Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Did Lewis Believe what he Preferred to be True?

"And it remains true that I have, almost all of my life, been quite unable to feel that horror of nonentity, of annhilation, which, say Dr. Johnson felt so strongly. I felt it for the first time only in 1947. But that was after I had long been reconverted and thus begun to know what life really is and what would be lost by missing it."

(Surprised by Joy, Harcourt Brace and Company, p. 117.)

There was one way in which the world, as ... rationalism taught me to see it, gratified my wishes. It might be grim and deadly but at least it was free from the Christian God. Some people (not all) will find it hard to understand why this seemed to me such an overwhelming advantage... I was, as you may remember, one whose negative demands were more violent than his positive, far more eager to escape pain than to achieve happiness, and feeling it something of an outrage that I had been created without my own permission. To such a craven the materialist's universe had the enormous attraction that it offered you limited liabilities. No strictly infinite disaster could overtake you in it. Death ended all. And if ever finite disaster proved greater than one wished to bear suicide would always be possible. The horror of the Christian universe was that it had no door marked Exit.

 (p. 171)

"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. I did not then see what is now the most shining and obvious thing; the Divine humility which will accept a convert even on such terms. The Prodigal Son at least walked home on his own feet. But who can duly adore that Love which will open the high gates to a prodigal who is brought kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape? The hardness of God is softer than the softness of men." (C S Lewis) p. 228-229.


Bilbo said...

So we have two exceptions to the rule that we believe what we don't want to believe: C.S. Lewis and John W. Loftus.

Bilbo said...

Oops, I stated that wrong. Should be "...exceptions to the rule that we believe what we want to believe."

Anonymous said...

What we have is an example of why someone could wish atheism were true, and Christianity/theism false. There are abundant examples of this.

Bilbo said...

But not John W. Loftus.

Anonymous said...

John Loftus is greater than C.S. Lewis.

Shackleman said...

I would prefer it if the following things were true:

-Global warming was a myth
-Dragons were real
-Unicorns were real
-Djinns existed and grant three wishes
-Hot chicks liked fat guys
-John Loftus made cogent arguments

I do not believe any of these to be true.

End of discussion. Can we move on?

I seriously wonder why Loftus gets so much attention here. He loves it though---he gets advertising for his books. Lots and lots of advertising.

Bilbo said...

Hot chicks don't like fat guys?

Anonymous said...

Vic, you ride on C.S. Lewis's coat tails too much. Just because you are a C.S. Lewis scholar does not make you him.

What about YOU?


Anonymous said...

ITT: John Loftus acting like a "scholar"!

Victor Reppert said...

His case would just as easily undercut your overall thesis as would mine. Is your thesis about what we prefer to be true universally true, or generally true, or what?

My beliefs have been reflect my best efforts to come to terms with the evidence. I call it as I see it.

If you are so convinced that you are right that you can't accept the idea of someone honestly reaching the opposite conclusion, I don't know what to say to you. But no amount of outsider-test type prodding is going to do the job. The test is a stacked deck.

Anonymous said...

I wrote a new post about this topic just now.

Tim said...

If the claim that people defend and believe only what they prefer to be true were supported by psychological studies, and if the fact that a person prefers X to be true were a good reason for ignoring his argument for X, would it follow that we could all rationally ignore the psychological studies?

Anonymous said...


Absolutely not. Loftus obviously wishes that the conclusions of these psychological studies were simply not what they are. He isn't happy about the fact that people disregard evidence when it contradicts their preferred beliefs. That is the very reason for the Outsider Test! He wishes to free us from the shackles of our own preferred truth. He wants this so desperately for the whole entire world. This is a salvation greater than that of Christianity and he is willing to blog, publish, take fire behind enemy lines (including the hat jokes!) here on the blog, and possibly even die to set us free! Every ounce of Loftus' being desires to see our minds liberated from the bondage of religious oppression, as he himself has been. This kind of passion for liberty is to be honored and emulated. Loftus lacks bias because he came to know the truth in an unbiased manner first, then and only then, did this passion arise. So you simply cannot turn this argument against him.

Anonymous said...

Dear God in Heaven, I hope the preceding is a troll...

Crowhill said...

ISTM that belief is closely related to desire -- after all, who can consistently believe what they hate? -- but that those desires are far too deep-seated and hidden for us to analyze them.

When we say things like "he believes in God because he needs there to be order in the universe," (Or, "he won't believe because he can't submit to authority"), we're caricaturing this. We're giving a trivial, superficial explanation for something that we can't possibly know.

People don't even know why they believe. (Or don't believe.) They certainly don't know why other people believe.

Anonymous said...

What does ISTM mean?

Crowhill said...

Sorry. "ISTM" means "it seems to me"

SteveK said...

Imagine two jurors having access to the same data and testimony. It's a case based on circumstantial evidence.

Juror A believes the defendant is innocent and gives a list of valid reasons, supported by the data and testimony, why they arrived at their decision.

Juror B believes the defendant is guilty and also gives a list of valid reasons also supported by the data and testimony.

Does John W. Loftus think these jurors believe in either guilt or innocence simply because of what they prefer? Does John W. Loftus think the reasoning, the data and the testimony don't factor into the decision?

Suppose all jurors arrived at the same conclusion and gave the same reasons for their conclusion. Does John W. Loftus think their decision is still only an expression of what they prefer?

If so, what does this say about scientists who interprete the same data differently? Are all scientific interpretations the result of preference?