I guess I had it coming that my one of my less-thought-out posts would be a topic for a cross blog discussion.
I think we can all agree that words have a range of meaning depending on the context in which they are used. It is not uncommon for words to be used as “terms of industry“, or, “shop talk” in which they have understandings which are outside of common usage in everyday conversation, but are within an acceptable range given the arena of discussion.
John believes I’ve overlooked this issue. Re-reading the post, I admit that I could have done a better job discussing my bigger picture frustrations. But I don’t think I’ve overlooked this issue at all. In fact, what he describes as “shop talk” is exactly what I was frustrated with.
In the original post I wrote about my friend, MexicanLove, describing freedom:
He said that with Jesus comes freedom from sin, freedom from evil, freedom from a bunch of other things (that I can’t remember). Additionally, this was not just freedom, but “true freedom”. While I am sure this made sense from his perspective, I had a difficult time understanding him, from my perspective.
I got that he was using his own special meaning for “freedom” that was consistent with his beliefs. But since it differed from what I understood as “freedom” based on a definition consistent with my beliefs, I had no clue what he was talking about.
John also writes:
Christians operate within their worldview. If you want to criticize Christian’s beliefs, you must criticize their beliefs as they are represented by Christians, refuting a caricature of Christian beliefs doesn’t actually refute anything.
Because I live in a town where the vast majority of people around me (including my wife and kids) are Christian, it’s less important to me to criticize Christian beliefs and more important to have an actual conversation where each of us genuinely understand what the other is saying. I get that Christians operate within their worldview. But I operate in my worldview. We all have different definitions and meanings for the same words, and it gets quite confusing.
It’s like when someone says “Science requires faith”. Well, it depends on what your definition of “faith” is. Or “Jesus is alive”. Well, it depends on what your definition of “alive” is.
John then provides several Biblical justifications for the special definitions of words that I listed in my post: forgiveness, love, alive, resurrection, good, and truth. I have a few quibbles with some of the theology he offers. Still, I completely admit that if I were to put on my Christian Perspectiscope, all of those definitions and justifications would be perfectly consistent and make perfect sense.
But since I don’t wear my Christianity Goggles 24/7 in my day to day life, these definitions don’t make sense to me.
I believe that when we use words in different situations, they should to point to similar and consistent things. When I point to a head of lettuce and a lime and say “these two items green”, you’ll understand what I’m saying and we all go home happy.
If I point to a head of lettuce and a brown skinned inexperienced baseball player in a blue uniform and say “these two items are green”, you may have an understanding of what I’m saying if you decode the second definition of green.
But if I point to a head of lettuce and a a cup of tomato soup and say “these two items green”, you won’t know what I’m talking about. I could be using some special definition of green that is consistent with my profession as a full time soupologist. But my use of green doesn’t mesh what is connoted or detonated in the English language.
Out of these three scenarios, I often feel like Christian language mostly looks like the third one (although occasionally the second one).
What is described as “loving” by god often looks nothing like what I consider loving under normal circumstances.
What is described as “forgiveness” often looks nothing like what I consider forgiveness in day to day human interactions.
What is described as “good” often doesn’t mesh with what I understand as good.
John’s entire post highlights this. I get that his explanations are consistent in the Christian worldview. I’ve heard all of these before from our Church pastor, my Church friends, and my Christian wife.
But I don’t live my life within the Christian worldview. I live within in my own worldview.
And my frustration, that inspired that original post, is that Christian shop talk isn’t merely confined to Christian circles, but it pervades to all parts of life. My life.
Typing this just now made me realize my real frustration, which is that my life takes place almost entirely within Christian circles.
While I sincerely appreciate John’s thoughtful and honest feedback to my thinly veiled and poorly thought out rant post, I hope that John can appreciate how it feels to be someone who doesn’t speak the language of the locals.
I had lunch with MexicanLove the other day, and during the meal he spoke about the freedom that fellowship with Christ brings. I asked him to clarify what he meant by “freedom”, because I think that is an odd word to use in the context of Christianity.
He said that with Jesus comes freedom from sin, freedom from evil, freedom from a bunch of other things (that I can’t remember). Additionally, this was not just freedom, but “true freedom”. While I am sure this made sense from his perspective, I had a difficult time understanding him, from my perspective.
Sin is a sort of snake oil or Mafia protection racket, convince people that they are flawed or in danger and then sell them the cure. Neither sin, nor gods exist. Jesus is akin to deceptive servitude than actual freedom.
This talk got me thinking about how religions co-opt normal words for their own purposes. They distort and alter definitions to serve their ends. Here’s a small list of words that came to mind:
Is it really forgiveness if you have to believe in Jesus to avoid hell? Would not “true forgiveness” mean all flawed and sinful people go to heaven regardless? If mere belief is what you have to do for salvation, that’s still an act. Salvation is still earned, only the payment is reduced.
Yahweh is a jealous, vengeful god who punishes people who don’t believe in him. He creates flawed people and then tortures them for eternity for lack of belief. He condones slavery and instructs his followers to commit genocide. In what way does any of this match the human definitions of love?
