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.
I am now in Chapter 4, “Morality and Psychoanalysis,” in C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity. Because this chapter is built around the necessity to accept two premises that I don’t accept: that morality is objective and God driven and that psychoanalysis is accurate, I don’t have much to say about it.
The first thing that I want to discuss is Lewis’s claim that “Either it may be what we call normal: it may consist of the sort of feelings common to all men. Or else it may consist of quite unnatural feelings due to things that have gone wrong in his subconscious…The desire of a man for a woman would be of the first kind: the perverted desire of a man for a man would be of the second.” Since not all men like women, that first definition would suggest that heterosexuality isn’t actually normal. Lewis is assuming that if most men like something, then it must be natural that all men like it. This is a flaw in reasoning.
The next thing I want to discuss is his argument “Imagine three men who go to war. One has the ordinary natural fear of danger that any man has and he subdues it by moral effort and becomes a brave man. Let us suppose that the other two have, as a result of things in their subconscious, exaggerated, irrational fears, which no amount of moral effort can do anything about. Now suppose that a psychoanalyst comes along and cures these two: that is, he puts them both back in the position of the first man.” I have two things to say about this bit. The first is that I don’t call subduing fear a moral action. I call it a required action in certain circumstances, and it may allow moral actions, like saving a child’s life, possible, but it isn’t in itself a moral action. The second is that the mental illnesses that he is talking about aren’t curable. They can be controlled with the help of therapy and, in some cases, drugs, but they can’t be cured. We understand mental illness a lot better today than we did in the 40’s and 50’s, but I think a lot of people are under the impression that issues like depression and anxiety disorders can be made to just go away. This isn’t the case. I will have generalized anxiety disorder for the rest of my life. The best I can hope for is that I will be able to keep it under control and lead a relatively normal life regardless of it.
I think the next chapter will be reviewed in much the same manner, since it is about sexual morality. I doubt I’ll agree with Lewis on sexual morality.
I know I said I’d focus on the Bible today, and I will. But first I want to write a few posts on Mere Christianity. This post will be on Chapter 2, “The ‘Cardinal Virtues,'” of Book Three.
C.S. Lewis begins this chapter by discussing what his cardinal virtues are. He states “According to this longer scheme there are seven ‘virtues.’ Four of them are called ‘Cardinal’ virtues…The ‘Cardinal’ ones are those which all civilized people recognize.” This is a problematic statement. First, what is a civilized person? This was a commonly used term that in general just means “people like me.” It is essentially a useless sentiment. And second, what virtues do all people actually follow? What anything do all people do/think/believe? Any statement claiming that “all people”…well, anything, really, is almost always false. Why? Because people are diverse. If it isn’t necessary for survival, then it is unlikely that everybody does, thinks, or believes it.
He then goes into defining each virtue. He claims that “These were called ‘cardinal’ virtues because they are, as we should say, ‘pivotal’…They are prudence, temperance, justice, and fortitude.” How are these virtues pivotal? And why are these thought to be the important ones? Lewis doesn’t say why he picked these virtues over all others, or even why he thinks these are virtues. Lewis then states that “Prudence means practical common sense, taking the trouble to think out what you are doing and what is likely to come of it.” Being prudent means being cautious or practical. I suppose you could define it as having common sense, but those seem to me to be two different virtues. And common sense is by its definition practical. But what is common sense? It’s not defined very well and it seems to be different from person to person. My step-dad would say that working 80 hours a week to pay off your mortgage in 25 years is common sense. I’d say that avoiding a mortgage as much as possible is common sense. Being as we’re from two different generations with two very different realities, it’s not surprising that we hold two very different views where home ownership is concerned. So how can Lewis say that there is any one common sense that is right for everyone? And if he’s not saying that, then what does it mean to have common sense?
