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Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, an illustration of divisive religion

February 5, 2013

Mere Christianity Book Image“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” C.S.Lewis, Mere Christianity

An Example of Divisive Relgion

This quote, taken from Mere Christianity by C.S.Lewis, typifies for me how religion can be divisive. Ever since reading that book. A book with many valuable insights. This statement of his has concerned me greatly and played on my mind. To try and force people into polarized opinions on a subject like this, on spurious logical grounds, is the making of a very divisive belief system. If I say Jesus was a great moral teacher, and remain agnostic about the claims to godhood, many of which were attributed to him by the people around him not by himself, then what I am saying is I find what this person did in some ways an interesting example to follow and to learn from. It is not take it or leave it. I can glean and pick up on moral insights from any source I like, as we all can, without being pressured into divisive and polarizing belief systems.

If Jesus was just a man, was he a mad man as C.S. Lewis suggests? Raised on the Jewish prophecies of a chosen one to come. Raised on the prophecies of a new king to rule over Israel for all time. We know that Jesus was a child prodigy from the gospels we hear he wowed the elders in the temple with his knowledge at a young age. He probably consumed all of these prophecies of his forefathers. That he would come to internalize them and see it as his destiny to fulfill them, when so many people around him came to turn to him for help, does not seem mad to me. It seems like a great and poignant story of human compassion trying to overcome all the odds stacked against it. Of a faith in humanity and in the belief of a better world to come. Many of us can appreciate this kind of compassion.

I do not see why we should thereby need get drawn into divisive religious claims and debates. It is  dangerous practice to state claims in such dogmatic, polarizing terms. Just because C.S. Lewis makes it look like a logical argument with an excluded middle, where you must choose one side, as a way to give it authority as a statement, does not mean that this is in fact the case. Any appeal to logic in such matters of belief and faith is for me flawed and can never achieve its aim of getting people to believe something. It can only achieve a grudging acknowledgment, turn people off to what you are saying, or worst of all push people to the other extreme.

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From → Philosophy, Writing

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