The battle of arrogance … I guess I’m a lunatic

Over at Facebook, I piped up on a “friend’s” update who quoted C.S. LewisThe Problem of Pain. The quote says:

A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word, ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell.

I see religious updates quite a bit. People update with things like, “Looking forward to church today,” random bible verses, and quotes from their favorite religious minds.

I responded to this guy’s C.S. Lewis update, because I have a genuine respect for the guy, and I felt like he’s someone who could have an exchange of the wits. He’s another lover of English after all. He’s the son of my high school English teacher.

Boy, was I wrong.

Watch out! Here comes my criticism of Lewis!

Have you ever read any of C.S. Lewis’ work? He’s famous for books like Mere Christianity and the Chronicles of Narnia series.

Mere Christianity is one of those books that nearly the whole of believers will recommend to each other, especially when one believer senses that another believer needs a little pick me up.

No non-believer is going to read Mere Christianity and say, “Hey, this Lewis guy has indisputable ideas and thoughts. I should now become a Christian.” Mere Christianity is more for the Christian who wants to strengthen his or her weakened faith.

C.S. Lewis claims to have been an atheist and became a Christian later in life. The truth is he was a Christian, he let it go, became interested in mythology and the occult, and then returned to Christianity later in life (Source).

Mere Christianity is an argument from morality and how it pointed him toward Jesus better than other arguments for morality. The book is a word jungle through Lewis’ thoughts. They appear more like insane ramblings than coherent ideas. Lewis is like reading William Lane Craig. If you read him and call him a bullshit artist to his fans, they will write you off.

Perhaps my problem is that I never read The Problem of Pain.

What good is C.S. Lewis? 

I would like to remind you, dear reader, that the average Christian is constantly battling their level of belief or interest level in being a Christian. At any time, if you ask a believer, and they are honest, he or she will tell you, “Yes, right now, I couldn’t have more faith. Jesus is awesome!” Or they might say, “You know what, I should probably go to church a little more and I haven’t been reading my bible as I should. My prayer life needs work.” Their metaphorical tail is between their legs.

Many see secular life as temptations, and when they do less bible study and church activities, their levels of guilt increase. It’s a nagging guilt, that is often revitalized within an emotional appeal of a church service or bible study, sometimes called an altar call.

If these religious ebbs and flows didn’t exist, the altar call in any its many faces, wouldn’t be effective. An altar call is an emotional appeal to a believer’s mental status. And despite that no other person would feel guilty for doing normal, fun activities in life; the church has cornered the market on making normal feel wrong.

A person’s prayer life wanes often because one-way conversations get old. It’s no wonder that believers trade prayer for secular reality, but it’s bizarre that religious traditions can cause guilt for it.

Mere Christianity had the opposite effect

C.S. Lewis helped convince me to let go of religion. When I read Mere Christianity, I kept thinking, “If this is the best we’ve got, we’re in trouble.”

Reading Lewis encouraged me to research what the opposition was saying. And not from the minds of Christian leaders, but from the horses’ mouths themselves.

And you know what I found?

Plain speech. I didn’t find any of the convoluted diatribes with mind-numbingly verbose pages. I found strongly cited research with direct language.

Direct language. Imagine that. Prominent atheists and non-believers weren’t speaking in constant metaphor or in comparisons with condescending tones. Okay, atheists often write in condescending tones, but they are direct condescension, as opposed to fellows like Mr. Lewis who hide behind a passive aggressive arrogance.

Atheists speak directly toward the topic. 

Take the quote from my “friend” above. It’s a perfect example. Within one statement, C.S. Lewis has established that god is the ultimate grandeur. There is nothing that anyone can do to diminish god’s greatness.

This is a common ideology in Christianity. God is great whether he is praised or not. God is the tree that fell in the forest. God is more than dark matter. While nothing can prove him; nothing can disprove him.

God is the ultimate double negative. Not proving him proves him. The more evidence against him is more evidence for him.

Do you see how it works? Smart right? Christianity’s job is to confuse you to believe. 

God is above understanding. He is more than amazing. How awesome. And in a passive aggressive, not-so-direct, but kinda, sorta direct way … Lewis connects thinking otherwise is the kind of lunacy that puts you in an asylum.

This, dear reader, is the believers’ way.

The believer is on a soapbox saying, “Hey, I have the answers to everything. The answer’s name is God, and he’s here right now! Believe me! If you don’t believe me … ” and then there’s an appeal to hell and heaven.

Blah blah blah. 

An atheist says, “Hey, we don’t know all the answers. Here’s the information we do have and we’re working on the rest. Yes, yes yes! The Big Bang seems difficult to understand, but here’s some ways to think about it. Oh, you don’t understand that? How about this explanation?” Etcetera, etcetera.

The religious answer is deadset. And if you question, the response is, “That’s lunacy.” And if you continue to question, the response is, “Well, ask God the details when you get to heaven.”

What a copout.

