Mere Christianity

RossCaleb
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Mere Christianity

RossCaleb
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Mere Christianity

I just thought we should have a book discussion section...


Pile
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Mere Christianity

Amazon has some interesting reviews of the publication when you sift through the glassy-eyed apologist astroturfing:

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C.S. Lewis was the chairman of Medieval and Renassiance English literature at Cambridge, making him the foremost authority in his field. Thus, one would anticipate a quality book on any topic he chose to write on, even as an avowed amateur in a particular topic. This simply is not the case in "Mere Christianity".

As an amateur theologian, Lewis attempts to explain simple Christian docrtines to non-believers. Yet, the only readers who gain something from Mere Christianity are avowed Christians.

The arguments within the text are not well developed, and in most cases merely stated. His understanding of doctrine runs afoul by the influence of long ago dismissed heresies and the inclusion of Mormon doctrine and Eastern thought.

The text is poorly written, using inappropriate allusions, such as a machine for man (one being totally deterministic and inanimate, while the other is fully living and dominated by Schopenhauerian will. Since most Christian readers are not aquantainted with Schopenhauer or been immersed in Mormon or Eastern thought, none of this matters to followers and admirers of the popular Christian icon.

Lewis' constant use of the word "thing" to mean attribute, attitude, manner, or in fact any descriptive noun, is very amateurish, and unfit for an author of such high scholarly esteem.

His ridiculously popular statement that Jesus must have been either a con-man, a lunatic, or the Christ may influence and soothe Churchians, but ignores so many other possibilities. Even standard Judaism declares Jesus as someone else, namely, a failed Messiah candidate, not a con-man, nor a lunatic, not the Hebrew Messiah, but Lewis is utterly ignorant of the prevaling view of a major religion.

Lewis' constant misuse of the word, Christ, signals his misunderstanding of his topic. The term, Christ, means a god who is incarnated into humanity, suffers and dies for his followers, that they may be reunited with the chief god. In most cultures in the middle east, there was always a Christ figure. In Eqypt there was Osiris, in Persia Mithra, in Greece Dionysius. All of the mystery cults of that period had a Christ figure. Paul claimed that Jesus was the Hebrew Christ, in comparison with the Christs from other cults.

Instead of using the word, Jesus, Lewis, almost always uses the more generic word, Christ. Sophisticated laymen of the 21st century will dismiss the author for his sloppiness in this regard.

Lewis' dismissive attitude toward Islam and Muslims, using the insulting term Mohammedism, marks Mere Christianity as obsolete, particularly in an age when understanding Islam is an essential for political, social, and economic currency.

His obsession against atheism allows the author to make outlandish claims against the personal purity and inner harmony of non-Christians (that is non-Jesusians). The book, therefore, suffers from the ignorant arrogance of his time and place, when England ruled the seven seas and sought as its goal to make the whole world England.

Why Mere Christianity remains a Christian (Jesusian) classic is beyond me. I found so many inconsistencies in final viewpoints from chapter to chapter that the most charitable opinion to give of the book is that it has in its time influenced Jesusians in some sort of pretentious defense of their faith, so long as the antagonist was ill-informed.

I give the book a charitable 2-stars, on the basis of the book being considered a classic. If the book were a 21st century work by a relatively unknown writer, I would have given a minus rating.

Quote:
Lewis states that he wrote this book with the idea of convincing atheists. As an atheist myself, I had heard Lewis was the best Christian apologist there is. If these arguments are the best Christianity can come up with, atheism doesn't have much to worry about.

Lewis takes the approach in this book of focusing on all the doctrines the largest branches of Christianity have in common, deliberately ignoring controversial issues. The problem with this is that the endless proliferation of Christian sects is one of the strongest arguments against Christianity. If Christians themselves can't agree on what Christ really taught or what God wants from us, what chance is there of convincing atheists--or for that matter Muslims or Hindus? Lewis says that as far as people who have never heard of Christ, we just don't know what God has arranged for them, so we should leave it up to God. This strikes me as an intellectual cop-out. Part of the reason atheism makes sense to me is that atheism has intellectual coherence. Atheism doesn't have to twist itself into knots over the problem of how God can love all his children but leave most of them without knowledge of him, or how God can be good when the world around us often seems filled with evil and injustice.

Lewis claims that our ideas of goodness and justice, which are common to all cultures, mean there must be a God. I disagree. I don't see any reason why evolution could not produce human beings having a sense of right and wrong. To some extent, a sense of right and wrong is a necessity for social animals. Chimpanzees complain when something they have worked to get is stolen from them. Wolves reject another wolf from the pack if he doesn't behave as a wolf should. Why would human beings be different?

Lewis also argues that the fact that humans hunger to find meaning in life means that there must be a God. I agree that humans have a tendency to be discontented and hunger for more. But what evidence is there such discontent could not evolve in human beings? A certain amount of discontent could have benefitted our ancestors by keeping them always trying to better their circumstances, instead of getting complacent. As a former Christian myself, I also know that Christianity doesn't necessarily bring contentedness. Some atheists are indeed miserable people, but many are happy. As far as my own life, I would call it generally pretty good. The Christians of my acquaintance don't seem to have more meaningful or happy lives on average than the atheists.