This came up because of Easter. Jesus rose from the grave and is now alive. God is alive. But neither of these uses of the word “alive” match our current definitions of life. From Wikipedia:
Living organisms undergo metabolism, maintain homeostasis, possess a capacity to grow, respond to stimuli, reproduce and, through natural selection, adapt to their environment in successive generations. More complex living organisms can communicate through various means.
Except for the parts about communication and responding to stimuli (which is questionable), Jesus and god do not have the normal characteristics we see for life. Both are noncorporeal, and timeless.
Also because of Easter. I’m not sure how we can people can say Jesus was resurrected if he just went up to heaven. Some passages write that he appeared to his disciples, but appearing and being alive again (per above definition) are two different things. Don’t you have to be alive again to be resurrected?
Just review the Euthyphro Dillema. Also, since last friday was “Good Friday”, what is good about torture and murder as part of a protection racket?
This one annoys me the most. Most definitions of truth speak to reality, accuracy, and facts. Christian beliefs don’t speak to any of them, so why call it truth?
FoxNews does the same thing with “Fair and Balanced”. I have some Christian friends who also throw around the terms “logic”, “rational”, and “intellectual honesty” as if it actually makes what they’re saying reflect those terms.
In a post about cults, Eliezer Yudkowsky makes an interesting point about co-opting words:
Labeling the Great Idea “rationality” won’t protect you any more than putting up a sign over your house that says “Cold!” You still have to run the air conditioner – expend the required energy per unit time to reverse the natural slide into cultishness
I like to jot notes during Church sermons. It gives me ideas for blog posts. PastorItaly’s Easter sermon seemed ripe for the writing.
The meat of his seromon was essentially an inverse argument from evil: the world is messed-up, so god and Jesus are needed to provide hope. He listed several statistics about the homeless in our town, murders rates, poverty rates, sex slavery rates, etc. All of these were said in support of the hope provided by Jesus. This was strange to me as I thought “people probably could use positive outcomes more than hope”.
Towards the end of his sermon, PastorItaly told a story of a young man who had a troubled upbringing. His mother threatened suicide, and his brother actually completed suicide. He was caught up in drugs and alcohol. One evening, at a college party, he had decided that no longer wished to live life like this. His friends later learned that the young man “lost his life”.
The story was tragic, and offered as an example of why people need Jesus.
This confused me because if the man died while not being saved, wouldn’t he go to hell? Shouldn’t there be a discussion about the justness of a man being condemned to hell after such a life? Shouldn’t we talk about worshiping a god who did nothing to intervene?
That was the bait.
The Church band followed, and during the outro of the song, PastorItaly mentioned that the tragic story actually ended well. He quoted Matthew 10:39:
Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.
That was the switch.
The man was PastorItaly and this was his conversion story. He found Jesus that day and was saved.
I admit, I took the bait. I fell for it. I was prepared to rant about theology and theodicy. I should have realized it was going to be a play on words.
The following is a guest post by Christian commenter redBeardRobbins. We’re doing a book trade where I’m reading C.S. Lewis’s Surprised by Joy, and he’s reading Daniel Gilbert’s Stumbling on Happiness. These two books were very influental to our respective lives, so why not share the goodness?
I’ll just take Ch. 7 this time. It had a lot of good insights and I‘m finding myself in agreement with most of what it says.
He talks about what psychologists call habituation:
Among life’s cruelest truths is this one: Wonderful things are especially wonderful the first time they happen, but their wonderfulness wanes with repetition.
He made the same point back in Ch. 2. where he said that the three chords he played on his guitar when he first learned them as a teenager brought him great pleasure but those same three chords became boring later. He invoked the experience-stretching hypothesis – an experience that once brought him pleasure no longer does. As opposed to the language-stretching hypothesis – his eyes were later opened by improved musical abilities and he now realized he wasn’t really happy back then.
As a counter point the opposite can be true. It’s what we might call an acquired taste. The first time my dad gave me a sip of his Heineken it brought me very little pleasure and made me think grown ups are weird for liking this stuff. Over time I grew to like it more and more until now I thoroughly enjoy a nice cold ones with pizza.
I certainly agree with his basic point that there’s a law of diminishing returns in a lot of areas. But I also look at things like arranged marriages where the couple grows to love each other over time after initially being forced together against their will and see that often it‘s the reverse.
In describing how we imagine time in terms of spatial relationships I thought he made a really interesting point. When people are given the choice of having variety in what they eat versus only eating one good tasting thing, they choose variety whether it’s spread out over multiple meals over a long period of time or just spread out spatially across the table at one meal. If we’re talking about a small spatial separation all in one place at one meal we are right in choosing variety. But, in reality our favorite food will always be pleasurable if there is enough time in between meals. In fact, he says, when we have variety when it’s spaced out over time it actually diminishes pleasure I think because if you had something of variety that you didn‘t like you would have enjoyed the tried and true dish better.
So, summed up, if there is enough time in between pleasurable experiences it’s better not to have variety but if there is no time between them it’s better to have variety. Our mistake comes in applying spatial properties (a variety of foods laid out next to each other in front of you) to temporal ones (the same delicious food spread out over time).
