Apr 1, 2006

My Pilgrimage from Deism to Polytheism

An Exclusive Interview with Former British Deist Professor Antony Flew

Dr. Antony Flew
Professor of Philosophy
Former Deist, author and debater

Mr. Jim Anderson
English teacher, debate coach, and amateur blogger

Antony Flew's celebrated conversion to theism--in the guise of deism--stunned the community of freethinkers. Now, in an exclusive interview, Flew explains how he is "following the evidence wherever it leads." In his case, budding theism has bloomed into a multicolored flower: polytheism.

ANDERSON: You recently converted from atheism to deism, which has gotten you a lot of flak from freethinkers who think you've sold out. Care to comment?

FLEW: To my friends in the atheist community--excepting agnostics, those flighty bastards--I want to extend an olive branch. I am not here to convert anyone. Rather, this is a highly personal quest. If they're not compelled by the evidence, my advice is to keep searching, keep learning. It certainly took me a great while.

ANDERSON: Tell us about your most recent announcement.

FLEW: True to form, I'm following the evidence. It leads to polytheism. There can't be just one god in this world--that's too mundane, too predictable. A motley cast of deities makes life a lot more intriguing.

ANDERSON: That hardly sounds like evidence--

FLEW: Oh, it isn't--

ANDERSON: Upon initially converting, you had said that the evidence for design was our best clue that the universe is in fact designed.

FLEW: I did, and I hold to that. But the warring nature of Nature, if I may, the competition at the heart of the natural struggle, to use Hobbes' phrase, "red in tooth and claw," obviously points to a fractious relationship among the original design team. Google "Multiple Designers Theory" for the full scientific treatment.

ANDERSON: Perhaps you could share an example.

FLEW: Look at any human design process. An artist might draw up an advertisement, with bold, innovative design concepts--perhaps a nude penguin smoking a beefy cigar. But then it has to be approved by his boss, who's under the thumb of the corporation buying the advertisement. His boss is a good bloke, but he wants the advertisement toned down, perhaps the penguin should be clothed, perhaps the cigar could be a lollipop. No, that's not a penguin, it's a chicken in a tuxedo, wearing a top hat and buckled shoes...

ANDERSON: I'm having trouble following you.

FLEW: It's all in there.

ANDERSON: You had previously claimed that the Biblical account "might be scientifically accurate." What are your thoughts now?

FLEW: I'm struck by the elegance and beauty of the Gilgamesh epic. The story of how An the god of heaven carries off heaven and separates it from earth, which is taken by Enlil the air-god, perfectly meshes with my conception of jealous, combative deities trying to one-up their divine competition.

ANDERSON: Is your new mindset consistent with skepticism of Darwin's project?

FLEW: My thinking has changed. Darwin's famed example of the ichneumon wasp, which he used as a brick to break theistic windows, actually squares much more neatly with a polytheistic view of creation. Whichever designer came up with the template for it obviously despised the designer who dreamed up caterpillars. I have no quarrel with evolution per se as the outcome of warring designers.

ANDERSON: So you've wiped away the problem of evil from the discussion.

FLEW: Exactly. Theodicy is a waste of precious philosophical resources.

ANDERSON: Even as a new theist, you once said, "I still hope and believe there’s no possibility of an afterlife." Thoughts?

FLEW: Yes, I said that, and it's true even now. Near death experiences are the only evidence for an afterlife--and most of them end up the same dull way. Reunited with Uncle Mortimer or Aunt Agatha or Wheezy the poodle. Enough is enough.

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