Boy’s Philosophy According to C.S. Lewis


C.S. Lewis once called atheism a boy’s philosophy, saying that there was nothing to it. He said that it was too simplistic, and that real world concerns, adult concerns, were complicated and so required complex answers to meet them adequately.
Although Lewis starts out with a massive misunderstanding of atheism, which is odd since he claims to have once been one, by mistaking it for a philosophy. If Lewis could have gotten past his theistic bias to think objectively about what atheism actually entailed, he wouldn’t have had such a problem with a non-philosophy. 
Furthermore, Lewis makes another grave error by assuming complex problems always need sophisticated answers. This is not true. The universe is vastly complex, but physics ultimately provides simple theories to make an advancing cosmogony practical. It’s only after billions of years of entropy does the universe get more chaotic, more complex. Initially, however, it seems that the universe may have started out simply–from the simplest state possible–nothing. 
Of course Lewis was right–atheism is simple. It consists of simply a rejection of the theistic claim. That’s all there is to it. But it is not an equivalent belief system rivaling the complexity (or rather convoluted nature) of Christian theology.
But this also depicts the dishonesty of the Christian apologist, yes even C.S. Lewis, as he erects a straw man of atheism, which he then pawns off as an actual portrait of what atheism is. And Christians buy into too, because he tells them he’s been there, done that, but there’s nothing to write home about. Indeed, this “I once was an atheist” badge is proudly worn by many religious apologists. The Christian apologists Josh McDowel, Lee Strobel, and the Rabbi David Wolpe (among many others) all claim to have been atheists too. But when I listen to them talk about atheism it becomes abundantly clear that they never were truly atheists. Nonbelievers maybe, but not atheists. They never jumped into the secular waters, they just dipped their little toes in and quickly retracted from a shiver and the terror of the deep. 
What they were, in my opinion, was merely pseudo-atheists, i.e. Christians who experience a moment of doubt which lingers when their rational minds get the better of them, only to lose out again to the temptation of religious certainty and the promise of ultimate answers. If Lewis’ work depicts anything… it is a man in search for absolute truths, just think of his preoccupation with absolute morality for example, for which he spent the better part of his life searching for in the confines of Christian theology. A futile endeavor if there ever was one, but at least he accomplished some great works.
C.S. Lewis is considered one of the all time best Christian apologists, but I can only consider him a mediocre philosopher at best. His objectivity was inevitably obscured by his desire to have ultimate answers, and Christianity promised him these answers in abundance–that’s when Lewis stopped doubting–stopped questioning–and stopped being a great thinker.
That said, I do admire his writing immensely, especially his fiction work. Along with J.R.R. Tolkien he is a master of displaced myth. I’ve read nearly everything C.S. Lewis has ever written being especially fond of the Chronicles of Narnia, the Space Trilogy, Till We Have Faces, and The Abolition of Man). Even though I’ll never be half the writer he was, I still wonder, what would he have been capable of writing if he would have climbed out of the confines of his theological box and truly embraced skepticism? Would he have still been called ‘the Apostle of the Skeptics’ or would he have simply transcended the skepticism and found some of the answers he was looking for? I guess we’ll never know.
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3 comments

  1. Well we sort of do know what Lewis would have been like as an atheist – Lewis was a skeptic and atheist before he was a Christian. As was Chesterton. In fact most great apologists were. I was a skeptic and agnostic before I was a Christian (and I might add, a much more convincing one than many I encounter today :) ).

    That is why I understand what Lewis is saying here. It is no accident that even now the overwhelming majority of atheists are young men – such a state provides one with the illusion of control, self-sufficiency, and immortality that is neccesary to maintain a healthy atheism.

    And it doesn’t hurt that it gives one greater freedom to score babes, which I consider a much greater motivating factor for adhering to atheism than any young male atheist will ever let on.

  2. Two things: One, Dishonest Jack is one of those who thinks his arguments are bolstered when he mentions his agnosticism. He’s an idiot. Two, C.S. Lewis’ fiction may be fine writing, but philosophical writing is distinctly different. When he wades into those waters, he is way over his head. Indeed, when I first read something of his about miracles, what really struck me was just how poorly it was written.

  3. “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” -Paul

    Or as Covey might say, you have climbed high, but on the wrong ladder.

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