God could answer those questions, but he wants to lure you in with belief mechanisms. Faith is a trophy. It’s unimaginably odd. Anyone who says these things with a straight face has their bar for understanding set so low that ants would have a hard time passing under.

I am a lunatic

I responded to my “friend” because I wanted to challenge his perception of Lewis as a reputable source. I didn’t call him a lunatic. My purpose was to consider alternative thought. I merely wrote:

A person who takes C.S. Lewis seriously might reconsider his or her idea of what is respectable, academic and of sound mind.

Yes, there’s a holy tone in my voice. It’s a challenge.

Note: there is no name calling involved.

He responded with another condescending message that reinforced the lunacy title. He wrote:

A person of sound mind cannot afford not to take C.S. Lewis seriously.

Now he did it! He employed the double negative. I cannot afford not to take C.S. Lewis seriously. These are the kinds of statements I hear with family. They are what makes the Yeshua Fog™ so difficult to escape.

What’s great is this guy is an English teacher at Wesleyan Christian Academy, the school where I graduated from high school. His mother is one of the main reasons I studied English in college. His mother taught me how to avoid the double negative.

Do you see what he did? He painted himself an inferior user of the English language while trying to paint non belief as inferior.

His double negative negated him, and invalidated his position.

Chalk one up for the atheist English lover. 

Idea sets like my friend’s above, their perpetuation of ignorance and poor education are the reasons I blog often against belief. These are the reasons I adamantly oppose belief. My “friends” are so caught up in the belief mazes and the faith jungles of the Yeshua Fog, that they forget to wonder. They forget to dream.

They compromise their own love for supernatural “love.”

They forget to question whether talking to someone or something in the mind is not of sound mind.

I’m good with lunacy, if lunacy means my best friend is my wife, and not Jesus, who never responds.

It’s nauseating to hear believers say, “My first loves are Jesus and my wife/husband.”

What a racket.

I hate that my Christian friends think of non-belief as lunacy.

Hey, belief in the unseen is construed as lunacy.

Doesn’t that put us at a stalemate?

I guess you’ll have to ask god when you get to heaven.

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16 thoughts on “The battle of arrogance … I guess I’m a lunatic

  1. I read your post and find myself in disagreement. Though as a guy with a philosophy degree, I suspect my weakness with english will negate any truth in my position. Though, I guess I am not interested in a fruitless argument about whether Christians or atheists are bigger jerks or who has better answers or who is more closed minded. My thinking is that you are painting with too broad of a brush on this one. It is easy to assume that Christians are anti-intellectual and fail to give reasonable answers, then point to science and rationalism as a source of all answers and common sense. I would argue that some of what you are pinning on Christians is a bit of a stereotype that doesn’t pan out in the history of Western thought, which owes an enormous debt to the Christian worldview. Most “new” atheists simply scoff at the possibility, while pointing to science and proclaiming it the arbiter of all knowledge, while ignoring the fact that the modern scientific approach to the world is a product of Descartes’ work. Descartes was a Jesuit and a Christian apologist, who laid the philosophical foundations of modern science in the process of demonstrating God’s existence. Further, science has done a questionable job of answering questions about meaning in life or establishing any system of ethics that effectively curbs man’s inclination to be a jerk. Most atheists simply dismiss such suggestions because they are more interested in their stereotypes and arrogance than they are in the potential that Christians/Christianity has made a positive contribution to western civilization. In the end I guess its just easier to toss pithy little one liner insults at each other. I’m fresh out and my copy of Mere Christianity is in the other room, so i’ll leave it at that.

    1. Thanks for your comment.

      I have to almost stop at where you wrote “… and then point to science and rationalism as a source of all the answers.”

      My point is that science does not have all the answers and doesn’t claim to.

      I think you read what you wanted to read, and then let your idea of what you think I wrote take you through your response.

      I don’t mind you saying that I made a broad brush stroke. It is a broad stroke. That’s hardly a criticism.

      If Descartes demonstrated God’s existence, why are you involving yourself in this conversation? You’ve won in a thin stroke of genius understanding that we idiots obviously can’t understand.

      You’re work is done. Congrats!

      1. I believe I said that “most new atheists”, not you in particular. My larger point, which I failed to get across effectively, was that arrogance cuts both ways. I got that you are not acknowledging science etc as the source of all answers. However, as a Christian I frequently hear Christianity accused of arrogance and intellectual dishonesty. My point regarding Descartes was not that “you ought to believe because of him.” Rather that Christianity has contributed to western thought in ways that are seldom acknowledged in modern discourse. I wasn’t trying to argue that you ought to believe, merely pointing out that its an overly simple accusation to say that Christianity offers no real answers. It was not my intent to condescend. I wanted to point out that the broad brush ignores contributions and merit in the other camp. I would argue that Christians are just as guilty of this one.

      2. Wouldn’t it help to write “most new atheists” if that’s what you wanted to write?

        You didn’t write “most new atheists” until further down.

