Tuesday, October 26, 2010

C. S. Lewis's Spirits in Bondage

This is a pdf of Lewis's early poems, which he titled Spirits in Bondage. The poem, Ode to a New Year's Day, shows his atheism at the time.

11 comments:

Blue Devil Knight said...

Those poems if you hadn't said that I would assume were written by a Christian struggling with his faith, not a stable atheist.

Note I'm not saying there are no real atheists that become Christians. That's freaking insane! If Lewis said he was an atheist, then I believe him. These arguments are a waste of time sometimes I curse the internet for wasting people's intellectual energy on things like this that wouldn't get past a good editor.

Blue Devil Knight said...

I know many theists who briefly say they are atheists but when probed it is really clear they are angry at God for letting so-and-so die or whatever. They aren't really atheists.

I can see how people would put Lewis in this boat, for instance he said:
"I was at this time living, like so many Atheists or Anti-theists, in a whirl of contradictions. I maintained that God did not exist. I was also very angry at God for not existing. I was equally angry at Him for creating a world."

Taken literally, that describes someone in conflict, not an atheist. And his poems read like someone struggling with faith, not having quite rejected it, but fighting with it. That is, not really an atheist.

On the other hand, we should use the principle of charity. Take him at his word that he was really an atheist, just extremely conflicted as evidenced in the above quote and his poems. Conflicted and without a matured or even well thought through atheistic worldview. That is, the type you find in abundance among college sophomores.

Also, he does seem willing to project his own contradictions on other atheists. Speaking personally, I don't feel particularly conflicted about my atheism, and I am not angry at Yahweh, Zeus, or Ganesh. I'm pretty sure I'm not living in any glaring contradictions like Lewis is talking about. Maybe I am but am not aware of them, but there is no way for me to know that.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Anthony Flew is probably a better example of someone nobody would doubt the atheist credentials. Too bad it is easy to say he changed only because he got old and senile. I'd rather just point out the weakness in his reasons for becoming a theist. His age is irrelevant.

Though I have to admit as a psychological fact many people when closer to death, when all the pictures on the walls in your home are of people long dead, there seems to be a tendencey to want to get closer to one's religious roots--Flew was the son of a Methodist minister.

Is there evidence about the frequency of such "death bed conversions"?

Also, I wonder why people find them so compelling, as if people on the verge of death are suddenly able to see truth more clearly than everyone else.

On my death bed, if I say that the Earth is the center of the universe, will people take it more seriously?

Anonymous said...

Bob Prokop writing:

BDK, you unwittingly bring up a very good point. No one suddenly decides to become a Flat Earther on his deathbed. But an uncountable number do decide that there is a God after all. So yes, there is a very real difference between the two propositions, and good reason to take such conversions seriously.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Bob: what is the good reason to give people about to die more weight in such matters? I think it would make them less, not more, rational.

At any rate, we should be careful of the genetic fallacy that Loftus likes to commit in the other direction. "Wow, he was about to die, man, so he must be right when he says he suddenly believes! It's so heavy and awesome!" Well, it depends why he started to believe, right? Is it because the oxygen is cut off from his brain and that produces a seizure in his temporal lobe and he has a hallucinogenic experience of the holy?

At any rate, it isn't clear whether conversions are more frequent on death beds versus regular beds. The deathbed changes may be more widely reported, taken as somehow more significant, etc..

If, on their deathbed, someone suddenly thought of an amazing reason to become a believer, that would be really cool. Or if someone (say, named Martha) after a near death experience came back with the most kick-ass argument that God exists ever. Especially if she was not trained in philosophy or anything. That would be so cool! It would become known as 'Martha's Revelation' and be the most amazing argument for God of all time!

Anonymous said...

I know many theists who briefly say they are atheists but when probed it is really clear they are angry at God for letting so-and-so die or whatever. They aren't really atheists.

All your other qualifiers aside how do you know?
How can you claim "they aren't really atheists".
My mom died at a young age. Prior to her death I believed in God. Immediately after her death I lapsed into atheism.
Knowing FULL WELL the implications of those beliefs: The absurdity of life.
The struggle that I had to deal with..... torn between wanting to care about something but KNOWING there is ultimately no meaning to any of this. That as soon as I die it's lights out. No memory for me to carry on with my about the mother that I loved so much.

You know what else, BDK?
I realized how pointless it was to cry in the company of yourself. Why cry? No one was listening, no one cared.

Don't tell me that this moment in my life I wasn't a true atheist.

JS Allen said...

@BDK - "On my death bed, if I say that the Earth is the center of the universe, will people take it more seriously?"

I suppose the difference is that a deathbed religious conversion implies that the person didn't really take atheism that seriously. It implies that the person was only atheist because he hadn't thought about the consequences.

Of course, that argument can cut both ways, but it should show why the religious conversion is qualitatively different from "flat earth" or other belief that would be hopelessly inconsequential to a dying person.

JS Allen said...

I wouldn't say these were written by a struggling Christian, anymore than I would say they were written by a pagan who literally believes that nature or night are females.

"De Profundis" is beautiful and defiant; it makes sort of the same point as Voyage to Arcturus, and also reminds me of Worm Oroborous. It would be a great new-atheist hymn, if the new atheists had any sense of beauty whatsoever.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Anon: if someone is angry at God, they are not an atheist. I take that as an analytic truth.

Anonymous said...

Angry at God?
I was never angry at God.

You're trying to waive off moments where one is confronted with the seeming absurdity of existence and falling into atheism by saying "you never really were an atheist".
And that's not true.

BenYachov said...

Anthony Flew became an Aristotelian Deist unfortunately some ID people propped his "conversion" up, befriended him & he became identified with their inferior mechanistic neo-Paleian philosophy.

Edward Feser discusses it in his book THE LAST SUPERSTITION. I don't think a singe Atheist critic of Flew "weak" reasons for becoming an Deist ever read The Rediscovery of Wisdom: From Here to Antiquity in Quest of Sophia by David Conway. Which figured prominently in his change of mind or his rediscovery of the metaphysics of Aristotle which had been going on for years.

Flew though more positive toward Christianity after his "conversion" never the less rejected "Life after death". With that in mind I find the hysteria that greeted his change of mind most unbecoming.