I’ve been finding it difficult to come up with ideas for blog posts, which is why this blog hasn’t been very active lately. As such, I’d like to leave it up to the readers: what would you like us to write about? Would you like to know something specific about our atheism? Do you have an argument that you’d like us to address? Would you like us to discuss a particular book? Do you have any questions about Philosophy, Biology, or History? Would you like to know our stance on a particular feminist issue? Is there something else you’d like us to write on? Let us know in the comment section.
Tag Archives: book review
Withteeth and I haven’t been posting very regularly lately, but we do have a good reason. Our conference took place on Saturday, so a lot of our time went into that. Right now we are still in the process of recovering from the insanity.
However, we haven’t forgotten about the blog. Right now we are working on a large series. The series will go as follows: First we will do an atheism 101 where we will do a comprehensive overview of everything atheism that we deem important. This is meant to create an understanding between ourselves and our readers, as well as to educate theists about the topics of atheism that they might find the most confusing, and to give new atheists or those questioning their theism the resources necessary to make an informed decision about their stance and the words needed to express their views to others. Then we will do a Philosophy 101. This series will cover a vast array of topics in philosophy that will help our readers understand where we are coming from when we discuss philosophical ideas and how your ideas can best be expressed to us. Basically, this will be another way to eliminate miscommunication between ourselves and our readers. Then we will each do two separate 101’s: History and Biology. I will be discussing what history is, why it’s important, and what historians do in order to create an understanding of how historians come to the conclusion that certain events happened a certain way. Withteeth will be discussing Biology in an attempt to express why we do not accept creationism as well as to create a mutual understanding of what certain terms mean. Then we will collaborate once again on a couple more 101’s. First we will do a Feminism 101. Again, this will be to educate our readers about certain terms and to eliminate any misunderstandings about what certain terms mean. It will also be a way to express why we are feminists and why we find MRAs and Anti-Feminists problematic. We will finish the 101 series with an LGBT 101. Again, the point will be to create a mutual understanding of terms.
Given the topics we have chosen to discuss, a number of our posts will basically be repeats of old posts, however, we feel it is important to go through those topics again. We have two reasons for doing this series: first, it ensures that we can cover those topics that we have been meaning to get to but have not yet discussed, and second, it will help us create blog posts that we can refer back to when people ask us questions or make comments that we have dealt with multiple times in the past.
This is going to be a long series. the atheism one is already over 200 pages long. As such, it will likely take us the rest of the school year to complete this series. When we’ve finished this series, I will deal with all the books that I’ve put aside. This is meant to be a foundation, so hopefully the book discussions will add to these 101s.
Chapter 9 in Mere Christianity is called “Charity.” I don’t have a whole lot to say on this chapter as it was quite short.
C.S. Lewis begins by saying “Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did.” Actually, psychology suggests that we form our opinions of people before we’re even conscious of doing so. It also shows that negative impressions are more powerful than positive ones, so it’s hard to make yourself like someone after you decide that you dislike them. You cant simply make yourself like someone by acting as though you do.
He then says “If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking him more. If you do him a good turn, you will find yourself disliking him less.” I don’t think emotions work this way either. Where is the evidence to suggest that this is true?
And his final argument is “They are told they ought to love God. They cannot find any such feeling in themselves. What are they to do? The answer is the same as before. Act as if you did. Do not sit trying to manufacturer feelings. Ask yourself, ‘If I were sure that I loved God, what would I do?’ When you have found the answer, go and do it.” That’s manufacturing feelings. It also sounds a bit like Pascal’s Wager to me. It makes no sense to try and “fake it till you make it” in this case.
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.
In “Forgiveness,” chapter 7 of the third book of Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, Lewis discusses the importance of forgiving your enemies in Christian doctrine.
“It is made perfectly clear that if we do not forgive we shall not be forgiven.” I like this bit. It makes me think: if Christianity is true, and C.S. Lewis is correct, then all those parents who throw their children onto the streets for being gay, or even because they are atheists or drug addicts, won’t be forgiven because they could not “forgive” (since I don’t view sin as real, and I don’t believe homosexuality is wrong, I put forgive in quotes because I don’t think it is in need of being forgiven) their own child for what they perceive to be a sin.
