Chapter 8 in Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis is “The Great Sin.” This chapter discusses the sin of pride.
Lewis begins by stating “The vice I am talking of is Pride or Self-Conceit.” Pride and self-conceit are not the same things. Pride is “a feeling of elation or satisfaction at achievements or qualities or possessions etc. that do one credit.” Conceit is “a far-fetched comparison, esp. as a stylistic affectation.” You can have pride without being conceited.
He then claims that “it was through Pride that the devil became the devil.” No, the devil became the devil because he disobeyed God. It can be said that pride led him to disobey God, but I’d say it was more likely love. “Pride leads to every other vice.” Prove it. Seriously, this is an extraordinary claim. Lewis would have to go through every vice, prove that it was in fact a vice, and then prove that it was caused by pride to make this claim correct. I could make it incorrect simply by pointing to one vice not caused by pride. For example: addiction is not caused by pride. Since addiction is seen as something to avoid, it is a vice. It’s caused by having a particular personality type that makes one more sensitive to becoming addicted. Nobody is proud of their addiction, at least not that I’m aware of.
Lewis goes on to argue “In fact, if you want to find out how proud you are the easiest way is to ask yourself ‘How much do I dislike it when other people snub me, or refuse to take notice of me, or shove their oar in, or patronize me, or show off?'” Where is the evidence that this test works? How is it prideful to dislike being patronized or snubbed? Those are very rude behaviours in themselves. I’d find it odd if even the most humble person was okay with them. That doesn’t signal pride, it signals that a person has been effectively taught societal moral beliefs. The dislike of being overlooked may be more accurate, but I’d still say your dislike of being overlooked says something else about you, namely that you are extroverted as opposed to introverted. As an introvert, I often try very hard to be overlooked. I doubt an extrovert would say the same.
He then states “Now what you want to get clear is that Pride is essentially competitive-is competitive by its very nature-while the other vices are competitive only, so to speak, by accident.” Again, evidence?
According to Lewis, “It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest.” I’m proud to be able t say that I am organizing a conference. But I know very well that I’m not going to be the best at it. There are others with far more experience than I have. I’ve already made mistakes, and I’m sure to make quite a few more. But I’m learning a skill that I’m hoping will be useful in the future. I’m doing something that I never thought I’d do, but it turns out to be something that I’d like to do more of. How, exactly, is that competitive?
He then argues “But a proud man will take your girl from you, not because he wants her, but just to prove to himself that he is a better man than you.” I’m pretty sure he’s describing a narcissist, actually. That is a very special level of pride. And, just a side note, you can’t actually have what you don’t own taken from you. “Take” implies ownership. You do not own your partner. If they leave you, that’s their choice (unless they were kidnapped).
He claims that “10,000 pounds will give all the luxuries that any man can really enjoy.” Man I wish this were still true. Of course, without regaining a lot of the labour issues from the time.
Lewis says of pride “What makes a pretty girl spread misery wherever she goes by collecting admirers? Certainly not her sexual instinct: that kind of girl is often quite sexually frigid.” Wow. How sexist. First off, nobody can make you sexually or physically attracted to them. One can try by wearing certain clothes and applying certain products, but it’s your own brain that causes you to become attracted to the person. As such, an individual person has very little control over whether or not they collect admirers. The ones who can collect admirers usually don’t have to put much effort into it. Second, men really are not the only ones who have sex drives. Women like sex too. And third, we live in a society that tells women to suppress their sexual desires lest they be sluts, but if they do suppress them they are prudes. To say that a woman must be sexually frigid because she is pretty is perpetuating a very problematic belief.
He then argues “If I am a proud man, then, as long as there is one man in the whole world more powerful, or richer, or cleverer than I, he is my rival and my enemy.” Again, this sounds more like a narcissist than simply someone who is prideful.
And he states that “As long as you are proud you cannot know God.” If you can’t know God if you are proud, but all people suffer from the sin of pride, then how come Lewis keeps making assertions about knowing what God wants us to do?
Lewis says of those who are prideful “I am afraid it means they are worshiping an imaginary God. They theoretically admit themselves to be nothing in the presence of this phantom God, but are really all the time imagining how He approves of them and thinks them far better than ordinary people: that is, they pay a pennyworth of imaginary humility to Him and get out of it a pound’s worth of Pride towards their fellow-men.” How does Lewis know what other people are thinking, or the accuracy of their beliefs? Is he a mind-reader? Does he have some sort of special access to God’s knowledge that these other people don’t?
He claims “Whenever we find that our religious life is making us feel that we are good-above all, that we are better than someone else-I think we may be sure that we are being acted on, not by God, but by the devil.” So…whenever you feel good about yourself, it’s because of the devil? But God is the good guy? In that case, why worship God? He makes you feel bad and worthless, but the devil makes you feel good.
Then he goes on to say “The real test of being in the presence of God is, that you either forget about yourself all together or see yourself as a small dirty object.” But God isn’t an abusive boyfriend at all. No, he loves you. He makes you hate yourself, but he loves you so it’s okay.
Lewis finished by stating that “The other, and less bad, vices come from the devil working on us through our animal nature.” This right here is evidence that C.S. Lewis accepted evolution.