Lewis then moves on to define temperance. He argues that “Temperance is, unfortunately, one of those words that has changed its meaning. It now usually means teetotalism. But in the days when the second Cardinal virtue was christened ‘Temperance,’ it meant nothing of the sort. Temperance referred not specially to drink, but to all pleasures; and it meant not abstaining, but going the right length and no further.” What is the right length to take any activity or habit? When do you say you are going too far? Can you say you aren’t going far enough in certain habits? I wouldn’t call temperance a virtue. Yes, I think that moderation is a good thing and addiction can be bad for everybody involved. But the idea that there is a line that separates “the right amount” from “too much” is silly. And I don’t have a problem with people enjoying certain things “too much” so long as they don’t get to the point where they begin controlling the person. For example, if a person is overall healthy: they eat healthy food, they get exercise, and they don’t have any health conditions that make it dangerous, I see nothing wrong with a person drinking a 2 liter bottle of pop and eating a few bags of chips themselves while watching a movie marathon once in a while. None of that is very temperate, but I can’t see how it could be wrong. Lewis goes on to say that “One of the marks of a certain type of bad man is that he can not give something up without wanting everyone else to give it up.” This comment kind of amuses me. When I read it, I can’t help but think of the Christian organizations that want to force the laws in a given country to reflect their belief system regardless of the fact that not everybody in said country is Christian and many of those laws would infringe on peoples’ rights. Yes, other religious groups do this too, but as a Canadian I see this more from Christians than anyone else. If forcing others to give up the same things that you give up makes you a bad person, then aren’t the Christians (and Muslims, etc) who try to force everyone to accept Christian laws bad people as well? Aren’t they doing that very thing that Lewis says is the mark of a bad person? Finally, Lewis says of temperance, “A man who makes his golf or his motor-bicycle the center of his life, or a woman who devotes all her thoughts to clothes or bridge or her dog, is being just as ‘intemperate’ as someone who gets drunk every evening.” Again, if the person is only affecting themself, who cares what they put at the center of their life? So long as they aren’t neglecting their family, who am I to say a motorcycle shouldn’t be the center of a persons life? I really don’t see why temperance is a virtue on Lewis’s list. I can think of so many better things.
Lewis then discusses justice. He states that “Justice means much more than the sort of thing that goes on in law courts. It is the old name for everything we should now call ‘fairness’; it includes honesty, give and take, truthfulness, keeping promises, and all that side of life.” So many words, so much wrong. No, Lewis, fairness and justice are not the same thing. It is possible to be just without being fair or fair without being just. Justice is concerned with doing what is right, and fairness is concerned with doing what is equal. For example, a farmer dies and leaves his land to his nephew because he has no children of his own, but an old farmhand of his thinks that he should get some of the land because he worked very hard for the farmer. It would be fair for a judge to divide the land between the two parties. But would that be just? Fairness also has nothing to do with honesty (or truthfulness, since they are the same thing). You can lie to people while ensuring that they receive equal treatment. And sometimes it’s perfectly fair or just to lie.
Lewis never does discuss fortitude. He skips it and instead discusses all of the virtues together. He argues that “We might think that, provided you did the right thing, it did not matter how or why you did it-whether you did it willingly or unwillingly, sulkily or cheerfully, through fear of public opinion or for its own sake.” There are whole fields of philosophy set up around morality. There are those, consequentialists, who would argue that the consequences of your actions are all that matters. Others argue that they don’t matter at all, only your intentions matter. Personally, I think the consequences matter more than the intent, but the intent does matter. However, I wouldn’t say that someone’s actions can’t be called good simply because they were grumpy while they did it. He then goes on to say that “We might think that God wanted simply obedience to a set of rules: whereas He really wants people of a particular sort.” Really? Where in the Bible is that claim supported? I’ve seen a lot of “do as I say because I told you to” and “nobody is worthy of my awesome,” but I haven’t seen any “follow me because you have personality traits x, y, and z.”
He concludes the chapter by saying “The point is not that God will refuse you admission to His eternal world if you have not got certain qualities of character: the point is that if people have not got at least the beginning of those qualities inside them, then no possible external conditions could make a ‘Heaven’ for them-that is, could make them happy with the deep, strong, unshakable kind of happiness God intends for us.” This very idea is just odd. Happiness is happiness, is it not? What kind of happiness is it that is necessary for a heaven to be made for you? What kind of happiness can a Christian feel that I can’t? I have a feeling that anybody who believes that they can feel a degree of happiness that others can’t is simply denying the emotions of others.
Okay, let’s try this again. I am now on chapter 5, “We Have Cause to Be Uneasy,” in C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity.
