My friend and brother in Kryasst, Brother Ryan, recently shared this glorious article with me, and I would consider it a blessing to offer a response to it as the Spook of Kryasst who is also somehow magically Him magically commands and inspires it.
I started to read C.S. Lewis, whose Chronicles of Narnia I had enjoyed as a child. I did so for three reasons. First because he had himself been an atheist, and might therefore be able to answer my many questions and objections. Secondly, because I respected his intellect. Here was a man who had graduated from Oxford with Triple First Class Honours in Classics, Philosophy and English, and had then become one of the greatest British academics of his generation. If he could have made the journey from atheism to Christianity, perhaps I was mistaken in thinking that you had to bury your brain in order to believe in God. Furthermore, and this was my third reason for studying his writings, you couldn’t accuse C.S. Lewis of being glib or shallow about suffering. Having lost his mother at the age of 10, been unhappy at school, and then gone on to experience the horrors of trench warfare during the First World War, he was obviously only too aware of the problem of evil. His discussion of these issues would surely, I thought, be illuminating.
This proved indeed to be the case. As I read Lewis’s three most important books, Mere Christianity, Miracles and The Problem of Pain, I found myself not only following in the footsteps of a person who had wrestled with all the issues that were troubling me; I was also discovering intelligent and convincing answers to all my doubts.
I too have enjoyed the Chronicles of Narnia. I enjoy the stories even now as a 48-year old adult. Given what we now know about our universe, our world, the Bible, and the history of the Christian religion, you do have to bury your brain in order to believe in the Christian religion. Many intelligent people do believe in some sort of God, but the number of them that are fundamentalist Christian believers is dwindling rapidly. Even in this extremely religious country (America), people are leaving religion behind in droves and the younger generation just now reaching adulthood generally has little interest in organized religion.
The problem of evil is a huge one for Christians, and the writings of C.S. Lewis on the subject have been responded to thoroughly. I myself am not familiar enough with Lewis’s writings or the responses of skeptics to comment intelligently on the subject, but these relevant links offer some food for thought:
Since my own father had died when I was only 17, I found what Lewis had to say about the problem of evil particularly pertinent. As he rightly points out, we cannot complain about the existence of evil and suffering, and use that as an argument against the existence and goodness of God, unless we first believe that the standard of right and wrong by which we judge and condemn our world is an objective one. Our sense of justice and fairness has to be a true insight into reality, before we can we be justified in getting angry and indignant about all the pain and injustice we see around us. But if this is the case, what explains the existence within us of this inner moral code or compass? According to atheism, human beings and all their thinking processes are simply the accidental by-products of the mindless movement of atoms within an undesigned, random, and purposeless universe. How then can we attach any ultimate meaning or truth to our thoughts and feelings, including our sense of justice? They have, on this view, no more validity or significance than the sound of the wind in the trees.
Atheism makes no such claims about such things. Atheism, quite simply, is the lack of belief in a god or gods. It is nothing more and nothing less than that. Atheism has no creeds or rituals or anything else that would define it as a belief system, philosophy, or religion. It is the religious who claim that we possess an inner moral code or compass, yet to my knowledge, they have never been able to prove that such a thing exists. I am by no means an expert on issues involving morality or ethics or their origins, but it seems to me that human beings derive their sense of morality from the society in which they live. There is no such thing as a divine moral code or compass and no such thing as universal morality. Different societies always have and always will have differing moral values. Indeed, if we all possess a divine moral law written on our hearts, how do theists explain murderers, psychopaths, and sociopaths? How do they explain pedophiles? What happened the moral compass they were supposedly born with? Claims that such actions are caused by “sin” explains nothing because sin is a religious concept with no discernible basis in reality.
And, then, we have the problem of the character of God. Christians such as C.S. Lewis and, of course, millions of others, firmly believe that the God of the Bible possesses a flawless, perfectly good and perfectly moral character. But, the Bible itself clearly refutes this notion of the character of its God from very early on in the book. The two contradictory creation myths presented in the first three chapters of the Book of Genesis are absurd, but within the story, which involves two obviously mythical people and a talking snake, magic trees and magic fruit, the character of God is clearly brought into question. Within the pages of the Old Testament, God is clearly depicted as a mass murdering, genocidal maniac, and his character doesn’t improve much in the New Testament. In Acts 5, God murders two people simply for lying to him about their finances. And, if the book of Revelation were to come true in our modern day world, billions of non-Christian people would die horrible deaths and then be sent to hell to be tormented endlessly without any hope of reprieve, forever. For more on the character of the Biblical God:
Human beings derive their sense of justice from the moral values present within the society in which they are living. And even within individual societies, ideas on what constitutes justice in a given situation can differ greatly among good, thinking people. Our thoughts and feelings certainly have more value and significance than wind blowing through trees. In my opinion, love and our ability to express it to others that we care about and to the whole world with this wonderful technology that we call the Internet, has tremendous value! Certainly much more value than wind mindlessly blowing through trees…
But if, on the other hand, we refuse to accept this conclusion, insisting, for example, that it is always and objectively true that you should love your neighbour and you shouldn’t torture children, we are led away from atheism. The presence within us of an objective moral law ‘written on our hearts’ points instead to the existence of an eternal Goodness and Intelligence which created us and our universe, enables us to think, and is the eternal source of our best and deepest values. In other words, Lewis argues, atheism cuts its own throat philosophically, because it discredits all human reasoning, including the arguments for atheism. “If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be a word without meaning.” (Mere Christianity). Only by acknowledging that there is a God, he concludes, can we hope to make sense of human existence, the world we inhabit, and, paradoxically, the problem of evil.