Lewis has a reputation for being a logician. In my opinion, much of his "logic" is absurd. For example, Lewis spends a lot of time on the Trinity and how the three persons are connected. He talks about the Son streaming forth from the Father, and that this has always been so, etc. This just makes me laugh. And Lewis thinks that atheism makes no sense?

If Christianity really worked to make bad people good and good people better, I would be the first to sign up. If Christianity was an effective way to relieve poverty and bring peace, I would definitely consider it. If Christianity were just a silly hobby that made people feel good and harmed no one, it wouldn't bother me. Unfortunately, that isn't what I see. Even when in power, Christianity has made little or no progress in solving the social problems that it deals with, such as poverty and violence. Christianity systematically ignores the most serious problems of our times: overpopulation, exhaustion of resources, and pollution, among others. Why does Christianity ignore these problems? Because they receive little or no attention in the Bible.

As far as the book itself, Lewis is a fine writer who is never boring. For that reason I give the book two stars. If you're interested in basic Christianity, this is a good introduction. Before taking it too seriously, however, I would strongly recommend reading other points of view. As far as the major problems of our times, I would suggest Kunstler's "The Long Emergency." For a defense of atheism and the naturalistic worldview,I would suggest Carl Sagan's "The Demon-Haunted World" or Taner Edis' "The Ghost in the Universe."

I read "Mere Christianity" because I feel as a scientist that it is important not to simply dismiss religion as silly, but to give Christians their chance to convince me. If you're a Christian, are you willing to do the same for the other side?

Quote:
I am a former Christian who no longer believes in the concept of souls, god, hell, etc., and I readily revel in the wonders science uncovers everyday. Yet, I've had quite a few people recommend this book to me (to sway me, I suppose)--so I finally read it. (Although religious folks never read the stuff I suggest for them: do a websearch for Richard Dawkins'Good and Bad Reasons for Believing; it's a much shorter and easier read than C.S. Lewis' pedantic tome. Besides, C.S. Lewis was a Science Fiction writer, like Scientology's founder, L. Ron Hubbard. I suggest you get your science from scientists not science fiction writers--but I digress.) This work of self aggrandizing philosophizing might possibly be a good book if your goal is to convince yourself (or others) that Christianity is the truth--but it's a really crappy book if you are actually interested in truth--the good kind...the kind with evidence that can be explained to anyone with just a wee bit of scientific knowledge--. Scientific truths are sort of like math--it's useful stuff to know--a great tool...but truth doesn't care if you believe it or not. You can believe that the value of pi is indeterminable and that the moon is made of cheese if you desire.

Anyhow, let me sum of some of C.S. Lewis' nuggets of wisdom so you can assess whether this book is for you. C.S. Lewis has carfully studied the bible and Christian literature to discover what the worst sin of all is-- Just guess what the worst sin of all is, folks? It's not pedophilia, it's not starting wars by lying, it's not cruelty, it's not killing people because you've labled them evil, it's not child abuse--it's (drumroll please)--PRIDE. That's right--pride is the worse sin of all according to C.S. Lewis based upon his diligent study of Christian Doctrine. Now, to me, a person living many years after Lewis' death--I find this stuff inane. Granted, my I.Q. and education level is higher than most, but I once lapped up this stuff because, by golly, it never occurred to me that authority figures could be full of crap. At this wiser point in my life, I think that C.S Lewis was not only full of crap--but he exhibits pride to the point of arrogance in pretending to have reasoned his way to Christian truth. Do you notice, that like many cult leaders, he claims to understand mysteries of the universe without showing any evidence in support of his claims? Sort of like Hitler (another Christian, mind you), Osama, Marshall Applewhite,Charles Manson, Reverend Moon, and David Koresh (note: how telling that all gods, prophets, demons, devils, etc. are men--could this be a testosterone inspired delusion?).

Let me share some other nuggets from C.S. Lewis--ah yes... here's a Christian favorite--"sinning in your thoughts is as bad as sinning in actuality." Try selling that to a jury. I would prefer that someone imagine raping me than actually doing it...I suspect most would agree. Go ahead and imagine me in hell, just don't inflict it upon me (leave the smiting to your Almighty, please.) Actual rape causes pain, suffering, and possibly pregnancy and/or AIDS.If it's the same to god, he/she/it is insane. Here on planet earth, controlling ones actions takes precedence over controlling ones thoughts (which doesn't seem to be particularly effective-- especially when it comes to more primal thinking where evolution has ensured some particularly compelling thoughts. Check out Jimmy Swaggert...or homosexuals trying to think themselves "straight".)

