Wednesday, March 23, 2011

God's Quality Control 5.0.4

Chapter 1.5

The first section of this book, comprising the first five chapters, is titled “Right and Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe.” In the first four chapters, Lewis has argued that our intuitions concerning good and bad, right and wrong, are evidence that behind everything we can detect via observation is an entity that is in some sense like a mind. In this, the closing chapter of the section, Lewis comes down hard with the Christian hammer.

As a prelude, he wastes our time trying to convince us that it would be foolish of us as a civilization to continue on the admittedly dismal path that we're on, and have been on ever since humans first began, unconsciously, of course, to rationalize their social intuitions into the monstrosity of coercive morality. He points out, in case any of us has missed the fact, that "humanity has been making some big mistake." I've mentioned it already in this series, but it's an important point that bears repeating: humanity is, in fact, making a big mistake. But the mistake is not that we're moving away from religion. In fact, our big mistake is only indirectly related to religion. Religion is merely a symptom of our big mistake, which is that the social framework in which most humans operate is coercive and judgmental. If you commit a crime, you must be, in fact, deserve to be, punished. We need to stop using our intuitions concerning the human condition and start using the excellent science that we've accumulated in recent centuries.

In closing the chapter, although Lewis is still very keen to convince us that he's not really presupposing the existence of Yahweh, he begins clearly to lay the foundation for Yahweh's twisted framework: if Lewis' god is good, then it must disapprove of most of what we do. Therefore, we have made ourselves its enemies, and we have no way of repairing the relationship. This is the basic message of Christianity; it seems rather disingenuous for Lewis to claim that he's not talking about Yahweh yet. Surprisingly, Lewis mentions an alternative framework: if this god is not good, then we're all screwed anyway. Of course, Christians and other Yahwists don't seem to recognize that their god is a liar, a torturer, and a murderer; they don't realize that if Yahweh is real, then we all are indeed screwed, including all the Yahwists.

Chapter 2.1

The second section of the book is entitled "What Christians Believe." In Chapter I, Lewis tells us, in a liberal Christian spirit, that a Christian does not "have to believe that all the other religions are simply wrong all through." This seems to be a bit of sugar-coating for what a Christian does have to believe, which Lewis describes just a bit further on: "where Christianity differs from other religions, Christianity is right and they are wrong." Either Lewis is trying to pull the wool over our eyes, or once again we're seeing a clear indication that he was not the towering thinker that so many believe him to have been.

Lewis drags out his straw-man again, presenting pure moral relativism as though there are serious thinkers who adhere to the idea that good and bad depend entirely on one's own perspective. We still hear this straw-man today; Christians don't seem to understand that treating a criminal for mental illness rather than punishing him with jail time is not an example of moral relativism. Lewis undermines his own point later on, presenting an argument that might be made by a pure moral relativist, along the lines that cancer and slums are acceptable when seen from the right perspective. He refers to such a view as "damned nonsense." But what about countless Christians who see cancer and slums and respond with some damned nonsense of their own like "God works in mysterious ways," or "God uses hardship to make us stronger." Once again I'm seeing this theme: Christians make a lot of claims about asuperstitionists, often tossing around straw-man arguments everywhere, but on close inspection it seems that the Christians are unconsciously describing themselves.

Lewis finishes the chapter by describing the brilliant, original thinking that went into his conversion: (1) "his argument against God" was based on the cruelty and injustice in the universe. It sounds to me like Lewis wasn't really an atheist, but a believer who was angry at his god. Many Christians seem to think that this is what it means to be an atheist. Again, they're really just describing their own, such as Mr. Lewis. (2) His next big thought was, "Wait, how do I know what cruelty and injustice are?" (3) it must be due to a god that instills us with a sense of kindness and justice (4) therefore, Jesus.

I'm starting to sense that it might be a waste of time to finish this book. Although Lewis has claimed that he's not necessarily talking about Yahweh, he seems to believe that he has already convinced us that Yahweh is real and Christianity is the way to go. I'll go a little further and see whether he has anything else to say that doesn't already presuppose that Christianity is true.

That's 5.0.4. Thanks for watching.

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