Friday, November 16, 2007

Victorian Skeptics on the Road to Damascus

A timely look at the skeptic movement in Victorian England. The main point? What goes around comes around. The anti-theism debate we are seeing today is nothing new.

When I was growing up, the most famous atheist in America was Madalyn Murray O'Hair. A test case regarding her son, William Murray, occasioned the 1963 Supreme Court ruling banning prayer in public schools. As an adult, William Murray became the president of the advocacy organization, American Atheists. I was therefore amazed when he converted to Christianity in 1980, going on to become a conservative, ordained Christian minister and evangelist.

Many Christians have been equally stunned by the recent announcement that the eminent British philosopher Antony Flew, sometimes billed as "the world's most famous atheist," has come to affirm the existence of God after a lifetime of publicly arguing against such a belief (although it should be noted that Flew has only converted to Theism, not Christianity).

But I wasn't. Between the conversion of Murray and the change of mind of Flew, I had done research on the history of religious skepticism in Victorian Britain, and this had taught me that intellectually rigorous, militant unbelievers convert to Christianity surprisingly often. Read More.

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