C.S. Lewis also tells us that soldiers should serve with gaiety in a war even though they are killing people. That's right, C.S. Lewis is a warmonger. Although Osama's followers served their god happily, I suspect most soldiers have to be pretty brainwashed to ignore the suffering they cause in the fight for some "ideal" or against some "poorly defined evil." Killing people devastates the lives of loved ones no matter which god you pray to, and I can't imagine anyone finding gaiety in inflicting such suffering. (I bet non-atheist soldiers think god is on their side--no matter whose army they fight in. By the way, evidence confirms there are lots of atheist in foxholes. Also, there are lots of people praying for god to save them in many doomed situations (the Virginia miners). I suspect all doomed hijacked flights have plenty of passengers pleading for a safe landing--of course the hijackers are praying to their god for a successful mission and heavenly rewards. This god of C.S. Lewis' seems to pick and choose when it comes to prayer answering, no?

Most of C.S. Lewis' advice seems aimed at men--sort of like the bible's rules about coveting wives and it's treatment of women as chattle. And not unlike the islamic view that tells guys that virgins await them in heaven--what woman wants that heaven? Religion is also a great way to control people without having to answer to anyone about the results (because they all occur in some nebulous afterlife). It doesn't seem to occur to most religious dudes that women are as intelligent (though often more trusting and gullible) than them. Who can blame them, of course, if their religion tells them that women are responsible for the fall of mankind and that god was created in man's image (testosterone proneness to wrath and revenge included)? Heck, the Mormon religion tells guys they get to be gods on their own planets--of course women are secondary and can only get to heaven via marriage and submission to their husbands. Bummer. And women seem to sin so much less then men; they hardly ever covet or kill, and they seldom rape or commit child molestation. And, most aren't particular prideful (the biggest sin of all, according to C.S. Lewis. The woman I know tend to be humble as a group and more placating and empathic then their Y-chromosomed counterparts. Heck, women never start wars, so why do men get all the goodies in the afterlife? Sounds like a scam to me! Women also seem to be the biggest consumers of religion, so if you get heaven bonus points for believing,women win there too.

Maybe, Mere Christianity was wise for the time it was written. But the problem with all religious texts is that they expect you to squeeze truth out of ideals. All supernatural beliefs involve putting faith in something without being able to question it...test it...explore it...challenge it. It's all based on the same namby pamby evidence that we wouldn't even accept in a court of law--hearsay, testimony, feelings, inner knowingness, claims of miracles, revelations, guys who claim to be Gods, prophets, gurus, and bearers of secret knowledge. But if you try to test these claims--for example, say I ask a catholic to take the communion out of your mouth so we can analyze it for Human DNA...or ask a Mormon to test their holy undergarments in a double blind taser test, I am accused of arrogance. Could it be that the emperor is wearing no clothes and that's why he wants you to "pay no attention to the man behind the curtain?" Could it be that the zealots are trying to convince you in an effort to convince themselves? (If anyone has a supernatural claim such as the above or anything else that they can demonstrate scientifically, I encourage you google "JREF--million dollar prize." Just state what supernatural thing you can do and prove it.

All religions promise you goodies if you believe; they tell you you'll be punished eternally for being not believing the right untestable claim or a false prophet. They tell you that you are arrogant to ask questions...yet I think those who ask questions aren't arrogant; they're intelligent and often eager to share the information they've gained. Most scientists seem eager to share information with those who can comprehend it and test it. Most religious people hide behind "god's mysterious ways." I think there are obvious reasons why belief in the supernatural (god, souls, hell, alien abductions, etc.) decreases as intelligence and education increase. But I also think that religious people have more kids passing on whatever genes influence religiosity (especially religous people who think god doesn't want them to use birth control.) I think relion makes people stupid and makes them focus on an afterlife at the expense of the only verifiable life they have. Scientists indulge them in these fantasies, mainly because religious people can be scary. I know I seldom speak out, but I'm not the kind to tell a kid there is no Santa either.

But why do religious people imagine they'll feel something in an afterlife when they won't have a working brain to do so? Neurologists have well documented that consciousness occurs within the brain; no one has given evidence of consciousness outside of a body. Neurologists have pretty much shown that all consciousness, feelings, experiences, etc., are brain dependent. We can duplicate most every religious type experience with drugs and brain stimulation in various area. Brain damage can make people believe all sorts of really crazy things, like Capgras delusion, where one's mother and other close associates are seen as imposters (the sight and emotion part of the brain lose their connection). Or many of those experiencing dementia claim that the image in the mirror isn't them. Religion causes delusions too.

Science, like knowledge and technology, evolves. Antiquated religious notions can't. I am just amazed that people who understand that the earth is spherical and orbiting despite our perceptions still invest so much in supernatural claims. And the problem with supernatural claims is that they tend to contradict each other and without evidence. The only way to determine one's superiority to the other is confirmation bias, it seems. If I want something to be true I am readily drawn to evidence which supports these desires. Humans are very great at fooling themselves--think of optical illusions.

How can people who readily accept paternity tests, and fly in planes, and think test tube babies and cloned sheep are no big deal--people who use the internet--how can they still believe that "evil" and "good" exist outside the mind of human beings? Our technology and science would make us indistiguishable from gods to generations past (my dog thinks I'm god as far as I can tell) but still we make up our own gods, even as his/her role seems to diminish further with each new scientific discovery.

