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C.S. Lewis On Atheism

When I was an atheist a Christian friend sent me several books by C.S. Lewis (1898 – 1963). Lewis was a great writer, as well as an academic, a philosopher, and lay theologian. I remember being impressed by the fact that my friend spent $60 or so bucks on books and shipped them to me. That, probably more than what I read, made an impact.

That said, Lewis was indeed influential. A friend posted the following quote from Lewis on Facebook that brought back memories. It’s also a great insight into the limits of reason, which so many cling to these days as the ultimate.

Lewis writes:

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.

My heart goes out to atheists. I know the journey. I know the struggles. I know the loneliness. I know what it’s like not to be understood. Atheists want the truth. They want it to be rational – I get this.

For me, ultimately, my own failures to be a decent human being, as well as the small acts of kindness from many Christians eventually broke down the walls of my reasoning.

I could see that my best thinking hurt my wife and family. My best thinking caused a lot of pain, despair, and turmoil. And although I could argue with Christians about their theology, I couldn’t argue when they brought our young family meals when our kids were born. I couldn’t argue with their theology when they just listened to me rant and rave. I couldn’t argue when they sent me books.

These Christian acts of kindess (good deeds) are powerful. They reflect a deep respect for human life. I’m listening to an audio series by John Ortberg entitled, Who Is This Man. Ortberg outlines Jesus’ influence that changed the world. In short, Christians helped those dying of the plague, and created what came to be the first hospitals. They turned the tide of infanticide. Even such iconic institutions as the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, Oxford, and Harvard owe their foundation to the influence of Jesus.

Christians were not the only ones (and they certainly screwed up a lot), and reason certainly helped put these things in action, but they were fueled by faith – by the Jesus Movement. There’s a short 10-minute clip below from Ortberg that describes this a bit more below. Enjoy.

Thanks for reading,
~ Ted Olson


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