        Your entire response is attempting to clarify what you should have written in the first time.

        Whatever the case, thanks for not arguing. You do that really well.

    2. Did I miss the “How To Be Passive Aggressive” classes in Church? Maybe they were on Friday mornings, right between Harp and Bowl and Sunday Service? I’m not sure…..

      It is so nice of you, Erik, to come to this blog and misrepresent a blog post to pander to your preformed misconceptions.

      I don’t think that Jeremy was seriously arguing that we ought to discount a whole idea based on an abuse of English, maybe I’m wrong. At least I’ve got about 200 words following that statement from which to figure it out.

      I’ll easily pick apart the rest of your non-topical complaints if you would like, or you can just chock up this experience to “some atheists actually read books…shit” and move right along.

      1. My intent was not passive aggressive. I think what you read as passive aggressive was more an attempt at levity. I suppose a failed one. I am aware that he was doing the same with his grammar remark. I suppose its easy to misread because there is so much animosity between the Christian worldview and the atheist one. If you feel the need to nit pick that is your concern, but it would miss the larger point. Which, though poorly communicated, was that in speaking in an overly general matter regarding Christian intellectualism the merits thereof fall to the wayside.

  2. If we assume that God is the source of all material around us (something an atheist would not possibly entertain) then no amount of denying Him would make Him (and by Him I mean the observable) disappear.
    That seems, to me, to be a huge assumption- one that I could found a religion on. (Did I just give away the trick?)

    But what if the observer is the problem?
    What if it isn’t just a case of a stimulus, but also an observation- a false attribution?

    What if that lunatic does think he has turned off the sun- because as he scribbled the word “darkness” on the wall of his cell he, without noticing, flicked a light switch in his windowless cell?
    What if those other lunatics, on their knees, worshiping the Great and Unending Light of the Sun, never probe their surroundings because they are happily staring at a light bulb- never realizing that there is knowledge at their fingertips?
    What if the “sun” can be put out, because the sun was never there to begin with? What if the light could be probed, understood, and harnessed?

    By not accepting that the light is from some distant misunderstood, unchanging and unseen force, our “lunatic” decides to try a simple experiment, and by fumbling around his environment, he gets one step closer to sanity- one step closer to reality.

    The analogy (and my assessment of it) are fallacious, because we are talking about a material, observable thing (a Sun, a light bulb) and someone (not I) has conflated the thing with an unobservable explanation for material, observable things. The assumption is the trick, that we can attribute the seen to the unseen without any evidence.
    That, my friends, is how you start a religion….

    1. Paul!

      Thanks for your comment. I was sitting here with Tina and it suddenly it hit me who the Paul might have been behind his comment.

      Cheers!

      Jeremy

  3. Back the fun bus the fuck up.

    Life has meaning that is attributed to it from outside sources other than our own subjective experiences? When did this happen? Why do we need something other than our own opinions to find meaning for our lives or for life itself?

    Who cares how scientific methodology got started, has anyone come up with a better way of asking the important questions (aside from mumbling to gods)? Isn’t saying “oh, some Christian way back when came up with this, shouldn’t you be ashamed of using it?” irrelevant considering that major discoveries of the past were all made by people who believed odd/crazy things (ancient Greeks found out that the Earth was round, after all)?

    What what, the ancient Greeks and Romans had no effect on our culture and laws? What is this republic thing we’re so in love with? Roman senates?

    And considering that the ancient Romans allowed others to worship as they pleased (for the most part, there were exceptions as always), whereas Christians for the longest time kept other religions down forcefully within the bounds of Christendom, isn’t freedom of religion in western culture kinda un-Christian (those first three commandments Christians are supposed to follow…what a bitch!)?

  4. And blasphemy is freedom of speech, isn’t it? That’s decided un-Christian, considering what Christians did to blasphemers from the fall of the Roman Empire until the last century.

      1. You know me and my Texan terms of endearment.
        Yeah, Narnia is pretty great, though admittedly, it was much more powerful when I was a Christian.
        Still a good time though, you lovable bunch of Marshwiggles.

      2. I read only three of the Narnia books. Our teachers used to put the cartoon for The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe on the TVs during slow days at school.

        In my mind, it was a great animation.

        One of the books on my young adult bookshelf was Screwtape Letters.

        I have to say that I didn’t enjoy reading until my last year of high school. I wish I would have liked reading sooner. I blame everyone else for my shortcomings, though. You’re probably to blame as well.

  5. I hate taking quotes out of context. It’s not really what Lewis intended; he was making a point in the text. It’s ill-considered to quote without considering the different implications to the new application. You aren’t a lunatic (which was a hyperbole to represent a possible extreme, I suppose). C.S. Lewis does not appeal to everyone, obviously. I too found Mere Christianity NOT to be the best Christian Apologetic. I don’t know what is. Maybe for some, not any. But there’s always room for intelligent, respectful communication of ideas.

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