Science is built from the bottom up--on that which works--it's honed, refined, and added to --no designer needed. Today's internet had no overlord planner--it evolved from the technology that came before. C.S. Lewis offers something that is untestable, and that you can only build more untestable, nebulous, knowledge on top of. It's a waste of time, I think, unless you're hoping to bolster your own tentative beliefs.

Why do Christians always want people to read this book, but they never seem to read the imminently more readable scientists of our times like Dawkins, Shermer, Blackmore, and, for beginners, Carl Sagan's Demon Haunted World? Truth is gathered from the evidence--you can't assume what it is and then try to make the evidence fit those facts. Atheists seem to be more widely read in both the religious arena and the science arena from what I can tell--I certainly am; whereas religious folks stick to the stuff that encourages their particular belief--just like the Amish stay away from the modern world and things that might tempt them away from their heavenly path. It seems a waste of brainpower which could advance knowledge. Moreover, it causes the part of the brain responsible for logical thinking to whither.

If you are going to explore beliefs without evidence, you might also try try homeopathy, out-of-body transcendence, levitation, astrology, and satanism; check out the Koran; the bhagvad gita; fairies are fun too. Try out Zeus as your god for a week. Try fearing Hades and praying to Allah. See if you get better results than you get from your current beliefs. They are all equally likely from a scientific perspective. Yes, a lot of this stuff is old and discredited--but many people claim these beliefs to be true. How about alien made crop circles? If you base your beliefs on feelings, depth of belief indicated by believers, or fear of hell (by the way...everyone is going to hell in someone else's religion), what makes you and C.S. Lewis believe you've stumbled upon the undefinable, untestable, but actual "truth?" Pride? Arrogance? Stupidity? Youth? Brainwashing? Death of logic neurons in the brain? Were you suckered in by the promise of heaven and afraid to question due to a fear of hell?

Consider this: no wise writer of religious texts thought to offer up some cool things that science later discovered on its own--no supreme being thought to include information about DNA, microbes, atoms, and solar systems in any of their religious texts. Kind of incompetent for an almighty. Sure you can bend vague prophesies and use formulas to find secret codes in the bible. Sure you can play your records backwards and hear demons supposedly. But that's not stuff smart people give credence to. We don't burn people because they are witches anymore and we don't perform exorcisms on people with Tourette Syndrome.

And here's a final piece of wisdom from C.S. Lewis: Humans are unlovable -- "creatures like us who actually find hatred such a pleasure that to give it up is like giving up beer or tobacco ..." I don't know about you, but I find pleasure in none of these.


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Mere Christianity

Coincidentally, my friend is going to bring me the book tomorrow to read.


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Mere Christianity

I've been meaning to read Mere Christianity for a while but its less and less worth reading to me. Like one of the reviewers, CS Lewis was always touted around me as being the most sophisticated apologist out there. Well, if he has christians are in trouble. I"ve read some of his other stuff and its pathetic. CS Lews should have stuck to fiction... Oh wait, his theology books *are* based on fiction Smiling

To me, CS Lewis is the perfect example of a really smart guy who suppressed his intellect in order to comfort himself after certain personal tragedies. Actually kind of reminds me of my mom. She's a smart lady, but i swear religion has made her stupider Sticking out tongue


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Mere Christianity

A catholic friend/professor of mine recommended that I read it. He said it attempts to use natural law to reason that there is a god. He's a pretty smart guy, but he's a theist.

I might read it one day, if only to refute his ideas more. He's very open to full discussion and open debate. It's very pleasant talking with him.


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Mere Christianity

CS Lewis is a waste of time IMO.

I tried to read the scrootape letters once because my mother had a copy sitting around (she runs her church's library). I think I maybe got 10 pages in before I had to put it down and go read something worthwhile.

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Mere Christianity

Natural law? If Aquinas' was right about natural law, then divine command is impossible, and the question whether God exists is arbitrary.

Natural law states that humans are inclined towards good
That goodness was put in us by God - whoa where's the premise that supports THIS? Humans are naturally inclined towards the good because it is has more desirable social consequences for them, the social contract reasons that out. Where did he pull God out from, I am assuming his ass.

There I just refuted the entire book apparently, NEXT.

"Character is higher than intellect... A great soul will be strong to live, as well as to think."
-Ralph Waldo Emerson


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Mere Christianity

well, I have gotten about half way through it. It's what I expected from apologetics, and he is no better than any other (though fancy writing might be why theists conflate him as a good apologetic.) I am writing what I hope will be a comprehensive review of the book which I will then give to my christian friend who let me borrow the book in hopes of converting me in the first place. Ill post it here for you guys to look at before so you can critique it.


