CS Lewis’s Mere Christianity
“The act of defending any of the cardinal virtues has today all the exhilaration of a vice.”
– GK Chesterton
This blog is all about unconventional ideas. Well, few belief systems more taboo today than Christianity. It is 100% socially acceptable to openly mock Christians pretty much anywhere outside of the NASCAR heartland of Middle America, the absolute lowest of low-status social classes in modern western society.
But wait – isn’t Christianity the foundation of western civilization? Yes, I know, the real foundations of western civilization are diversity, women’s rights and multiculturalism. But for thousands of years before this was revealed to us in the second half of the 20th century, ignorant westerners thought Christianity was pretty important, so the credo must be of – at least – historical importance. I may not owe faith to Christianity, but I owe it more than ignorance.
If you agree, pick up a copy of Mere Christianity, and grapple with CS Lewis. He may not convince you to go to mass tomorrow (he didn’t convince me) but if you have a typical young western man’s knowledge of the Christian religion – that is to say, none – you’ll walk away from Lewis a wiser man.
Here’s a selection of my highlights:
“We do not merely observe men, we are men. In this case we have, so to speak, inside information; we are in the know. And because of that, we know that men find themselves under a moral law, which they did not make, and cannot quite forget even when they try, and which they know they ought to obey. Notice the following point. Anyone studying Man from the outside as we study electricity or cabbages, not knowing our language and consequently not able to get any inside knowledge from us, but merely observing what we did, would never get the slightest evidence that we had this moral law. How could he? for his observations would only show what we did, and the moral law is about what we ought to do. In the same way, if there were anything above or behind the observed facts in the case of stones or the weather, we, by studying them from outside, could never hope to discover it.”
I like this passage, and I think it addresses a valid objection to the nihilistic/hedonistic/sociopathic life – we feel a higher moral law in our guts – but I don’t think it implies that the higher law is supra-human. We’re social animals, and we’re built to form communities with specific moral codes, and punish those who transgress them. A “higher morality” is a good way of staying alive and popular when the watchful eyes of the tribe are trained on you. When the subconscious cost/benefit calculation of transgressing said code swings into the positive, a man can rationalize a ‘lapse’ in his morals. No magic sky fairy required.
“Enemy-occupied territory—that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage. When you go to church you are really listening-in to the secret wireless from our friends: that is why the enemy is so anxious to prevent us from going. He does it by playing on our conceit and laziness and intellectual snobbery. I know someone will ask me, ‘Do you really mean, at this time of day, to re-introduce our old friend the devil—hoofs and horns and all?’ Well, what the time of day has to do with it I do not know. And I am not particular about the hoofs and horns. But in other respects my answer is ‘Yes, I do.’”
Whether you believe in the particulars or not, I think the ideas of God and The Devil as metaphors for the just authority and the temptations of evil are useful. If you believe in Good an Justice, why not call this natural order ‘God’? If you believe in Evil, why not call its personification ‘The Devil’? I make this mental substitution all the time when reading dusty old books, and it works just fine for me.
“It is as well to put this the other way round. Some of us who seem quite nice people may, in fact, have made so little use of a good heredity and a good upbringing that we are really worse than those whom we regard as fiends. Can we be quite certain how we should have behaved if we had been saddled with the psychological outfit, and then with the bad upbringing, and then with the power, say, of Himmler? That is why Christians are told not to judge. We see only the results which a man’s choices make out of his raw material. But God does not judge him on the raw material at all, but on what he has done with it.”
Even a committed atheist will have much to learn from Christian Apologias. Why cut yourself off from Traditional Christian writers – i.e., almost every Conservative western author before 1914 – because you’re hung up on the anthropomorphic definition of God?
Now, since this is a Manosphere blog after all, here’s Lewis on Marriage:
“The need for some head follows from the idea that marriage is permanent. Of course, as long as the husband and wife are agreed, no question of a head need arise; and we may hope that this will be the normal state of affairs in a Christian marriage. But when there is a real disagreement, what is to happen? Talk it over, of course; but I am assuming they have done that and still failed to reach agreement. What do they do next? They cannot decide by a majority vote, for in a council of two there can be no majority. Surely, only one or other of two things can happen: either they must separate and go their own ways or else one or other of them must have a casting vote. If marriage is permanent, one or other party must, in the last resort, have the power of deciding the family policy. You cannot have a permanent association without a constitution. (2) If there must be a head, why the man? Well, firstly is there any very serious wish that it should be the woman? As I have said, I am not married myself, but as farhttp://www.freedomtwentyfive.com/wp-admin/post-new.php as I can see, even a woman who wants to be the head of her own house does not usually admire the same state of things when she finds it going on next door. She is much more likely to say ‘Poor Mr X! Why he allows that appalling woman to boss him about the way she does is more than I can imagine.’ I do not think she is even very flattered if anyone mentions the fact of her own ‘headship’. There must be something unnatural about the rule of wives over husbands, because the wives themselves are half ashamed of it and despise the husbands whom they rule. But there is also another reason; and here I speak quite frankly as a bachelor, because it is a reason you can see from outside even better than from inside. The relations of the family to the outer world—what might be called its foreign policy—must depend, in the last resort, upon the man, because he always ought to be, and usually is, much more just to the outsiders. A woman is primarily fighting for her own children and husband against the rest of the world. Naturally, almost, in a sense, rightly, their claims override, for her, all other claims. She is the special trustee of their interests. The function of the husband is to see that this natural preference of hers is not given its head. He has the last word in order to protect other people from the intense family patriotism of the wife. If anyone doubts this, let me ask a simple question. If your dog has bitten the child next door, or if your child has hurt the dog next door, which would you sooner have to deal with, the master of that house or the mistress? Or, if you are a married woman, let me ask you this question. Much as you admire your husband, would you not say that his chief failing is his tendency not to stick up for his rights and yours against the neighbours as vigorously as you would like? A bit of an Appeaser?”
Finally, here is Lewis attempting to derive the existence of God from reason and introspection.
“The Christian Way—The Christian says, ‘Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and to help others to do the same.”
Quite likely, I always will be. But I still enjoyed Lewis, and I have a greater respect for Christianity as a result of having read his book.