At the beginning of this chapter, C.S. Lewis explains that he was trying to avoid religion up until now. That he was discussing philosophy and Christianity hadn’t been assumed yet. However, it is very clear that he was presupposing Christianity all along. Lewis supports his earlier argument by stating “We have two bits of evidence about the Somebody. One is the universe He has made.” He just finished saying that he isn’t talking about the God of the Bible, then he talks in such a way that the only possible meaning could be the God of the Bible. Who else uses capitol “H” to write “he” when it’s not in the beginning of the sentence but believers when they refer to their deity? And how is the universe evidence of a creator? The universe can only be evidence of the existence of the universe. We need evidence that it couldn’t have come about without a creator before we have evidence that it was created.
He goes on to say of the universe “If we used that as our only clue, then I think we should have to conclude that He was a great artist (for the universe is a beautiful place), but also that He is quite merciless and no friend to man (for the universe is a very dangerous and terrifying place).” What does he mean by “the universe is beautiful”? Does he mean visually? Because I’d agree, but it’s not beautiful the way a painting is. A painting is beautiful in an abstract copy kind of way. It isn’t quite like the original: you can see elements of the painter in the painting. The universe is more solid. It’s real. Sometimes what you see in it is beautiful, other times it’s boring. We can’t even see the real beauty without satellites and telescopes. That doesn’t sound like a creation to me. That sounds like something that we can at times find aesthetically pleasing. How does the danger in the universe suggest that God is not friend to humans? For one, most of the dangers don’t even affect us. Many we don’t even know about. And, for another, we can’t make any comment on what the universe says about the nature of it’s creator until we know that there is a creator.
C.S. Lewis hasn’t even attempted to offer any proof that there is a creator, I guess we’re just supposed to take his word for it, but he goes on to give the second thing that he believes can only come from a creator: “The other bit of evidence is that Moral Law which He has put in our minds.” Assuming this Moral Law thing did exist, how does it prove God? Or even suggest any sort of a conscious entity behind it? This is another presupposition. Before you can assume that morals mean God, you must first provide evidence that suggests that morals can’t exist without a creator. Lewis hasn’t done this.
Lewis goes on to say of morality “from this second bit of evidence we conclude that the Being behind the universe is intensely interested in right conduct-in fair play, unselfishness, courage, good faith, honesty and truthfulness.” We still don’t have the evidence necessary to suggest that there is a causer behind our assumed Moral Law, so how can he then say that this shows that the causer is good?
Lewis then criticizes those of us who question his god: “And it is no use either saying that if there is a God of that sort-an impersonal absolute goodness- then you do not like Him and are not going to bother about Him. For the trouble is that one part of you is on His side and really agrees with his disapproval of human greed and trickery and exploitation.” It’s not clear here who he’s criticizing though. Is he suggesting that atheists merely don’t like God? Or is he criticizing certain Christians who don’t think that God is an impersonal absolute goodness? What would an impersonal absolute goodness god even look like? Because, according to the Bible and every Christian I’ve ever met, God is very personal. After all, he talks to people, helps them, and interacts with them. Of course, if this were true (today), it could be tested. But people still claim that they interact with God on a personal level. God is also not absolute in a good portion of the Bible. He even admits to over reacting at times. That doesn’t sound like absolute goodness to me. Though the definition of good is “that which is morally right,” so, if God created morality, how can he be anything but good? At least if we define everything he does as necessarily moral as a result. Or if he follows all of his own rules. And how can he say that everybody is on God’s side? Isn’t that presumptuous? It seems to me that some people would prefer it if exploitation was perfectly acceptable. Look at Wall Street, or pay-day loan places.
Lewis goes on to state that “we know that if there does exist an absolute goodness it must hate most of what we do.” What reason do we have to believe that this creator of absolute morality hates us? What do we do that’s so terrible? Is this absolute goodness unable to accept imperfection and mistakes? Don’t we consider forgiveness to be part of morality? Or can we be moral and never forgive? Is hate moral? I fail to see how Lewis’s claim makes any sense. He then claims “If the universe is not governed by an absolute goodness, then all of our efforts are in the long run hopeless.” How? Where is his evidence that hope and success require a creator of some sort? This is another presupposition. Hope can be had without need of a god, Lewis just wouldn’t have listened to anybody who told him as much.
Lewis finishes his “non-Christian” bit by saying “He is our only possible ally, and we have made ourselves His enemies.” Why do we need an ally? What do we need an ally from? And how did we make ourselves his enemies? This sounds very paranoid to me. Very much “the end of the world is neigh.”
Lewis then begins to discuss things from a Christian perspective. Unfortunately, this bit isn’t very meaningful because he presupposed the Christian God from the beginning.