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My Review of Mere Christianity

I have completed my review of "Mere Christianity" and read over it. I want to know what you guys think of it before I give it to my theist friend. Since the place I normally upload my files is giving me trouble, I will just post what I wrote here: (I'll be sure to put in the footnote sections in italics)

Review of Mere Christianity

Book One: Right and Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe

In this chapter, Lewis intends to establish the reality of Moral Law as having an objective existence, binding on all of mankind. From here, he tries to establish the necessity of a moral lawgiver, ?All I have got to is a Something which is directing the universe, and which appears in me as a law urging me to do right and making me feel responsible and uncomfortable when I do wrong.? [p. 25] It is from this base that the rest of Lewis? book is built upon.
There are flaws in his line of argumentation that are detrimental to his claim. One is that Lewis does not properly address other possible origins of morality either at all, or if so, very poorly (see Book 1, Chapter 2, titled ?Some Objections?.) Morality could stem from several things without necessitating a God as a lawgiver. Morality could stem directly from rational thought, which all normal human beings possess. Morality could have also been an aspect of humanity subject to evolutionary selection (note also, that Lewis is not a Creationist, stating that ?[bodily acts like baptism are] not merely the spreading of an idea; it is more like evolution?a biological or superbiological fact?[p.64].) Without morality, society as we know it could not exist, and so our very genes could have driven us to morality. The assistance of others not related to us most likely began as a cultural phenomena1. This was most likely due to lack of developed evolutionary theory on origins of morality at the time, but nonetheless it is detrimental to his claim that we depend on a God for morality. Lewis? claim that ?If the Moral Law was one of our instincts, we ought to be able to point to some one impulse inside us which was always what we call ?good?, always in agreement with the rule of right behaviour?[pp.10-11] then, is of no relevance.
This negates one of Lewis? claims of evidence for some sort of designer (he makes it clear that he is not yet talking about the ?God of Christian theology? [p. 25]; the other claim he arrives at, that the universe is evidence of God, is without a premise. It is perplexing how he uses this as evidence without any prior backing; the claim that the universe requires a designer is based on an argument ad ignoratium. Seeing as Lewis? cosmology is outdated by 54 years, the universe as evidence of a Creator is simply a baseless assertion.
An objection I might see one having is this: if evolution is responsible for making our morals, why should we follow them? To answer this, we cannot rely on evolution; giving facts of life a moral twist is fallacious reasoning in itself, the naturalistic fallacy. Certainly though, without the morality we possess, society could not exist. It then follows that because society does indeed exist, and using the simple evolutionary principle (note I am not making a claim on right or wrong) of natural selection, early man, possessing a sense of morality, would prosper more often than those who did not possess morality. If humans wish for society to continue (something, of course, we most often do not consciously think about), and for their species to continue then, the morality currently provided to us by natural means must be considered ?right?. If this answer does not suffice, then I do not see how reliance on a God could. Ultimately, morals derived from a God must be arbitrary. Plato recognized this when he wrote Euthyphro: ?Is the pious loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved by the gods?? In simpler terms, does God command morality because it is moral (which would mean God is simply passing down a law higher than himself, running into infinite regression), or is it moral because God wills it? (in which case, it would be arbitrary, and just as meaningful as how we define right and wrong.) Reliance on the claim that morality is part of God?s ?nature? does not clear up this dilemma, and in fact, makes God unnecessary: just as God can do as is in his nature, so can man2.

1. See The Origins of Virtue: Human Instincts and the Evolution of Cooperation, by Matt Ridley for some explanations as to how cooperation could have arisen in a purely natural way. Karen Horney, a psychoanalyst, explains that the ?ideal self? is solely a mental construct, her theory is expounded upon here: http://www.ship.edu/~cgboeree/horney.html
2. A possible objection, that God?s nature is unchanging, and so is somehow ?better? than man?s is defeated if one relies on C.S. Lewis as a source of apologetics. A contradiction is arrived at: Lewis explicitly states that God can do things contrary to his nature, like ?to surrender, to suffer, to submit; to die.? [pp. 57-58] If one does not rely on Lewis? apologetics while making the objection, the question is begged: what makes an unchanging nature better than one that changes?

