Sunday, May 25, 2014

What happened to C. S. Lewis. Could it happen to you?

For Lewis, It was matter of coming to think that there are a bunch of lines of evidence that you believe support theism, or even Christianity. If you read his book it's hard to escape the idea that he thought he had reasons to become a Christian, and that this made him psychologically uncomfortable. Whether these reasons were good or bad is not the point here. 

People like Dawkins think that the evidence against theism is overwhelming. What if someone were to gradually move from that position to believe that the case for atheism is less than overwhelming, then about 50-50, and then it starts looking like God really does exist after all. 

If that happened to someone, a lot of atheists might react the way Nagel would: 

“In speaking of the fear of religion, I don’t mean to refer to the entirely reasonable hostility toward certain established religions and religious institutions, in virtue of their objectionable moral doctrines, social policies, and political influence. Nor am I referring to the association of many religious beliefs with superstition and the acceptance of evident empirical falsehoods. I am talking about something much deeper–namely, the fear of religion itself. I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers.

I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.”(”The Last Word” by Thomas Nagel, Oxford University Press: 1997)”

And that is how Lewis reacted when it happened to him.

11 comments:

im-skeptical said...

If you're searching for reasons to believe, chances are you'll find them.

"You must picture me alone in that room at Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England"

This is not a tale of rational decision making. It was not a logical argument that convinced him. Lewis wanted to believe, no matter how much he lied to himself about it.

Victor Reppert said...

To get to that conclusion, you have to psychoanalyze Lewis and say that he is lying about what he said. Taken at face value, he said he didn't want to believe it. Did you read the whole book?

To take this kind of position, you have to have a prior conviction that no one could possibly not want to believe in God, but come to believe anyway because they think the evidence supports it. What Lewis says does not support your position. It says the opposite. So, he just HAD to be lying to himself. This couldn't possibly have really happened, just as Antony Flew couldn't possibly have been persuaded by argument that theism (of the deistic sort) is true.

But if you can do this to Lewis, you can do it to anybody, including atheists.

Let's take the argument from reason for starters. His conviction concerning that one comes from a series of debates with Anthroposophist Owen Barfield.

You are saying this not because there is any evidence in Lewis's writings for this, but because, by golly, everyone's belief in God HAS to be wishful thinking, even if they say it isn't.

You could just as easily say that everyone who is an atheist holds that position because they can't tolerate Christianity's restrictions on sexual behavior. Any belief that says that it's wrong to get laid when you want to get laid has to be wrong, so you will invent any reason you can for not believing it. If I want to, I can Bulverize with the best of them. Which is why Bulverism always comes out to a wash.

im-skeptical said...

"To get to that conclusion, you have to psychoanalyze Lewis and say that he is lying about what he said."

I'm only going by his own words. He admits that his conversion was not a result of rational deliberation. As is the case with the vast majority of religious believers, he came by his faith on the basis of emotional or other non-rational processes, and only then did he seek rational justification for his belief.

planks length said...

"If you're searching for reasons to believe, chances are you'll find them."

But of course you will. If you're searching for a gas station while driving, chances are you'll find one. If you're searching for the silverware drawer in a kitchen, chances are you'll find it. If you're searching for the soup aisle in a grocery store, chances are you'll find it...

If you're searching for God, chances are He'll find you.

planks length said...

Corollary:

If you've got your eyes shut tight, your fists in your ears, and your mind closed to reason, chances are you'll not find a damned thing.

Papalinton said...

Victor, HERE is an article that should suit you down to the ground.

It seems from the article all scientists that are not believers subscribe to scientism, and all those that believe in jesus are genuine scientists.

It also illustrates CS Lewis's visceral detestation of the sciences particularly if you are guided or informed by their findings.

And I particularly like how the argument against science is based around Lewis's fictions of science.

All in all, a great find for the religionists, written, of course, by a religionist.

B. Prokop said...

I've been meditating a bit on last Sunday's Gospel (John 14:15-21). Interesting that Christ promises us the Spirit of Truth, not after we believe in Him, but only once we love Him.

The skeptic's and the atheist's search for Truth can never meet with success without there first being Love. Rather than wrestling with the Great Philosophical Questions, we need to start by embracing love - first for our fellow human beings (as John says in his epistle, "He who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.") From that foundation, love for Truth will follow naturally into love of God.

And then, and only then, the Father will send the Spirit of Truth to him that seeks the Truth.

C.S. Lewis did not become a Christian because some philosophical argument convinced him, but rather because of his love for the Truth.

Shackleman said...

"What if someone were to gradually move from that position to believe that the case for atheism is less than overwhelming, then about 50-50, and then it starts looking like God really does exist after all. "

This precisely describes my own conversion. So strong an atheist was I that it literally took decades for the pendulum to swing for me toward belief in God, and then still more time to swing toward Christianity.

Even now, after all this time, the pendulum seems for me to be in a constant state of movement, reaching nearly below the 50 percent threshold once in just these past few years.

I can honestly say that when I was an atheist I whole heatedly did *not* want God to exist. For if He existed and I was wrong, I risked eternal Hell. Annihilation was hard enough to stomach. Hellfire for eternity? Um, give me annihilation any day of the week over that!

I can also say that now, as a believer, I whole heatedly hope He does exist!

As an aside, my political persuasions too have taken a lengthy, decades-long journey away from liberalism toward conservatism.

It *is* possible for one to change one's mind. But it is difficult.

One thing is absolutley certain. Whether or not God exists has nothing whatsoever to do with my beliefs. Either he does, or he does not. All we can do is seek the truth.

B. Prokop said...

"Whether or not God exists has nothing whatsoever to do with my beliefs."

Ain't that the truth! What's true is true, regardless of how many people believe it, or even if no one believes it. It's not a popularity contest.

John Moore said...

I don't understand why someone would not want God to exist. Is it just because people love sinning and don't want to be punished? I don't understand how someone could love sinning. If I were a sinner, I would want to be punished. Maybe if you wish God didn't exist, that suggests you already have a subconscious belief in God.

Jakub Moravčík said...

I don't understand why someone would not want God to exist.

One example was given by Shackleman: For if He existed and I was wrong, I risked eternal Hell. This is very reasonable.
Another (bulverizing) one is also frequent amongst christians, I think: "atheist do not want God to exist because it is unacceptable for them that there could be someone who has sovereign power over them and before whom they would have to bow - i.e. they do not want him because of their pride"

I would appeal more to the first one, because hell and a comprehensibility of its justice and adequacy really is a problem. I would very like to read some "phenomenological" analysis of hell as "pure possibilium", as a sole concept, its origin etc. if there exists any book or article.

I don't understand how someone could love sinning. If I were a sinner, I would want to be punished.

It is simple I think. I think there are only a few people who would love to commit sin AS A SIN, but plenty of people who would love if something which is in fact a sin would not be sinful (for example in some possible world - at best in the actual one). Sins in sexual domain would be the most frequent examples, I bet. And, to be absolutely authentic, I must admit that I understand these people and maybe to the extent count myself amongst them.
And yes, this approach presupposes validity of the divine command theory.