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After seeing the commercials for the latest installment of the Narnia films, it suddenly came to me that I should share my critique of the author of the Narnia books who also happens to be the best known christian apologist of the past century; this individual being the writer C.S Lewis. It is quite an easy task to find throughout this blog examples of thought which clearly illustrate my enmity towards religion being quite ecumenical. I have equal contempt for all forms of faith, but I am focusing on Christianity and Lewis because he produced one of the best arguments that an antitheist like myself can make rhetorical use of. And since this country’s most prominent form of religious faith is Christianity, I also felt that a critique of Lewis’s theology would be one of the ways that would be the most pertinent in further illustrating my own antitheistic philosophy for my fellow Americans.
The best entrance into Lewis’s theology is to be found in his sickly sadomasochistic screed, Mere Christianity. Having been educated at Oxford, one would have hoped that his argument for the validity of his faith would have at least manifested in a logical manner. Not only is his argument not logical but it is also a polemic which is rife with incomplete syllogisms along with fatuous assertions of the highest order; this is what makes this book such an insipient read. It was arduous to read in high school and it continues to be literary drudgery for me whenever I re-read this pamphlet. Yet I have asserted that there is some value to be found within Lewis’s arguments and luckily it can be gleaned from the beginning of this book, so you do not have to read too far into this book to find its worth. Lewis actually starts his argument on solid ground. Just examine the last paragraph of the first chapter entitled The Law of Human Nature, and I am sure you will agree: “These, then are the two points I wanted to make. First, that human beings, all over the earth, have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way, and cannot really get rid of it. Secondly, that they do not in fact behave in that way. They know the Law of Nature; they break it. These two facts are the foundation of all clear thinking about ourselves and the universe we live in.” (pg 21)
Lewis continues on through the first section establishing that man’s inherent moral sense is what gives a Kantian deontological proof for god’s existence. I do not think he was aware that that was what he was doing and I say this because to use this argument to prove the existence of a deity is what Kant tried to accomplish and admittedly failed at doing. And when you examine Lewis’s writing style and ability it becomes quite obvious that his acumen was no where near that of Kant’s. It is with this ethical argument in which Lewis also admonishes atheism for being as he puts it, philosophy for boys. Lewis asks us with such fawning incredulity how can one deny god’s existence when humans exemplify such an obvious moral sense? This non sequitur is a great example of Lewis showing what a rhetorical fool he was since atheism does not negate god’s existence, but instead nullifies the belief in religion; religion being the assertion that a primate can know the mind of god. If one wishes to flat out deny the existence of a deity, then that philosophy would fall under the sobriquet of Adeism. I can not fully chastise Lewis for this fallacy though since so many theists and even non-theists continue to make this unseemly rhetorical and semantic mistake to this very day.
Nonetheless, it is in the second section of the book which is entitled What Christians Believe where Lewis’s polemical utility comes to the fore. Lewis realized what so many Christians do not. He asserts that to be a christian, you must believe that the Nazarene was the corporeal son of god because if he was just a crack pot Rabbi, then his preachments are not just unethical but also wicked. He says it best when he states: “You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God:or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” (pg 56) Lewis also helps in battling theistic arguments by having been keenly aware that the metaphysical claims of religion are either true or they are not. There is no relativism in faith. This is yet another intrinsic solecism that the religious continue to indulge in—the most conspicuous offenders being the apologists.
This is where Lewis’s utility ends and it is after this point in the book (and until the end of his diatribe) in which Lewis efficaciously illustrates not only the true face of Christianity but also the reality of the religious mentality. His anemic prose clearly shows the irrefutable sadomasochistic nature of all religion and most glaringly Christianity. Like most Christians, Lewis unfailingly and incessantly makes the claim that his faith renders him humble and modest before his god; as humble as anyone who claims to know the mind of god can be. But this modesty is not a means to avoid hubris and it never just stays within a state of humility; it must eventuate into complete abject servitude and self abnegation. Monotheism wishes us to view ourselves as children and playthings of a divine father who in turn further demands that we be canon fodder in his ostensible civil war with another of his creations, that being Satan. This inane belief is then made more ignominious because concomitant with this slavish mentality is the presupposition and assertion that the whole of the cosmos has been created with us in mind (all empirical evidence to the contrary). For the religious, a hundred billion billion galaxies, each with a hundred billion stars exists so that we all can be individually supervised and looked after by an omniscient and omnipresent deity. Even in light of all of this contemptible human behavior, Lewis’s final religious transgression for me is found in the fact that he refused to see the desire to transcend death and achieve immortal corporeality as wish thinking. And he did this while simultaneously asserting fallaciously that it was atheism that was puerile philosophy. Freud was right in the Future of an Illusion when he postulated that religion will remain ineradicable until we are able to give up wish thinking, the false consolation of illusion, and the fear of death. It should now be obvious that Lewis failed this rhetorical test miserably as all theists are destined to do.
