Mere Christianity, Book Two, Chapter 1: “The Rival Concepts of God”

Mere Christianity Leaders’ notes:

Christianity does NOT believe that all other religions are wrong “through and through.”

  • Christians “are free to think that all [other] religions, even the queerest ones, contain at least some hint of the truth.
  • Just as in a math problem, all answers that are not the correct answer are equally wrong, but some are closer to the true answer than others.
  • Two Groups:
    • Those that believe in [a/some] god (the majority by a vast margin):
      • Pantheism
        • Hindus, New Age
        • God is nature. Nature is god. If the universe ceased to exist, god would go out of existence.
        • No “good” or “evil.” Spiritual maturity shows no distinction, but that “all is god.”
      • [Polytheism – not discussed by Lewis. Greeks, Romans, Mormons, etc. Some dualistic religions.]
      • Monotheism
        • Christians, Jews, Muslims.
        • One God, separate and apart from the universe who created the universe
        • “In” the universe “like” a painter “puts a lot of himself into” a painting.
        • Definitely good and hates evil.
    • Those that do not believe in any god (a tiny, but vocal minority):
      • Atheism
        • No god.
        • The atheist must believe that all religions are wrong about the existence of any god.
        • Problems:
          • Calls the universe “cruel”
          • Calls all religion “bad”
          • Has no basis for “cruel,” “wrong,” or “bad” because of his dismissal of any ultimate good by which to compare.
  • Lewis says, of when he was an atheist,

    “My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such violent reaction against it? A man feels wet when he falls into water, because man is not a water animal: a fish would not feel wet. Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too – for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist – in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless – I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality – namely my idea of justice – was full of sense. Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. 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.”

[[ Next: Mere Christianity, Book Two, Chapter 2: “The Invasion” ]]

Parent: Mere Christianity: Leaders’ Notes Series

[[ Prev: Mere Christianity, Book One – “Right and Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe” (chapters 1-5) ]]

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