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Anthony Flew, once a prominent atheist, dies at 87

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April 14, 2010 04:29 AM EST | AP

LONDON — Antony Flew, an academic philosopher who expounded atheism for most of his life but made a late conversion to belief in a creator, has died at age 87, his family said in a notice published Wednesday.

Flew died on April 8 following a long illness, according to the notice in The Times newspaper.

The son of a Methodist minister, Flew abandoned belief as a teenager because of the problem of evil. "It just seemed flatly inconsistent to say that the universe was created by an omnipotent and perfectly good being. Yet there were evils in abundance which could not be put down to a consequence of human sin," he was quoted as saying in a 2004 interview with The Sunday Times.

In the last decade of his life, scientific discoveries about the complexity of DNA led him to believe there was an intelligent creator.

Flew's belief was in deism, in a remote creator who takes no interest in human affairs, unlike the Christian concept.

Flew said he was impressed by the work of Gerard Schroeder, a physicist and Jewish theologian who wrote "The Hidden Face of God," published in 2001.

"He pointed out the improbable statistics involved and the pure chances that have to occur. It's simply not on to think this could occur simply by chance," The Sunday Times quoted him as saying.

Flew's academic career included stints at the University of Aberdeen from 1950 to 1954, the University of Keele from 1954 to 1971 and the University of Reading from 1973 to 1982.

He was author or co-author of more than 30 books including "God and Philosophy" (1966), revised as "God: a Philosophical Critique" in 1984; "The Presumption of Atheism" (1976); "Social Life and Moral Judgment" (2003) and "There is a God" (2007).

He is survived by his wife and two daughters. A private funeral was planned.

"I don't want a future life," Flew told The Sunday Times.

"I want to be dead when I'm dead and that's an end to it. I don't want an unending life. I don't want anything without end."