Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

Poster @stpurl suggested that I could benefit fro reading Lewis’s book. I have read many apologetic books, but not that one. So I started it, and as I go on, I will make some remarks.


First, it is much too wordy. But that was the writer’s prerogative. Second, his idea of having a “uniform” human moral nature is obviously wrong. We certainly have a largely uniform biological nature. But there is no bridge from “IS” to “OUGHT”. We need to eat - this is uniform. But how to obtain that food is not uniform. So there is no uniform moral nature.

If we look at small children, who are not “polluted” yet with society, who simply express their “nature”, we shall see that they are “mean, little brutes”, who need a lot of “chiseling down” to change them into acceptable kids. We don’t teach them. we train them, just like any other animal. They don’t share, their main word is “MINE!!” when it comes to their possessions. They are jealous, vicious, they see nothing inherently wrong with torturing animals.

Of course there is nothing new about it. I and many others have pointed it out in many conversations. But the other side refuses to understand it. The say that we all have our uniform, good, caring, loving, moral nature, but it has been “warped” by the “fall”, and we need to re-learn how return to it. There is at least one problem with it. It assumes that the “fall” is more than just a story - and, of course there is no evidence for it. (If they believe it, it is their business. But they should not try to pass it on, as an ARGUMENT, even if we are on a Catholic board. After all we are on a Philosophy section, not in the theology section.) And they don’t see that their argument proves that there is no uniform moral nature - since it needs to be LEARNED! Which leads to…

Another point is that we all learn by example. In a society where everyone is naked, there is no “shame” associated with nudity. In a society where sex is normal, there is no “shame” with performing it in the open. Children growing up in a rural environment see nothing wrong with observing animals to copulate, and they learn to “play” with their little playthings, since it feels good. Kids who grow up in a white supremacist environment see nothing wrong looking down on others due to their skin pigmentation.

So much for the first chapter. I will keep on reading, and reflecting on the next ones. If you, or anyone else wishes to jump in, go ahead. But I will concentrate on the book.

It was written in the days before tweets and insta-everything…where language meant something…soundbytes did not exist and there were no character limitations.
One was left to the authors invocation and the readers imagination.
If you are not in the habit of reading such dated material it can feel like being thrown into a washing machine with a thesaurus.

Also, if you think his writing is to “wordy” you would hate Chesterton and Tolkien. However once you commit to it you will eventually gain an ear for it.

If your really struggling with the style and ideas and still want something with the same flavor of Christianity from a literary age gone past perhaps try starting with The Screwtape Letters or something by Merton…Maybe Seven Story Mountain…

As for the children part…years ago while speaking to someone whom I cannot remember at the church daycare they remarked…

“If you want to have a visceral view of how we are born with original sin, watch a room full of toddlers for a few days…”

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More importantly, it’s adapted from a radio address.

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Exactly, listening to a conversation from back then would seem like a foreign language to most young people today…not only was the written elements much more involved so was the spoken word.
The way one addressed each other in public sounds almost Elizabethan compared to our verbal shorthand we currently employ.

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So was Jesus wrong when he said:

“Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the law and the prophets.”

This is just plain wrong. Lewis gives a reason why false narratives such as this even exist at all.

Half right, half wrong. The correct way would be “do NOT do unto others that you would NOT have them do unto you” - which is the negative formula. The positive way can easily be twisted into this: “I would you to make wild, passionate love to me, therefore I will make wild passionate love to you… even if you don’t want it.” Effectively justify rapes. That is why the NEGATIVE version of the golden rule is superior to the positive version… and strange that Jesus did not realize it.

Besides, if there would be an inborn, natural moral law, then there would be no need for a commandment. It would be obvious to everyone.

Where? Please quote it. Or explain what is wrong with it.

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I just re-ordered it and plan to re-read it when I get done with my stack of books I have to read now.
I read it about 20 years ago and loved the chapter on Christian marriage.
Lewis may seem wordy to today’s generation, I loaned his book “Miracles” to a friend and they returned it to me saying they were having trouble getting through it, they didn’t care for his writing.
It’s my most recommended book on Christian apologetics.

Compared to the writing typical of Lewis’ time, I found it concise.

As for actual content, it’s been a few years since I’ve read it. But I’ll begin by addressing this point.

If I obtained my food by burglarizing your entire pantry and refrigerator while you were away, would that be wrong of me to do? Or are you cool with it because moral nature isn’t uniform, and I consider my morals are different from yours?

You’re twisting this quite a bit, cutting out all nuance, as if people weren’t aware of this.

Actually there are probably a great number of people and groups that would find such a system preferable. So to infer that such a system is universally rejected is a false premise.

Ours is a system that’s acceded to by the majority for obvious self-beneficial reasons, but that doesn’t necessarily raise it to the level of a moral imperative.

Lewis explains that people are always making excuses to justify their bad behavior. The false narrative that I referred to was people who are trying to justify their bad parenting, bad teaching, or bad caregiving to children by claiming that children are just born rotten.

Logic has to be learned. Math has to be
learned. Just because something has to be learned doesn’t mean it isn’t real.

And I have trouble believing that even the most vocal atheist truly believes there are no moral absolutes. That would mean that all those people wanting to ban gay marriage or abortion are equally as right as those that want to allow it - many atheists I know would be loathe to admit that. Even in your own post you bring up white supremacists hating based on skin pigmentation, with the implication that this is wrong. But, if there truly are no moral absolutes, you’d have to admit that they are no less right than those advocating for equality.

You also mention on how the negative phrasing of the golden rule is more right that the positive phrasing. If one answer can be more right than another, this implies that there is an objectively right answer - an objective standard that they can be compared to. This sounds an awful lot like a moral absolute to me.

When you give us your thoughts on the next chapters could you please expand your examples beyond the obvious politically correct ones. Rural kids? White supremacists? I know the fashion, nay orthodoxy, among journalists and academics is to always be politically correct in their negative examples but it’s not necessary on this forum.

I’m not even an atheist and I have no problem with believing that there are no moral absolutes. I don’t like absolutes unless you can prove that they actually are absolutes.

Are the Ten Commandments absolutes? Or The Sermon on the Mount?

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No, and obviously no.

Regardless of if you’re atheist or theist, the point was that, no matter how much someone claims to deny the existence of moral absolutes, their actual actions and opinions seem to suggest otherwise.

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You say you aren’t an atheist. Are you Jewish or Christian? If you are I’m not sure how you can say The Ten Commandments aren’t moral absolutes.

That was already a known part of the law and the prophets. Jesus was completing/ fulfilling the law with the ‘golden rule’ teaching. So now that you know, are we in agreement?

Not necessarily. As I said upthread, people are always trying to justify their bad behavior. People know what they don’t want others to do to them, but people justify those same things when they do them to others. And that is a behavior which is learned out of self-preservation.

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Lelinator told me he/she was a Christian on a thread a few days ago.

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