Book Two: What Christians Believe

Lewis follows from the foundation of his argument as addressed above and begins to lay out the basic tenets of Christian belief, and so, as stated in the preface, binding of all of Christianity and not particular to any branch. Points of discussion involve free will, God?s goodness, Satan, and the Fall of mankind.
In the very first chapter of this book, Lewis appeals to fallacious logic, though this time it is only hinted at. That is, Lewis does not directly come out and state it, but the fallacy is the goal of his argument here. This fallacy is argument ad populum, or appealing to the people. Lewis writes ?When I was an atheist I had to try to persuade myself that most of the human race have always been wrong about the question that mattered to them the most; when I became a Christian I was able to take a more liberal view.? [p. 35] One can see that Lewis is attempting to say that belief in God is right because ?On this point, Christianity lines up with the majority?lines up with the ancient Greeks and Romans, modern savages, Stoics, Platonists, Hindus, Mohammedans, etc., against the modern Western European materialist.? [pp. 35-36] The obvious problem with this is that majority belief in any given thing does not make that thing correct.
Lewis then expounds on the various other beliefs that are not monotheistic and why they are wrong: Pantheism, and later Dualism, and, what Lewis calls ?Christianity-and-water?. Before I address the next chapter however, the first still involves some poor reasoning based on semantic games that one can run into when reading other modern apologetic books (I became familiar with such games when reading Frank Turek and Norman L. Geisler?s Why I Don?t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist.) Lewis writes, in regards to calling God unjust ?thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist?in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless?I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality?namely that my idea of just?was full of sense.? [pp. 38-39] His argument, then, is that by calling God unjust, we have some objective sense of justice, which, as he stated in Book One, must have been given to us by ??Something which is directing the universe?. This line of argumentation is followed by an example of light and dark having no meaning to be a blind creature, just as meaninglessness is impossible without a standard of meaning with which to compare. This is a poor comparison. While light and dark would indeed have no meaning to a blind creature if light did not exist, meaninglessness in the universe can still mean something in the absence of an objective standard. There are other definitions of ?meaning? with which to compare Lewis? sense of ?objective meaning.? I can, for instance, find meaning in my own life in the way I live it; I find my own purpose in living it. I now can say I know what the word meaning means. I can then state that there is no objective meaning to the universe based on my own knowledge. I do not need an actual objective standard with which to compare.
Next comes, frankly, one of the worst lines of reasoning I have come across in all of apologetics. ?Reality, in fact, is usually something you could not have guessed. That is one of the reasons I believe in Christianity. It is a religion you could not have guessed. If it offered us just the kind of universe we had always expected, I should feel we are making it up.? [pp. 41-42] If complexity and confusion makes something more genuine, then by Lewis? line of reasoning, any twisted and convoluted ideas one comes across should be considered more genuine than those that are simple, solely because, if we had expected it, we probably have made it up. In this chapter, Lewis introduces the Devil while denouncing Dualism. His argument is that evil cannot exist without good (but good can without evil), and that evil is simply the pursuit of good with the wrong path. He writes ?But pleasure, money, power, and safety are all, as far as they go, good things. The badness consists in pursuing them by the wrong method, or in the wrong way, or too much.? [p. 44] Lewis previously defines good as ?what you ought to prefer quite regardless of what you happen to like at any given moment.? [p. 43]
We now are met with Lewis? argument on free will, the common Christian apology for the existence of Evil. One should note that Lewis does not address the problem of natural evil. Free will, the ability to sin, requires, existence and intelligence and will, a meteor striking Earth and killing massive amounts of innocents of course possesses just one of these attributes. To explain all other evils, Lewis states: ?Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having.? Any arguments raised against Lewis? claim are met with a very poor defense ?But there is a difficulty about disagreeing with God. He is the source from which all your reasoning power comes; you could not be right and He wrong any more than a stream can rise higher than its own source.? Yet there is an easily spotted flaw in the argument. Lewis stated that free will is the price to pay for evil, because without free will things would be worse off. This begs the question: why? If God is all-powerful he could create such a world where goodness and free will can co-exist, or that lack of free will was somehow desirable, even if we cannot imagine such a thing. Such is the price to pay for demanding the attribute of omnipotence3. Also, one should note that God only desires us to have free will only so that we can freely choose him. This means we do not require choice in regards to things like whether or not to take life, or to commit any other sort of crime. This destroys Lewis? claim that we must exchange free will for evil.4

3. The New Oxford American Dictionary defines omnipotence as ?(of a deity) having unlimited power; able to do anything.?
4. One might object that this would place limits on our free will. This objection has its flaw in the fact that God has already placed limits on free will. I cannot lasso the moon or jump down if I will it. Physical law restricts me. To say that God wants to draw the line at some arbitrary point is special pleading.

Next comes another use of fallacious reasoning by Lewis, in the form of a Trilemma. A Trilemma is a form of a false dilemma, where, in this case, the reader is presented with three options, and when two are proven incorrect the third assumedly must be chosen. Lewis? Trilemma is also known as the ?Lord, Lunatic, or Liar? idea. One must see the argument in full to see where it goes astray: ?A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic?on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg?or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God; or else a madman or something worse.? [p. 52] The problem is Lewis? premise: there are more than three options (Lewis uses personal preference for denying Jesus as a lunatic or the Devil, stating, ?I believe it on His authority? [p. 62]5.) for instance, the Gospels could have attributed sayings to a simple preacher who never said such things. Another option is that Jesus Christ never existed. With the premise for his argument destroyed, the Trilemma fails to convince.
Lewis ends Book Two in attempting to answer the question of why God?s actions on Earth are more like that of a secret society, rather than coming in full force. His argument of course, is based on the assumption that free choice is somehow necessary to loving God. If he simply shows up and accepts God?s existence he is forced to go one way or another. Lewis writes, ?It will be too late then to choose your side.? [p. 65] I disagree. One can either go with God, or go with the Devil. A choice still exists. The main problem, however, is this: I would much rather have God evidence himself, than to go off of someone?s subjective interpretation of a situation. I do not want to have to choose the way God wants me to, and am I not making a choice right now in choosing lack of choice over God?s method? If he values free will so much does it not follow that he should evidence himself to me now? And yet God remains hidden, and Lewis? apologetics arrive at a contradiction: God values free will, but will not respect my exercise of it. It seems to be a situation of special pleading: free will is important to God, but only when he wants it to be.

