Cross Roads of Faith: Quick Quotes 9/5/14 – (Former A)Theist Antony Flew on Islam

Every now and then I run across an article with information I think is relevant to the purposes of this blog, but that I am not prepared (or maybe not inclined) to write a full blown article on the subject. So, I have decided to do a “Quick Quotes” post on some of these articles, in order to highlight information for interested parties, and to help myself keep track of possible ideas for future articles.


Some quotes are more informative than others…

Antony Flew was one of the most prominent and influential atheistic philosophers of the late 20th and early 21st century, that is until he became a theist based on the evidence of design in the cosmos and in living things. In an article entitled My Pilgrimage from Atheism to Theism, an interview of Flew conducted by Gary Habermas, Habermas interviewed Flew about his transition to theism. It’s a very interesting read. What particularly grabbed me in the article was some of Flew’s commentary on Islam, in contrast with Christianity, and here I will present some of his thoughts. Please note, the quotes below are not necessarily contiguous. Read the article for context!

As for Islam, it is, I think, best described in a Marxian way as the uniting and justifying ideology of Arab imperialism. Between the New Testament and the Qur’an there is (as it is customary to say when making such comparisons) no comparison. Whereas markets can be found for books on reading the Bible as literature, to read the Qur’an is a penance rather than a pleasure. There is no order or development in its subject matter. All the chapters (the suras) are arranged in order of their length, with the longest at the beginning. However, since the Qur’an consists in a collection of bits and pieces of putative revelation delivered to the prophet Mohammad by the Archangel Gabriel in classical Arab on many separate but unknown occasions, it is difficult to suggest any superior principle of organization.

Whereas St. Paul, who was the chief contributor to the New Testament, knew all the three relevant languages and obviously possessed a first class philosophical mind, the Prophet, though gifted in the arts of persuasion and clearly a considerable military leader, was both doubtfully literate and certainly ill-informed about the contents of the Old Testament and about several matters of which God, if not even the least informed of the Prophet’s contemporaries, must have been cognizant.

This raises the possibility of what my philosophical contemporaries in the heyday of Gilbert Ryle would have described as a knock-down falsification of Islam: something which is most certainly not possible in the case of Christianity.  If I do eventually produce such a paper it will obviously have to be published anonymously. [emphasis mine]

The Bible is a work which someone who had not the slightest concern about the question of the truth or falsity of the Christian religion could read as people read the novels of the best novelists. It is an eminently readable book.

Well, one thing I’ll say in this comparison is that, for goodness sake, Jesus is an enormously attractive charismatic figure, which the Prophet of Islam most emphatically is not.

I tried to read the Qur’an once. I understand Flew’s perspective on its composition. The whole article is fascinating and I recommend it. Anyone care to take a stab at the bolded comment?

I’d love to discuss these things with you. Any questions and comments that are in line with this page’s Commenting Policy will be published and responded to (to the best of my ability).

For more information on how I keep my worldview informed please go to Cross Roads Church.

Post-publication edit: Although the title of my article, and the title of the original article, refer to Antony Flew as a “theist”, he was actually a “deist.” This distinction is addressed in the linked interview. Please forgive me if it seems I was trying to trick anyone. Thank you.

Previous “Quick Quotes”:

 Cross Roads of Faith: Quick Quotes 9-1-14

Leave a comment


  1. Well, he was obviously referring to the very real possibility of being targeted by a Fatwa a la Rushdie. As a well known personality it would be obviously be prudent to ”keep his head down” over such an issue.

    John, Re: your Flew was a theist remark. For what it is worth, amid a lot of controversy, he restated his position and declared he was a deist and did not follow any revealed religion.
    Just a friendly heads-up.

    [link removed by blog owner]


    • Hello again Arkenaten, and thank you for your comment. I agree with your analysis of the bolded comment.

      The title of the original piece is clearly stated in my article, referring to Flew as a theist, and I also recommended people read the original piece which discusses the issue you mentioned. There is no need for extraneous Wikipedia links. I’m really not sure why you bring it up, is the distinction THAT important to you? For your benefit however, I will edit a correction into the article, so there’s no need to respond. Thank you for your careful watch over my vocabulary.


      • I’m really not sure why you bring it up, is the distinction THAT important to you?

        Yes it is. Deism is pretty harmless as it is non interventionist.

        I think it only fair that we get our labels right – just in case any neutrals stumble across your blog. We wouldn’t want to give the wrong impression, right?
        After all, of the many, many people who switch beliefs Anthony Flew is probably the poster child for conversion and is trotted out by Christians on a fairly regular basis.


        • The edit has been made. Hopefully it meets your approval.

          I don’t actually hear it “trotted out” very often, although when it happened it was certainly big news. One way or another Mr. Flew knows (or doesn’t) the truth of the matter now, as he has passed on.

          He was a pretty big fish though. Perhaps that’s why he was/is “trotted out” so much. I actually respect his courage, not many people (in my opinion) have the balls to publicly admit they were wrong about such a fundamental issue for practically their whole life.


          • Admit they were wrong? Wrong
            How does he ”know?” Hmmm?

            Oooh…Lovely word play, though John. Almost slipped it right by me. 9 out of 10 for effort! 🙂

            ”I know I am right.” If I state that would you not consider this a tad arrogant in context?


          • Arkie (if I may) I’m not sure why you are so hyper-defensive. I’m not trying to slip anything by anyone.

            Antony Flew certainly believed he was wrong about atheism. If, in his mind, he believed that there was a creator God, then we can reasonably say he “knew” there was a creator God, just as I know there is, and just as you know there isn’t, presumably. I made no comment about who is right, merely stated a fact about Mr. Flew.

            And yes, now he does know (or not). He has died a natural death. If I am right and his spirit went on, he knows the truth for certainty. If you are right and he has simply ceased to exist, he knows nothing. Thus, as I said, “Mr. Flew knows (or doesn’t) the truth of the matter now”


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