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Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

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Quarrelling means trying to show that the other man is in the wrong. And there would be no sense in trying to do that unless you and he had some sort of agreement as to what Right and Wrong are;

These, then, are the two points I wanted to make. First, that human beings, all over the earth, have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way, and cannot really get rid of it. Secondly, that they do not in fact behave in that way. They know the Law of Nature; they break it. These two facts are the foundation of all clear thinking about ourselves and the universe we live in.

And that is where I do stop. Men ought to be unselfish, ought to be fair. Not that men are unselfish, nor that they like being unselfish, but that they ought to be.

It begins to look as if we shall have to admit that there is more than one kind of reality; that, in this particular case, there is something above and beyond the ordinary facts of men's behaviour, and yet quite definitely real--a real law, which none of us made, but which we find pressing on us.

After all, it is really a matter of common sense. Supposing science ever became somplete so that it knew every single thing in the whole universe. Is it not plain that the questions, 'Why is there a universe?' 'Why does it go on as it does?' 'Has it any meaning?' would remain jsut as they were?

I find that I do not exist on my own, that I am under a low; that somebody or something wants me to behave in a certain way.

All I have got to is a Something which is directing the universe, and which appears in me as a law urging me to do rught and making me feel responsible and uncomfortable when I do wrong. I think we have to assume it is more like a mind than it is like anything else we know--because after all the only other thing we know is matter and you can hardly imagine a bit of matter giving instructions.

And I think if you look at the present state of the world, it is pretty plain that humanity has been making some big mistake.

It is after you have realized that there is a real MOral Law, and a Power behind the law, and that you have broken that law and put yoursel fwrong with that Power--it is after all this, and not a moment sooner, that Christianity begins to talk.

When I was an atheist I had to try to persuade myself that most of the human race have always been wrong about the question that mattered to them most; when I became a Christian I was able to take a more liberal view.

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 enver know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.

For instance, when you have grasped that the aerth and the other planets all go round the sun, you would naturally expect that all the planets were made to match--all at equal distances from each other, say, or distances that regularly increased, or all the same size, or else getting bigger or smaller as yo go farther from the sun. In fact, you find no rhyme or reason (that we can see) about either the sizes or the distances; and some of them have one moon, one has four, one has two, some have none, and one has a ring.

He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God. God has landed on this enemy-occupied world in human form.

The central Christian belief is that Christ's death has somehow put us right with God and given us a fresh start.

We are told that Christ was killed for us, that His death has washed out or sins, and that by dying He disabled death itself. That is the formula. That is Christianity. That is what has to be believed.

Laying down your arms, surrendering, saying you are sorry, realizing that you ahve been on the wrong track and getting ready to start life over again from the gorund floor--that is the only way out of a "hole." This process of surrender--this movement full speed astern--is what Christians call repentance.

God was 'The sort of person who is always snooping round to see if anyone is enjoying himself and then trying to stop it.'

Temperance reffered not specially to drink, but to all pleasures; and it meant not abstaining, but going the right length and no further.

Now what psychoanalysis undertakes to do is to remove the abnormal feelings, that is, to give the man beter raw material for his acts of choice: morality is concerned with the acts of choice themselves.

But if a healthy young man indulged his sexual appetite whenever he felt incline, and if each act prduced a baby, then in ten years he might easily populate a small village.

it means that you must not isolate that pleasure and try to get it by itself, any more than you ought to try to get the pleasures of taste without swallowing and digesting, by chewing things and spitting them out again.

I mean, they all regard divorce as something like cutting up a living body, as a kind of surgical operation. Some of them think the operation so violent that it cannot be done at all; others admit it as a desperate remedy in extremem cases. They are all agreed that it is more like having both your legs cut off than it is like dissolving a business partnership or even diserting a regiment.

This is, I think, one little part of what Christ meant by saying that a thing will not really live unless it first dies. It is simply no good tyring to keep any thrill: that is the very worst thing you can do. Let the thrill go--let it die away--go on through that period of death into the quieter interest and happiness that follow--and you will ifnd you are living in a world of new thrills all the time. But if you decide to mkae thirlls your regular diet and try to prolong them artificially, they will all get wekaer and weaker, and fewer and fewer, and you will be a bored, disillusioned man for the rest of your life.

This is what is meant in the Bible by loving him: wishing his good, not feeling fond of him nor saying he is nice when he is not.

(3) The Christian Way.--The Christian says, 'Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. if I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. I fnone of my earthy pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures wer enever meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life ot press on to that other country and help others to do the same.'

The battle is between faith and reason on the one side and emotion and imagination on the other.

The next [step] is to make sure that, if you have once accepted Christianity, then some of its main doctrines shall be deliberately held before your mind for some time every day. That is why daily prayers and religious reading and church-going are necessary parts of the christian life. We have to be continually reminded of what we believe.

If you devoted every moment of your whole life exclusively to His service you could not give Him anything that was not in a sense His own already.

'Work out your own salvation wiht fear and trembling'..'For it is God who worketh in you.'

For when you get down to it, is not the popular idea of Christianity simply this: that Jesus Christ was a great moral teacher and that if only we took his advice we might be able to extablish a better social order and avoid another war? Now, mind ou, that is quite true. But it twlls you much less than the whole truth about Christianity and it has no practical importance at all.

They say that Christ is the Son of God (whatever that means). They say that those who give Him their confidence can also become Sons of God (whatever that means). They say that His death saved us from our sins (whatever that means).

What God begets is God; jsut as what man begets is man. What Cod creates is not God; just as what man makes is not man. That is why men are not Sons of God in the sense that Christ is. They may be like God in certain ways, but they are not things of the same kind. They are more like statues or pictures of God.

If you are looking for something super-personal, something more than a person, then it is not a question of choosing betweein the Christian idea and the other ideas. The Christian idea is the only one on the market.

God is the thing to which he is praying--the goal he is trying to reach. God is also the thing inside him which is pushing him on--the motive power. God is also the road or bridge along which he is being pushed to that goal. So that the whole threefold life of the three-personal Being is actually going on in that ordinary little bedroom where an ordinary man is saying his prayers.

God can show HImself as He really is only to real men. And that means not simply to men who are individually good, but to men who are united together in a body, loving one another, helping one another, showing Him to one another. For that is what God meant humanity to be like; like players in one band, or organs in one body.

If you like to put it that way, He has all eternity in which to listen to the split second of prayer put up by a pilot as his plane crashes in flames.

But there is also a good kind, where the pretence leads up to the real thing.

The Christian way is different: harder, and easier. Christ says "Give me All. and I don't want so much or your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half-measures are any good. I don't want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down. I don't want to drill the tooth, or crown it, or stop it, but to have it out. Hand over the whole natural self, the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked--the whole outfit. I will give youa new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself: my own will shall become yours.


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