2009.07.01 C.S. Lewis and the Moral Code

I have been re-reading C.S. Lewis's story of his attempt to disprove the existence of God, and I find it truly fascinating. He faced two major difficulties in doing so. First, if one believes there is no God, then one must also believe that 90% or so of humanity has been dead wrong about "the issue they care most about". Second (and for him the point that carries logical weight), without something behind our moral code, the idea of saying something is right and something else is wrong is meaningless. (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity)

On Morality

In early life, Lewis tended to believe there was no God because, if there were an all-powerful God, surely he wouldn't let such bad things happen in the world. But this did not make logical sense. Claiming things as "good" or "bad" indicates a moral law. And this morality goes beyond simply doing what is best for an individual or a group of people.

Following this logic, Lewis concluded that there must be some force or entity that underscores our morality. The real kicker seems to be that this sense of morality lies within ourselves, the one piece of evidence for which we have "inside information".

On Atheism and Agnosticism

Lewis says that it takes great faith to be a "hard" atheist, believing there is no God. Religious people have the freedom to believe that most people on earth are partially correct, but atheists have to believe that most people on earth are completely wrong. This indeed takes great faith.

There are also "soft" atheists (or agnostics), who believe the existence of God to be unlikely, and ultimately irrelevant to their daily lives. But the existence of God is hugely important for the daily life of man, particularly if that God created our moral code. It boils down to wishful thinking for many… life is just easier if one assumes there is no God.

Others might disbelieve in a God, as Lewis once did, because "a good God wouldn't let bad things happen." This is a sort of attempted proof by contradiction that does not explain where good and bad come from, hence Lewis's dilemma.

On Christianity

As far as Christianity goes, most people see day-to-day a watered-down, simplified version of Christianity. They might see the caricatures of the 24-hour news cycle. They might see a bunch of rules and regulations to follow. But they don't see the real thing.

Lewis arguments for the truth of Christianity are as follows:

  • Huge explanatory power for the existence of good and evil in the world today.
  • Has a "ring of truth": anything that unexpected/unpredictable is too much to just make up.

His response to counter-arguments against Christianity:

  • "It's too complex": life is complex, so a simple religion wouldn't make sense!

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