Monday, October 22, 2007

The Fool Hath Said: Part 1

I found this review of C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity done by an atheist who calls himself "the Fool". Naturally curious as to what an atheist would say to the words of a former atheist, I decided to take a peak. After reading his (I'm assuming it's a "he") somewhat short review of C.S. Lewis' book, I give my review of the review:

Fool's assertion #1: Lewis was never a true atheist. "The Fool doubts that Lewis ever was a convinced and dedicated agnostic or atheist."
Fool's reasoning for assertion #1:
  1. Lewis' atheism was immature. "It is true that while still a young man, he professed to have no religion and maintained that 'All religions, that is all mythologies, to give them their proper name, are merely man's own invention - Christ as much as Loki.' (C.S. Lewis, A Biography , p. 48), but the tone of his objection to religions seems more the schoolboy realization of religious errors and inconsistencies than that of a mature thinker who has considered the atheist or agnostic positions extensively and sympathetically and who accepts the inevitability of one or the other of both positions."
  2. Lewis showed a sympathy for religious thought through his love of mythology. "As a youth he had an apparent fascination with elaborate systems of mythology, and his later fiction, the Narnia saga and stories of the planets, is filled with poetic symbols of power and morality."
  3. Sympathy can easily leads to concession. "It is a small step from contemplating a deity to bowing before it."
  4. Therefore, if Lewis had been a mature atheist, he would never have conceded. "In one account of his conversion, he said, 'In 1929 I gave in and admitted that God is God.' Had Lewis been a comfortable atheist or committed agnostic, he would not have had anything to 'give in' to."
Vowell's movement for assertion #1: Far be it for me to take exception for bold statements, and it should be recognized that the Fool did proceed to explain (in a manner) why he made his assertion. Nevertheless, the Fool begins by questioning Lewis' integrity, and is assuming that he was either dishonest or ignorant about himself.
Vowell's movement for the reasoning of assertion #1:
  1. It needs to be stated up front that this reasoning is a huge assumption, not a fact. Furthermore, his example for proving his immaturity is (at best) an opinion, and (at worst) a ridiculous reading. When you hear Lewis' statement, "All religions, that is all mythologies, to give them their proper name, are merely man's own invention - Christ as much as Loki," does that seem like an immature or mature statement, the words of an immature or mature thinker? Would you see a child (i.e., "schoolboy") saying such a thing and understanding it? Would you see a child connect mythology with religion on any level, not just "their proper name"? Would you see a child even know who "Loki" is, or how Loki can be compared to Christ? The Fool is assuming a lot about what is an immature thought and an immature thinker (note: we can correctly assume that the Fool sees Lewis' statement as an immature thought because he juxtaposed and contrasted such thinking with the phrase "a mature thinker").
  2. The Fool is making another assumption here, viz., that fascination equals sympathy. One can be quite fascinated with something and still conclude it's rubbish. One's aesthetic taste does not necessarily determine one's logical conclusion. (I love Catholic art, but I am not a Catholic).
  3. Another huge assumption, viz., sympathy leads to concession. I may feel sympathy for a crying child and still not concede to him eating dessert before dinner. In addition, there is another assumption made here, i.e., that there is "a small step" between sympathy and concession. I may have sympathy to Marx's ideas on economy or Derrida's ideas on language, but it in no way follows that I am anywhere near agreeing with them. In between sympathy and concession are the monstrous steps of logic, reason, inquiry, and (in the case of religion) faith. Other things can come in between as well, such as cultural, social, political, and historical elements (e.g., does it necessarily follow that a Muslim who has sympathy and/or a fascination with Judaism is one small step away from conceding to their beliefs?).
  4. That Lewis was not a mature atheist is nothing more than another opinionated assumption. That if Lewis was a mature atheist he would not have conceded to religion is yet another opinionated assumption. See this for further review and inquiry on whether or not "mature" atheist can concede to religion. The Fool is making assumptions about not only Lewis, but also atheist in general.
As a side note, I would say that if I had to pick, I'd prefer to be a "committed agnostic" as opposed to a "comfortable atheist." If an atheist is "comfortable," then he has stopped thinking. If an agnostic is "committed," then he never stops seeking and asking. Thus, if Lewis was a "comfortable atheist," of course he would never "give in"; he would have gone intellectually cold on the issue a long time ago. In addition, it does not follow at all that a "committed agnostic" would never reach the same conclusion that Lewis did (i.e., "God is God."). The Fool seems to be assuming that an agnostic is one who ceaselessly questions without seeking for an answer, a direct contradiction to how he later describes agnostics: "...[one who] does not want to come to any conclusions without adequate evidence..."