A few days ago I posted a CS Lewis quote that I titled,” C. S. Lewis on Atheism.” For me it simply seemed to be a typical wordsmith type quote-clever language and deadly logic. Something quite surprising happened. That quote had more reads than anything else I had ever blogged, overcoming my previous highest day, ” When God Dies.” Was there a connection? I believe so. Many internet viewers are very interested in atheism and skepticism. That would indicate a pattern in our culture.
We live in a time of skeptics and doubters. The popularity of doubting God is at all-time high. From 2007 -2012 the number of non-religious Americans grew from 15% to 20%. This increase is by far the largest increase in any five year period. That, as well as the rise of people that called themselves agnostics and doubters, causes these types of blog entries to have many readers. Why are we headed in this direction?
America is becoming highly secularized – There is not one easy answer to our rapidly increasing secularism. We are far more diverse than ever before. In any given community there are people from various parts of the world, and they practice many faith traditions. Our diversity, instead of allowing us to celebrate our identity, has caused us to lose our identity in the name of being fair and accepting. The easy answer is for all to be “secular” and non-offensive.
People are just busy – The demand of success and productivity seems to leave little room for God or religion. Society demands that we be productive, do our best, and produce and spend at ever increasing rates. That means success is king, and it is measured with the bottom line. Workers are expected to put in long hours and give all to the job. That leaves very little for God or religious practice.
Churches have hardened attitudes – Our world is crying for mercy and grace and the church just seems to demand more. With all the other pressures people have in our culture, it would be nice if churches offered a place of refuge and comfort. On the contrary, the church has become as success oriented and demanding as the workplace. The church needs to offer help and understanding instead of rules and judgment.
Perhaps if you find yourself reading this because you are interested in atheism or skepticism, you might consider that God meant for His church to be a place of peace. Let us all take the advice of Mahatma Gandhi who said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” As a believer or a skeptic, just give such an idea a chance. Become that change you want to see in the church
C S Lewis
“Supposing there was no intelligence behind the universe, no creative mind. In that case, nobody designed my brain for the purpose of thinking. It is merely that when the atoms inside my skull happen, for physical or chemical reasons, to arrange themselves in a certain way, this gives me, as a by-product, the sensation I call thought. But, if so, how can I trust my own thinking to be true? It’s like upsetting a milk jug and hoping that the way it splashes itself will give you a map of London. But if I can’t trust my own thinking, of course I can’t trust the arguments leading to Atheism, and therefore have no reason to be an Atheist, or anything else. Unless I believe in God, I cannot believe in thought: so I can never use thought to disbelieve in God.”
—— C S Lewis
- No Atheists in a Foxhole (maryscatholicgarden.com)
C. S. Lewis
In The Problem of Pain, published in 1940, Lewis offered the reader this overly humble confession: “You would like to know how I behave when I am experiencing pain, not writing books about it. You need not guess for I will tell you; I am a great coward.” In a letter to his brother Warnie, written while working on the book, he claimed: “If you are writing a book about pain and then you get some actual pain […] it does not either, as the cynic would expect, blow the doctrine to bits, nor, as a Christian would hope, turn into practice, but remains quite unconnected and irrelevant, just as any other bit of actual life does when you are reading or writing.” Neither the confession nor the claim stood the test of time. In 1961, Lewis wrote about pain again, this time about his own. In A Grief Observed he inadvertently satisfied the alleged curiosity of his readers. But he did not come across as a coward; nor did his firm grasp of “a theory of suffering” prove altogether irrelevant. True, his faith in God was challenged; he uttered blasphemies; he doubted God’s existence; worst of all, he went through the very objections to God’s goodness which he had refuted in The Problem of Pain: they all seemed valid to a disabled mind, under the sway of unbearable pain. But then, reason returned: “Why do I make room in my mind for such filth and nonsense? Do I hope that if feeling disguises itself as thought I shall feel less?”
When feeling disguises itself as thought, all nonsense is possible. Nowhere is it truer than in the problem of pain. Yet, from the Christian perspective, anything that can reasonably be said about suffering is only a preamble to the Mystery of the Cross. Lewis’s solution to “the problem of pain” prepares the intellect for a dive into the Mystery.
“I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.”
It seems as though the most elusive truth of religion is that it is not really an opiate, but a sometimes uncomfortable commitment. This is the truth that Lewis gives us in his words. Think about it!