Antony Flew: the Existence and Belief of God

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Antony Flew: The Existence and Belief of God

How can I start this paper? Hmmmm…..??? Let's begin with the parable. Antony Flew starts off his speech by telling the audience this story of two explorers that accidentally came upon a garden in a jungle. In this garden, there were many beautiful flowers and weeds. One explorer says, "some gardener must tend this plot". While the other disagrees, "there is no gardener". So, these two explorers tried to figure out who was right and who was wrong. They waited the whole night, but no gardener was ever seen. Then the "Believer" said that there must be a gardener, that he "is an invisible gardener". He tried everything he could to convince to the "Sceptic" that he was right, barbed-wire, electrifying fence, patrolling bloodhounds. But no gardener was ever found. Still the "Believer" was not convinced. He gave the "Sceptic" many excuses as to why they couldn't see the gardener. The "Sceptic" told him that he was crazy because what started out as a simple assertion that there was a gardener, turned into "an imaginary gardener".

This parable that Flew is using is clearly an analogy to the existence and belief of God. The garden represents God, "…invisible, intangible, insensible…". The "Sceptic" says there is no gardener, just as an atheist denies the existence God. The "Believer" says there is a gardener, like a theist telling everyone that God exists. The "Believer" tries to prove that there was a planter, who planted the seeds for the flowers to grow. This planter takes care of them, a parallelism to God supposedly taking care of "us".

Flew talks about assertions. He states that "what starts as an assertion, that something exists…may be reduced step by step to an altogether different status". He uses the example of how if one man were to talk about sexual behavior, "another man prefers to talk of Aphrodite". They don't seem to make sense. How can one confuse the idea of a sexual behavior with Aphrodite? He also points out the fact that "a fine brash hypothesis may be killed by inches, the death of a thousand qualifications". A good example of this is when he said that "God loves us as a father loves his children". He states that when we see a child dying of cancer, his "earthy father" is there, to help him, nurture him, trying his best for his son. But his "Heavenly Father", God, is no where to be found, that he "reveals no obvious sign of concern". The qualification that is made is that "God's love is not a merely human love or it is an inscrutable love." What started as a simple statement "God loves us as a father loves his children", has now turned into this complex idea that "God's love is not a merely human love…" Also this new, complex thought, have started even more questions about that nature of God's love, "what is this assurance of God's love worth…" This is what Flew was talking about, "death of a thousand qualification", something that is simple, is turned into a complex idea that needs more answering.

Flew also talks about other assertions such as "God has a plan", "God created the world". He calls them, a "peculiar danger, a endemic evil, of theological utterance." He states that they first look "very much like assertions, vast cosmological assertions", but there is no sure sign, no evidence that "they either are or are intended to be, assertions". Flew said that, "for is the utterance is indeed an assertion, it will necessarily be equivalent to a denial of the negation of that assertion." What he meant is that if one asserts something then one must deny something. He then goes on by saying that, "anything which would count against the assertion, or which would induce the speaker to withdraw it and to admit that it had been mistaken, must be part of the meaning of the negation of that assertion….and if there is nothing which a putative assertion denies then there is nothing which it asserts either; and so it is...
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