Book Three: Christian Behaviour

We now run into the following premise: ?For the rest of this book I am going to assume the Christian point of view, and look at the whole picture as it will be if Christianity is true.? [p. 75] Lewis believes he is justified in doing so based on the previous two books (but as this review has shown, it is unwarranted). Lewis lists four cardinal virtues in a Christian?s life, prudence, temperance, justice, and fortitude. Though most of the things Lewis espouses are in agreement with my morality, he comes off as a bit of a sexist ?obedience?(I am afraid this is going to be very unpopular) from wives to husbands [p. 84]? (his beliefs on the subordinate nature of women are explained further in Chapter 6 of this Book6), and at the same time denounces homosexuality as unnatural ?the perverted desire of a man for a man would of the second.? [p. 89] (he stated before that this desire ?consist[s] of quite unnatural feelings due to things that have gone wrong in his subconscious.? [p.89] Lewis also informs the reader that the mark on the soul of a person who commits genocide and that of a person who is laughed at for getting angry can somehow be the same. Each man therefore also gets the same punishment if they do not ?turn to God?. Next Lewis discusses sex. Though he says that sins of the body aren?t as bad as spiritual ones, and that sex for reproduction isn?t bad, he basically denounces everything else. I disagree with him on this, but again, he made it clear he was assuming Christianity was true and was basing his argument on that premise.
Next, Lewis talks about three ?Theological Virtues?, namely Faith, Hope, and Charity. Lewis goes on to talk about how these apply to the life of a Christian. Though the title of this book is Christian Behaviour, one should realize that most of these types of virtues that Lewis talks about are held high by practically all societies, not just Christian ones. The rest of the Chapter goes on to talk about how a Christian should live their life according to the three Theological Virtues and the four Cardinal Virtues. I agree that most of what he talks about is moral behaviour, I simply do not agree that it is strictly a Christian phenomena.

5. Note that Argument ad Verecundiam, or an Argument from Authority, is a logical fallacy in this case, because we have no reason to assume the credibility of the source. The examples by Lewis mislead one into thinking that a biologist?s claims regarding evolution are the same as Jesus (assuming he said what is depicted in the Gospels) claiming he is God.
6. In Chapter 6, Lewis also says something I would agree with: the making of two different and separate marriage processes: one of the state and one of the Church. One of the few things he has written in ?Mere Christianity? which makes any sense.