Only a selfish species like Homo sapien could assert such solipsism and ignorance at the same time. And along with this psychopathology, Lewis also shared his unsalutary and Victorian views towrads sex along with establishing an argument for female subjugation by males and asserting the supposedly unctuous view of homosexuality being a perversion. All contentions that you would expect issuing from the benighted and self righteous world of theism. Even though Lewis felt that his apologist argument was needed in a time of perceived religious abatement, the fact that here in the twenty first century bronze age myths are still threatening not only civilization but our species very survival has to be the most depressing reality about being alive in this time and place. Be that as it may, we all must choose are sides in this battle for civilization and there is no way to opt out of this fight. This combat is even more urgent due to the fact that for the first time in our species history, we occupy a place that our ancestors could never have dreamed of. There now are no limits to our quest for knowledge and understanding in all areas of our existence. As science continues to empty the sky, I can not think of a greater reason to protect our fragile civilization from the fetid and hectic world of monotheism and faith. The only question that remains is where do you stand in this dispute?
After exposing you the reader to the putrefactive thought and writing of C.S Lewis, I felt I should end this essay with some kind of philosophic attenuation. It quickly appeared rather apropos that a contemporary of Lewis’s would be best in accomplishing this task. Who else but Bertrand Russell could help in mollifying the obdurate writing of Lewis. In consideration of the points made in my critique, I felt an extract from Russell’s 1930 essay Has Religion Made Useful Contributions to Civilization? would be the most effective. Thanks to Russell’s sagacity, all I will need is a terse snippet from the introduction of this essay to further militate my own assertions:
“My own view on religion is that of Lucretius. I regard it as a disease born of fear and as a source of untold misery to the human race. I cannot, however, deny that it has made some contributions to civilization. It helped in early days to fix the calender, and it caused Egyptian priests to chronicle eclipses with such care that in time they became able to predict them. These two services I am prepared to acknowledge, but I do not know of any others.
The word “religion” is used nowadays in a very loose sense. Some people, under the influence of extreme Protestantism, employ the word to denote any serious personal convictions as to morals or the nature of the universe. This use of the word is quite unhistorical. Religion is primarily a social phenomenon. Churches may owe their origin to teachers with strong individual convictions, but these teachers have seldom had much influence upon the churches that they founded, whereas churches have had enormous influence upon the communities in which they flourished. To take the case that is of most interest to members of Western civilization: the teaching of Christ, as it appears in the gospels, has had extraordinarily little to do with the ethics of Christians. The most important thing about Christianity, from a social and historical point of view, is not Christ but the church, and if we are to judge of Christianity as a social force we must not go to the Gospels for our material.(…) There is nothing accidental about this difference between a church and its founder. As soon as absolute truth is supposed to be contained in the sayings of a certain man, there is a body of experts to interpret his sayings, and these experts infallibly acquire power, since they hold the key to truth.”
Thanks for the take-down of C S Lewis. If Russell is right – “the teaching of Christ, as it appears in the gospels, has had extraordinarily little to do with the ethics of Christians” – and I think he is – then why throw the baby Jesus out with the Christian bathwater?
Thank you for your comment. I must admit that the grammar of your comment is a bit perplexing. If you can postulate such an incredulous question as why throw the baby Jesus out with the Christian bathwater?, then you should re-read my essay a little more fastidiously for I can say without any fear of conceit that my essay contains the answer to your query in adequate detail.