“Do I think well of myself, think myself a nice chap? Well, I’m afraid I sometimes do (and those are, no doubt, my worst moments).” This is just sad. The fact that anyone would say that it is only in their worst moments that they think of themselves as nice…that’s depressing. Nobody should think so little of themselves (unless they aren’t actually a nice person, but that’s a whole other discussion in itself). “but that is not why I love myself. In fact it is the other way round: my self-love makes me think myself nice, but thinking myself nice is not why I love myself.” Don’t you have to think yourself worthy of love before you can love yourself? Thinking yourself nice is one way to gain the view that you are worthy of love. So I’d say you need to see yourself as nice (regardless of whether or not you actually are) before you can love yourself.
“hate the sin but not the sinner.” People, please stop saying this. This is neither an inclusive nor is it a loving statement. What you are telling people when you say this is that a part of them is worthy of your hate. If I said “don’t worry: I don’t hate you, I just hate that you’re a Christian,” would that be okay to you? If you’re upset that, then don’t turn the same logic around on other people who you view to be sinners.
“In fact the very reason why I hated the things was that I loved the man.” No. Just no. Hate is not an acceptable response. You don’t have to like everything that a person does, but if you love them, and if they aren’t hurting themselves or others, then you accept them fully. If you think they are hurting themselves or others, you confront them and share your concern. But you don’t apply hate to the situation.
“We ought to hate them.” Really Lewis? Really? Okay, I am really not a fan of the idea of hate. I don’t hate anybody for any particular belief system. I dislike people for the beliefs they hold. I dislike the MRA mentality of blaming everything bad on feminism. I dislike people who say racist and sexist things. I dislike people who tell me I can’t be moral because I don’t believe in a God. Those beliefs get on my nerves, and it puts the people who express those beliefs in a bad light to my mind. But I don’t hate them. Hate is a useless emotion. It’s pointless. It never accomplishes anything other than to cause problems.
“You see, one is beginning to wish that black was a little blacker. If we give that wish its head, later on we shall wish to see grey as black, and then to see whit itself as black. Finally, we shall insist on seeing everything-God and our friends and ourselves included-as bad, and not be able to stop doing it.” This is a slippery slope argument. There is no reason to believe that if you can’t forgive one person you’ll end up hating everybody. It’s pure fear-mongering.
“If you had committed a murder, the right Christian thing to do would be to give yourself up to the police and be hanged. It is, therefore, in my opinion, perfectly right for a Christian judge to sentence a man to death or a Christian soldier to kill an enemy.” Murder implies intent. If you killed someone in a fit of rage, we call it manslaughter. If you kill someone who is attacking you, we call it self-defense. If you murder someone, it was premeditated. If it was premeditated, then why do the right thing after the fact? If you already planned and pulled off a murder, then why do the right thing and turn yourself in? I also can’t agree with the idea that killing someone is ever right. It may be necessary, but necessity does not indicate rightness.
“What I cannot understand is this sort of semi-pacifism you get nowadays which gives people the idea that though you have to fight, you ought to do it with a long face and as if you were ashamed of it. It is that feeling that robs lots of magnificent young Christians in the Service of something they have a right to, something which is the natural accomplishment of courage-a kind of gaiety and wholeheartedness.” So…a soldier should be proud of killing people?
“For really there is nothing else in us to love: creatures like us who actually find hatred such a pleasure that to give it up is like giving up beer or tobacco.” Well isn’t that a depressing sentiment: we aren’t worthy of love so we should be lucky to find it wherever we can. Again, nobody should feel this way. Then again, people shouldn’t find hatred easy either. Though, if it’s like giving up tobacco or beer, it’s no wonder I don’t find myself hating people: tobacco and beer are nasty!
I have now read the chapter “Sexual Morality” in Mere Christianity. As I’m sure you can guess, C.S. Lewis spends the chapter talking about sex from a Christian perspective.