Book Four: Beyond Personality: Or First Steps In The Doctrine Of The Trinity

In this final book, Lewis goes into some Theology (mentioning that he had been warned not to do so right off the bat). This is Lewis? attempt to try and explain the Trinity in some coherent manner, and he spares no time in getting to the use of the verb ?beget?, as is used in the Nicene Creed, to explain the eternality of the Father and the Son. He writes: ?We don?t use the words begetting or begotten much in modern English, but everyone still knows what they mean. To beget is to become the father of: to create is to make. And the difference is this. When you beget, you beget something the same kind as yourself?but when you make, you make something of a different kind from yourself.7?[p. 157] We are left then with this impression: God and his Son exist in a separate, subordinate relationship. Reading on however, this is not what Lewis wants to get across. Before we get to that though, Lewis delves into a little discussion on God, and him being outside of time. Right after informing us that God exists outside of time, he talks about God having sent his only Son to die for mankind, but then demands we not confuse the human nature of Christ with the God nature ?You cannot fit Christ?s earthly life in Palestine into any time-relations with His life as God beyond all space and time.? [p. 169] This aspect of Lewis? claim does not seem to reconcile with current Christian belief. How can Christ be fully human and fully God, if we cannot relate the two? Logically God cannot be both in time and out (unless we want to bring in the already problematic notion of omnipotence.) Indeed, Lewis seems to be espousing the heresy of Nestorianism8 that Christ exists as two people, rather than a unified person.
Before the chapter ends, Lewis attempts to clear up the common argument against freewill: if God can forsee our actions, we can do nothing else and thusly our freewill is prohibited. Lewis works his way around this by saying that God views the whole of time as a single instant: ?All the days are ?Now? for Him.? [p. 170] Lewis? insistence of an omniscient and omnipotent God backfires on him once again. If God is omniscient he still knows everything. If God is omnipotent he can also do anything. If God cannot ?forsee? our acts, then he is not omnipotent. If He does not know my action until I do it, He is not omniscient. Lewis is putting a limit on what God can do. If we accept his argument, we must also accept that God is not omnipotent, and in that case, why call him God? This also negates the Ontological Argument for God proposed by Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)9.
Moving on, Lewis goes back to the original argument that the God and the Son are in some eternal relationship (along with the Holy Spirit) and yet at the same time they are One God. ?In the same way we must think of the Son always, so to speak, streaming forth from the Father, like light from a lamp, or heat from a fire, or thoughts from a mind. He is the self-expression of the Father?what the Father has to say. And there never was a time when He was not saying it.? [pp. 173-174] His message then, is that the Father is in some eternal state of producing the Son, and that by begetting the Son, the Son is also God. Lewis moves on to love, and attempting to necessitate a Triune God he writes, ?If God was a single person, then before the world was made, He was not love.? [p. 174] I disagree. Why can God not simply direct this emotion at himself? Does not Leviticus 19:18 read ??but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself?? If we can love ourselves, surely then, so can God, in the absence of everything else. The Bible itself negates Lewis? argument that ??the words ?God is love? have no real meaning unless God contains at least two Persons. Love is something that one person has for another person.?[p. 174]
Moving on we read about the Holy Spirit, and how it arises. Lewis compares it to the ?personality? of a corporation due to the individual members, in this case the Father and the Son. Though Lewis notes that the behaviour of a corporation is not an actual person, in order to save doctrine he simply says ?But that is just one of the differences between God and us. What grows out of the joint life of the Father and Son is a real Person, is in fact the Third of the three Persons who are God.?[p. 175] We arrive at a completed picture (though containing a few mentioned fallacies): God is One Entity but Three Persons. The Son is eternally emanating from the Father, and yet the Son not subordinate to the Father, but equal with10. How the two can be reconciled appears beyond me: when something emanates from another, the source is always more powerful than the emanation. It is true they are both light, but light is not as bright far away as it is near the source. The same should logically hold true (but apparently does not) with God. The third part of God?s Triune nature is the Holy Spirit, a kind of group-personality that comes from the individual ?thoughts? of the Father and Son combined, and somehow becomes an actual ?Person? in the sense that we normally refer to; Lewis passing by the obvious problem in this view by simply calling it a difference between us and God (though I suppose Lewis? omnipotent God can do any bizarre thing it wishes.)
Lewis writes a whole chapter on some ?notes? regarding the Trinity, making what has been characterized as the ?panglossian error? (after Voltaire?s character, Dr. Pangloss), believing that free-will necessitates evil, when in fact, an omnipotent God can make it so free-will and goodness can exist without evil, thus negating the claim made by theodicy, and in turn, Lewis.

7. One should note that in the Nicene Creed, the same emphasis on the difference of beget and create is emphasized.
8. Though Nestorianism was condemned in C.E. 431, it continues to exist today in some Eastern Churches.
9. This argument defines God as ?something than which nothing greater can be imagined.? Since I can imagine an omnipotent being, God as defined by Lewis is truly not God, or else the Ontological Argument is a dismal failure.
10. The subordination of the Son to the Father is known as Arianism and was overthrown by the Nicene Creed.

The rest of what Lewis writes is in addressing a convert, (one of the things Lewis failed to make out of me after reading his book) beginning with an examination of the Lord?s Prayer and moving on to other aspects of becoming ?Christ-like?. Lewis? final words of the book read, ?Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.? [p. 227] This reads to me as an emotional appeal from a man who, upon completing his book, perhaps realized he didn?t have any sort of good theistic arguments (if there are such things).

Conclusion

What did I think of Lewis? book? When it was handed to me I was told that Lewis was convincing, and his book would be a good read for an atheist like myself. Upon completion, I found Lewis? book lacking in it?s convincing power, and heavily reliant upon analogy (often poor) to make an illogical point sound somewhat plausible. Some of Lewis? arguments were not too bad; some (like the complexity of Christianity suddenly making it more real) were downright stupid. Lewis? arguments often created false dilemmas; logical fallacies that give the reader only a few choices (when more exist) and then, after showing a certain number of choices to be illogical, the other one must be chosen (such as Lewis? Lord, Lunatic, or Liar idea in regards to the nature of Christ.) Lewis made the first book of Mere Christianity the foundation of the rest of his argument. I could have stopped reading this after it was demonstrably fallacious. Lewis depended on outdated psychoanalysis, and ignorance on the evolutionary origin of morality at the time to base his claim, and real science has now shown his error. The Triune God Lewis presents, though more easily available to picturing thanks to heavy analogy, still simply makes no sense. This book would prove convincing to someone not very well read in philosophy or logical argumentation; Lewis can be rather tricky and subtle at times. Yet, if one knows just a bit about fallacious reasoning, his book falls apart at the seams.


BobSpence
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Mere Christianity

Certainly sounds like it really would be a waste of time if you want to find something new and/or solid in support of Christianity. I can only imagine being of interest as an an example of the efforts that a relatively smart guy, who's become emotionally hooked on the religion, will go through to intellectually 'justify', or rationalise his position.

I can't stomach his fiction either, one of his was one of the few books I gave up on.

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

"Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings." - Sam Harris

The path to Truth lies via careful study of reality, not the dreams of our fallible minds - me

From the sublime to the ridiculous: Science -> Philosophy -> Theology