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4.5 out of 5
ISBN/ASIN : 0006280544
Manufacturer : Fount|
Release data : 01 December, 1997
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A selection of product reviews
A mixed bag
A great start, with an interesting first section focusing on human morality and how very different human societies have had very similar moral underpinnings. After this, the book is variable, with some interesting and convincing observations on human society, but some less than convincing passages with sweeping statements that do not seem to hold water. The final section on theology I had to omit as it just did not, as yet anyway, hold my interest.
The brief biography in the front of this volume describes Lewis as one of the greatest intellectuals of the twentieth century. That is not a conclusion that I would immediately come to having waded through "Mere Christianity".
Lewis clearly attempted to make his philosophy available to a wider audience than might reasonably be expected for a work of this type, which is a laudable aim. Unfortunately, he frequently comes across as no more than patronising, almost as though he were writing for children. To some extent he was a man of his time of course, and I am not a fan of revisionism in these cases.
Worse than that is the shocking paucity of credible, logical arguments to support his no doubt sincerely held beliefs. In general he resorts to baldly claiming that God is fact (on one occasion at least a capitalised "Fact" indeed!). Other vital planks are irrefutably true because the bible says so. QED apparently. Some of the rest of it he seems to have just conjured into existence himself, apparently spending considerable amounts of time second guessing why God does this, that or the other.
The "liar, lunatic or lord" theme (the famous 'trilemma') is fatuous in the extreme. It has no merit as an argument for belief, and to me only has impact if you are already a firm believer. In this case, you would be mortally shocked by the suggestion that JC could be liar or lunatic. If you are a rationalist, then your reaction to this will be "well obviously, just like every other self-proclaimed or posthumously annointed prophet, saviour and snake-oil salesman who ever lived!"
My particular favourite occurs in the chapter on Christian marriage, where he describes why the man should clearly be the head of the household. If you boil down his argument, it amounts to little more than a nicely dressed up version of "well it's obvious, innit?", or at best a Daily Mailesque "every right thinking person would agree ...". Even allowing for his awful but excusable early twentieth century Christian prejudices, his logic and reasoning is abysmal. See pages 113-114.
What annoyed me most was the constant belittling of common humanity. In Lewis' view of the world, we are all unworthy, sinful, hopeless, useless worms, fit only to grovel in the presence of our Lord, who we should all be terrified of.
Don't you ever think it is odd that almost all religions have terrible, angry gods, and that we poor humans are always sinners, failures, wretches doomed to eternal misery? That the only way we can redeem ourselves is by prostrating ourselves before whatever spiteful, vicious deity is in vogue in a given time or place? And that, rather conveniently, there is always a very human representative of the savage god around who can help you ... just so long as you do exactly as you are told.
Wouldn't religion be rather more fun if God was a laughing, joyful omnipotence, cheerfully welcoming you into heaven with a pat on the back and cold drink of your choice: "Welcome to the eternal party, I know it was a bit rough down there sometimes, sorry about that, some teething problems with free will. All sorted now. Sausage on a stick? Cheese straw?".
Evolution and the human desire for power are fascinating things.
I read, many years ago, Lewis' "The Problem of Pain", and struggled with exactly the same huge flaws, intellectual laziness and infuriating desire for self-humiliation that the author pours into this work.
"Mere Christianity" should certainly be read by believers and unbelievers alike. Thoughtful believers would, I sincerely hope, find much of Lewis' old-fashioned hair-shirt philosophising a wake-up call to how debilitating this kind of belief can be intellectually. Non-believers will yet again find a major work of religious apologia that fails utterly to deliver a single reason to move away from atheism.
This is probably one of Lewis's most famous and oft-quoted works, and for good reason. It is an honest and intelligent - not to mention brilliantly written - examination of the many facets of the Christian faith and human nature: the existence of and belief in God, the Trinity, faith, love, pride, morality etc. Although written during World War Two, the subjects explored still resonate powerfully with contemporary concerns.
I found the opening chapters particularly helpful in presenting a well-argued case for the rational foundations of Christianity, or at least belief in the existence of God. It offers a challenge to Christians to question the intellectual grounds for their faith, and the reassurance that sufficient answers can be found. Non-Christians looking to investigate the rational basis of Christianity, or of religion in general, will also find this an accessible and thought-provoking read.
The book is also an ideal place to start for anyone thinking to dip into the non-fiction works of C. S. Lewis. No book in my opinion gives the reader a better first taste of the prolific author's delicious prose, keen intellect and razor-sharp wit.
I cannot recommend this book more. For the Christian, for the non-Christian, and for the fan of `good books': this is a must-read!