Morality may or may not be objective and it may or may not be relative. And, it may depend on the situation in question. There is plenty of debate on the subject among philosophers, atheists and religious believers, and average everyday people. The Bible does speak of loving your neighbor as yourself, but it also speaks of and condones child abuse. Psalm 137:9, for example, makes it clear that happiness comes from bashing the head of infants against rocks. It also states that disobedient children should be stoned to death. For more of what the Bible says concerning how children should be treated see:
I have already addressed the issue of a supposed moral code within us and the character of God as depicted in the Bible, but atheism cannot and does not “cut its own throat”. Atheism is not a philosophy, and it certainly does not discredit human reasoning. Human reasoning, along with taking the time and making the effort to actually read the Bible in its entirety without religious blinders on, invariably leads one to the conclusion of atheism! Again, atheism is, quite simply, a lack of belief in a god or gods. It says absolutely nothing about morality, ethics, or philosophy in and of itself.
Evil and the problem of it in the world is a human concept, and it does not require God or religious concepts or answers to explain it and why it exists. Science has thoroughly explained where we came from and how we got here, and it has absolutely nothing to do with obviously mythical people, talking animals, or magic trees or magic fruit. Human beings evolved over the course of a couple of billion years through the process known as biological evolution. Humans have existed in their current form for a few hundred thousand years, I believe, and the sciences of psychology and sociology and others, I am sure, adequately explain human beings and their behavior without reference to a divine being or beings or religious concepts.
Atheism does not equate to there not being any meaning or purpose to life. There may not be a divine meaning or purpose to life, but life without belief in a god or gods can have plenty of meaning and purpose. We ourselves, by our thoughts and actions, give life meaning and purpose. And, in my opinion, living a life of service to others give tremendous meaning and purpose to life!
But if God is goodness personified and therefore, as our Creator, the divine source of all that is good, true and beautiful, why is there so much evil and suffering? What has gone wrong? The Christian answer to that question, Lewis argues, is that our world has been damaged by rebellion against God. An originally good creation has been spoiled.
God, as he is revealed the Bible, is hardly the personification of goodness, as has already been addressed. The social sciences offer pretty good answers to the questions of evil and suffering the world, and the Christian answer to their origins is absurd. A ridiculous myth involving two obviously mythical people, a talking snake, and magic trees and magic fruit that takes place in an obviously mythical location? Give me a break…
If you find this hard to believe, consider the evidence. Look at all the many examples there are of benevolent and intricate design in Nature: the nest-building instincts of birds, the incredibly complex structure of the human brain, the navigational systems of bats and whales, the biological software of DNA in every cell of our bodies, sexual reproduction, etc. All this exists side by side with harmful viruses, disease and death. Can its obvious implications be ignored? Consider, too, the significance of the fact that human beings possess an inner moral code they cannot get rid of yet seem unable to obey. Does all this not suggest some process of deterioration from hopeful beginnings? Is it not also significant that many ancient peoples and cultures, including the Chinese, have some tradition of a lost Paradise in the dim and distant past?
What evidence?? There is no evidence of divine design in nature. Life in all of its incredible and beautiful diversity on this planet can be and has been beautifully explained by the scientific theory of biological evolution. The nest-building instinct of birds and the navigational systems in bats and whales has perfectly valid and understandable origins through the process of biological evolution, not through divine design. And what of the many examples of bad design in nature, if indeed a God did design it?
Many cultures do indeed have many myths of an ancient paradise lost, but so what? These are just myths and nothing more…the same goes for the many creation myths of many different cultures. They are clearly just myths, and nothing more.
Speaking for myself, I find this evidence convincing, but what has really persuaded me of the truthfulness of the Christian explanation of the origin of evil and suffering, is its inherent philosophical credibility. As C.S. Lewis points out, true love is a voluntary union of free individuals giving themselves to each other for their mutual delight and for the mutual enjoyment of life and all its blessings. Consequently, when God created the first human beings, He gave them the gift of free will. He did so in order that they and all their descendants might share His life, His love, His joy and His beauty, with Him and with each other. As part of this gift of free will, God also gave human beings creativity and intelligence in order that they might be good stewards of the world in which he had placed them, sharing its joys and adding to its wonders and beauty. But the problem with free will is that it can be corrupted and misused. Our inner freedom to relate to God and other people in harmony and love, can be turned on its head. We can choose, instead, to reject our Creator and live only for ourselves. And that, sadly, is what has happened to the human race. It is what lies behind the famous biblical story of the ‘Fall of Man’ in the Garden of Eden: our ancestors disobeyed God, with deadly consequences for themselves and posterity.
You find a ridiculous ancient myth to be a convincing explanation for the origin of evil and suffering? As I have already mentioned, it’s all about a talking snake, two obviously mythical people, magic trees and magic fruit! And, it occurs in an obviously mythical location! This is NOT an explanation for the origin of evil and suffering in the world that is acceptable to rational, thinking people living in a scientifically advanced and literate and educated 21st Century society! Christianity has no inherent philosophical credibility whatsoever, and anyone who is familiar with the contents of the Bible and the history of the Christian religion knows that.
Current scientific research on the issue of free will has revealed that it most likely does not exist, but it is an illusion that we humans need, so we will likely hang on to it for a while yet. There is no Creator to reject or to disobey, and most people in this world thankfully do not live only for themselves. Most people in this world are good and caring people who live not just for themselves and their families, but in the service of others, in some capacity.
This is becoming a rather lengthy response, so I will continue with it in a separate post or two… Glory!