocal theist - and I include CS Lewis in this, he claims to be a former atheist, but there's no record, to the best of my knowledge, of him as an atheist.

Now like Lewis, there are plenty that claim to be ex-atheists, but few can point to a any kind of record as atheists. Anthony Flew seems the best 'scalp' the apologists can come up with!

Despite Flew's new found seeming Deism in his dotage; there is quite a strong asymmetry of conversion in favor of theism to atheism. Now granted, that of itself, is not crushing evidence against the truth value of theism, but if rallying converts to the cause is an argument, which is seemingly what's going on here, the theists have the hind tit on that one!

Regardless, those that have exploited and manipulated the old fella, are worse than squalid.

Sun, 04 Nov 2007 12:01:00 UTC | #81120

Quine's Avatar Comment 14 by Quine

It is painful for me to tell this, but when I look at the photograph of Flew, it takes me back to the death of my father. He was a lifelong Atheist who detested religion primarily out of his humanitarian loathing of hypocrisy. We would sit and discuss philosophy when I was a child; an experience dear to me, but so rare as to be almost unexplainable to most others. Sadly, when he was dying in his 90'th year, he lost his higher brain functions over a period of several days in the hospital, during which, my mother managed to get him to agree (she says) to be baptized into the Catholic Church. Subsequently, I see how so many of these "deathbed conversion" may have come about, and now look at them with, not only the deserved devaluation, but also with my father's characteristic attitude.

Sun, 04 Nov 2007 12:30:00 UTC | #81127

Diacanu's Avatar Comment 15 by Diacanu

No shit? Same thing happened with my grandfather. 'Cept he died in his 70's of cancer.
But still, catholics got him in the end.

Sun, 04 Nov 2007 12:33:00 UTC | #81128

Quine's Avatar Comment 16 by Quine


No shit?

Yes, shit, but true nonetheless.

Sun, 04 Nov 2007 12:39:00 UTC | #81131

Diacanu's Avatar Comment 17 by Diacanu

No, I wasn't calling you a liar, I was just floored by how similar it was to my experience, it seems to be a common pattern.

Sun, 04 Nov 2007 12:42:00 UTC | #81132

Quine's Avatar Comment 18 by Quine

I knew what you meant, just being emphatic. My condolence for your grandfather.

EDIT: It would be good to know just how common it is. It struck me as elder abuse at the time. Perhaps it is just a pattern in which you are forced into religion at the start of your life, and then, even if you get loose, forced back in at the end.

P.S. I also wonder how many dying people are cornered into trading lip service of religion for hospice care?

Sun, 04 Nov 2007 12:51:00 UTC | #81134

Pilot22A's Avatar Comment 19 by Pilot22A

Then again, maybe he has begun to believe in a god, or some intelligence out there that created all of this.
In the end - there is still no proof of that and this is a sad exploitation of an old man.

Sun, 04 Nov 2007 13:46:00 UTC | #81148

mandrellian's Avatar Comment 20 by mandrellian

Come near me with a bible and I'll pull the damn plug out myself, just to spite you.

This article describes some of the most shameful, exploitative behaviour I've ever seen. A stark reminder of the veracity of the phrase "for good men to do evil, it takes religion". Seems nothing is out of bounds when you're faithful - indoctrinating children, preying on fragile old gentlemen, peddling falsehoods and fallacies.

Where are the hordes of atheists preying on aged ex-bishops or senile mullahs?

Sun, 04 Nov 2007 13:52:00 UTC | #81150

kaiserkriss's Avatar Comment 21 by kaiserkriss

"Where are the hordes of atheists preying on aged ex-bishops or senile mullahs? "

Good one, hmm on second thought we would just be lowering ourselves to "their" standards. Anyone with a shred of decency will recognize Varghese and co for the despicable people they truly are. May they be tormented by in their own delusional hell-fire for eternity.. jcw

Sun, 04 Nov 2007 14:25:00 UTC | #81158

BicycleRepairMan's Avatar Comment 22 by BicycleRepairMan

there is still no proof of that and this is a sad exploitation of an old man.

Huh? Are you saying the entire article is a lie? that reports and interviews done by journalists dont qualify as "proof"?