He begins by stating “I do not think that a very strict or fussy standard of propriety is any proof of chastity or any help to it, and I therefore regard the great relaxation and simplifying of the rule which has taken place in my own lifetime as a good thing.” I can agree with him here. People often assume the worst of people who they view to be dressed inappropriately, but what do you actually know about a person based on their clothes? Is that person wearing a baggy sweater and sweatpants actually homeless, or are they maybe sick, or upset, or maybe their reasons are even deeper? Likewise, that teenage girl wearing a short skirt and spaghetti-strap may be a virgin. She may not even have any sexual-related reason for wearing her clothes. Maybe she doesn’t even view them as sexual. So why judge? Unless you’re a mind reader, who are you to say what a person’s reasons are for the clothes they wear? I’m glad we are becoming more aware of the problems associated with judging a person solely on their wardrobe and I hope we get better at disassociating sex from dress.
Lewis goes on to argue that “the Christian rule is, ‘Either marriage, with complete faithfulness to your partner, or else total abstinence.'” But where did this rule come from? This idea wasn’t common in the ancient Middle East, at least not among men, nor was it common throughout the Middle Ages. In fact, it was expected that men would be experienced before marriage. The idea of a monogamous marriage really didn’t come into play until the Victorian Era, and even then it was only upheld by certain social groups, ie. the Middle Class. This may be a Christian rule now, but how closely is it actually tied to Christian doctrine?
He continues on by saying of Christian views of sex “Now this is so difficult and so contrary to our instincts, that obviously either Christianity is wrong or our sexual instinct, as it now is, has gone wrong.” Why does it have to be one or the other? Can no single part of Christianity be wrong without the whole thing falling apart? If that is the case, it makes Christianity incredibly easy to debunk, but does anybody actually think this is the case? Though, if it has to be one or the other, I’d say that it is far more likely that the man-made religion is wrong than it is that every human’s sexual desire has somehow gotten messed up.
Lewis then tries to compare sexual desire to food cravings to show how sexual desire is messed up. He argues that “In the same way, before accepting sexual starvation as the cause of the strip-tease, we should have to look for evidence that there is in fact more sexual abstinence in our age than in those ages when things like the strip-tease were unknown. But surely there is no such evidence.” Surely there is no such evidence? Is that how we find the truth now? We assert our own opinion without ever doing any research to make sure that our opinion is correct? Try opening a history book, Lewis. Historians have in fact found evidence that the obsession with sex arose in the Victorian Era, which caused both the repression of sexuality and the upraise of sexual entertainment. I have a problem with a lot of sexual entertainment, which can be very violent and teaches people to have unrealistic standards where sex is concerned, but I don’t think strip-teases are inherently wrong. Why do they suggest a level of obsession? Then again, Lewis wasn’t really looking for answers, he was simply looking for an example to support his belief. He made it clear that he didn’t really care to do research to make sure that his assumptions were correct.
Lewis goes on to argue “public opinion is less hostile to illicit unions and even to perversion than it has been since Pagan times.” Evidence? Unless Christianity only arose in the Victorian Era, this is not at all true. It can be claimed that women had only gained sexual freedom, since, throughout history, female sexuality has been oppressed, but men were still less free to express their sexuality in the 40’s than they were in the Middle Ages. In many ways, they still are, since, in the Middle Ages, men were expected to have sex with women other than their wives and many people today still believe that sex only belongs in a marriage.
He goes on to say “They tell you sex has become a mess because it was hushed up. But for the last twenty years it has not been. It has been chatted about all day long. Yet it is still a mess. If hushing up had been the cause of the trouble, ventilation would have set it right. But it has not. I think it is the other way around. I think the human race originally hushed it up because it had become such a mess.” Really? The people of the 40’s and 50’s were sexually liberated? Compared to the Victorian era, absolutely. But in reality? Not really. The 50’s was a time when people did there best to return to how things were in the Victorian Era. The people were not chatting about sex all day long. It may have seemed that way to a sexually repressed man, but we don’t even talk about sex all that often today. No, there hadn’t been time for the issues related to sexuality to be sorted out. It many ways, we are only beginning to straighten out these issues today. But we still view sex as a source of shame and something to be hidden and ignored.
Lewis had a bit more to say on the subject, but I feel my above comments adequately explain why Lewis is wrong where sexuality is concerned.