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Mr. Flew’s “name and stature are big. Whenever you hear people talk about atheists, Flew always comes up,” Mr. Carrier said.

Still, when it comes to Mr. Flew’s reversal, he said, “Apart from curiosity, I don’t think it’s like a big deal.”

Mr. Flew told the Associated Press that his current ideas have some similarity with American “intelligent design” theorists, who see evidence for a guiding force in the construction of the universe. He accepts Darwinian evolution, but doubts that it can explain the ultimate origins of life.

A Methodist minister’s son, Mr. Flew became an atheist at 15.

Early in his career, he argued that no conceivable events could constitute proof against God for believers, so skeptics were right to wonder whether the concept of God meant anything.