You're making a statement on a false premise, this article, apparantly with first-hand information from all sides referred to, is making a pretty strong case here, and you seem to think there is no basis for the allegation of exploitation unless the oh so elusively defined "Proof" can be offered? What proof might this be?, Scripture? A circular ontological argument perhaps?

Sun, 04 Nov 2007 14:37:00 UTC | #81162

Stewart's Avatar Comment 23 by Stewart

If the article is inaccurate and Flew is in fact capable of writing the book with which he is now being credited, then he is also capable of issuing a reaction to the piece. No reaction from Flew may, I think, tell us a lot.

Sun, 04 Nov 2007 15:24:00 UTC | #81169

Russell's Teapot's Avatar Comment 24 by Russell's Teapot

RD, please promise us that if you go old and senile, you'll start believing in unicorns or leprechauns so that these con artists cannot take advantage of you :)

Sun, 04 Nov 2007 16:15:00 UTC | #81178

Matt H.'s Avatar Comment 25 by Matt H.

I pray (figuratively, of course) that when I get that old I don't lose my marbles and 'convert'. And even if I did someday decide to be a theist I'd truly be a lunatic to pick the Christian God over the thousands of others.

Sun, 04 Nov 2007 16:26:00 UTC | #81180

SilentMike's Avatar Comment 26 by SilentMike

havn't read all the replies so I'm not sure whether or not someone already said this but this kind of shameful behaviour seems to me to be a very strong indication of a sort of panic on the other side. I mean this isn't the old fashioned use of force, because they don't have that option anymore. It's not clearly effective like actually succeeding to ged ID taught in schools. It isn't anything. It just seems like these guys stooped as low as one can stoop in order to get some seemingly worthless achievement. The act seems more than a bit desperate.

I mean it's an underhanded revolting thing to do. But still, pretty desperate.

Sun, 04 Nov 2007 16:36:00 UTC | #81182

alexmzk's Avatar Comment 27 by alexmzk

very sad. and it must be painful for Prof. Flew's family that to refute the theists' exploitation of him, atheists must pointedly draw attention to his growing senility. very delicate ground.

Sun, 04 Nov 2007 16:48:00 UTC | #81184

Ashley1319's Avatar Comment 28 by Ashley1319

I don't know that much about Flew,but it's a shame that they would use a man who's mind is going and not only make people think that he's truly converted, but distort his own thoughts into believing it! I really wish people would call out those men who warped his life's work into a circus. Flew deserved more than that.

Sun, 04 Nov 2007 16:54:00 UTC | #81185

John Done's Avatar Comment 29 by John Done

I can't believe that my mother actually handed me that book just now. She has no idea who Flew was, what he believes, or any other relevant circumstances. All she knows is that he was a "prominent atheist" who "changed his mind" and that the book'll somehow instantly convert me back to catholicism. If The Dawkins Delusion didn't do it (yes, she actually thinks McGrath has it right; she hasn't even read The God Delusion, says she "doesn't have to"), what makes her think that an aged intellectual I've barely heard of who was convinced by arguments from design possibly have any affect on me?

Any suggestions for dealing with my mother? I'm stuck here. I can't tell her that I've been visiting this site; that'll just confirm her belief that Dawkins is evil. That's really how powerful the Church's hold on some people is.

Sun, 04 Nov 2007 17:13:00 UTC | #81186

astroprof's Avatar Comment 30 by astroprof

This tragic story bring to my mind Fred Hoyle, the famous British astrophysicist whose early work included figuring out how the chemical elements form via stellar nucleosynthesis in stars. His early work was brilliant, but in his later years he espoused a number of wacky ideas. For instance, he believed that the spectral features of interstellar dust were due to bacteria and viruses floating around in space, and that comets deliver these microbes to Earth. He rejected life's origin as having occurred via chemical reactions that gradually increased chemical complexity on the early Earth: he is famous for saying that it was as likely as a tornado going through a junkyard and assembling a 747. Creationist nutjobs quote Hoyle to this day as though he were as much an authority on biology as Dawkins. So long as we have addled old philosophers, and worse, physical scientists (e.g. Behe) spouting off about biology and being cited as legitimate by the creationists, what are we to do?

Sun, 04 Nov 2007 17:26:00 UTC | #81188