Next, I thought he made a good observation of a strange aspect of human behavior. First he illustrated it by pointing out that we perceive magnitude changes in relative terms. For example, if someone places a stick of gum on to the 1 ounce block you’re holding you will perceive a change in weight. But if someone places the same stick of gum on a ten block you’re holding you won’t notice because the change in weight was relatively small. Then he says:
Our sensitivity to relative rather than absolute magnitudes is not limited to physical properties such as weight, brightness, or volume. It extends to subjective properties, such as value, goodness, and worth as well.
Without getting into the claim that goodness is subjective I think the next example was telling. People are more likely to drive across town to save $50 on a $100 dollar radio but not on the purchase of a $100,000 car because $50 seems like a lot when we’re buying radios. He then says your bank account contains absolute dollars and not “percentages off.” When you’re spending that $50 on groceries and gas those dollars don’t know where they came from.
He’s done that a lot. He’ll start with a concrete example like the weight of something in your hand and apply the same principle to something more abstract like the relative value we place on money. He did it at the beginning of Ch. 7 by comparing the concrete example of what a flying winebago would look like versus what the passage of time would look like. I think it’s a good way to help people understand concepts and he uses it effectively. Start with something people can wrap their brains around and then move to something harder to grasp.
Another example he used is comparing the small elegant speakers in the store with the huge, boxy speakers, noticing the acoustical difference, and buying the hulking leviathans. We never notice the acoustical difference again but we do notice how terrible they look in our elegantly decorated apartment. So if I can derive a principle from this I think it would be:
Think of what the future will be like (“these speakers will look ugly in my apartment“) and make decisions based on that. You’ll be happier. Resist the natural tendency to compare the relative differences in the present. Instead look at the absolute qualities and the bigger picture.
In the subsection Onward he speaks of presentism – the tendency to judge historical figures by contemporary standards. It’s the temptation to view the past through the lens of the present. This reminded me very much of what Lewis calls “chronological snobbery.” He describes it as the notion that we, with all of our scientific understanding, are better than the thinkers of the past. But we are standing on accumulated knowledge. I agree with Lewis that it’s a mistake to think we have got it all figured out and those that came before us didn’t know what they were talking about. If anything I think ease of access to information has made us lazy and some of the intellectual powerhouses of centuries past would mop the floor today. But now I’m just opining.
As I finished Ch. 7 I found myself thinking that Gilbert is long on ‘this is why we fail’ but short on ‘here’s how not to fail.’ I’m hoping he’ll get into that as the book comes to a close. This was a pretty solid chapter though.
I was painting our new home this weekend and had plenty of time to finally listen to the recent Sam Harris v. William Lane Craig Debate at Notre Dame. The topic was the origins of goodness, specifically where does “good” come from. Craig says god, Harris says secular ethics and science. There’s a lot of good discussion about it here, here, here, here, and here.
When it came to the actual debate, following the debates rules, Craig mopped the floor with Harris. Craig set the terms of the debate, outlined several points, pointed out where Harris didn’t address Craig’s arguments, and basically demolished everything Harris said… within the actual debate.
The most impressive thing Craig did was highlight Harris’ is/ought problem with an analogy from school yard children. Harris believes that morality can be judged by the wellbeing of conscious creatures, and in his final remarks Craig closes with “Says who?!?!” Pretty great stuff.
Harris, on the other hand, didn’t seem like he was debating at all. He was cool, calm, collected and a very compelling orator. I agree with almost everything he said (which was a rehash of his book The Moral Landscape). But he wasn’t debating… it felt more like a lecture or a presentation. For the first part of the debate, I didn’t mind this at all. I’ve become familiar with Craig’s debate style and knew what to expect, knew how he stacks the deck against his opponents. And I thought it was rather wise for Harris not to play Craig’s game, but instead use the venue as an opportunity to share his views.
But halfway through the debate, I got annoyed when I realized that Harris was essentially proselytizing to the crowd. I hate it when Christians throw away the debate format and essentially try and convert the audience to Christianity (I’ve heard Craig do this a bunch of times), and hearing Harris try to convert people to secular ethics (which I agree with) in the debate format was pretty distasteful.
I’m a stickler for following agreed upon rules. Don’t do a discussion or presentation if you say you’re doing a debate. Do a debate.
So looking at the debate itself, I think Craig clearly won.
After the debate, a Q&A session followed and it was here that Craig exposed the irrelevance of Christianity, philosophy, and religion. While Harris thoughtfully and honestly answered all the questions asked with meaningful and relevent responses, Craig basically folded.
A couple questions, Craig actually refused to answer because he didn’t think they were relevent to the debate. From another question about using our understanding of light and dark as an analogy for our understanding for good and evil (we thought the light came from god, but now we know it’s photons from the sun), Craig dismissed the asker as misunderstanding the analogy (although it appears Craig misunderstood the question).
The most damning question came from someone who identified as a Christian in regards to homosexuality. The questioner mentioned that although the bible condemns homosexuality, he believes that god told him (through personal revelation) that homosexuality was actually okay. He wanted to know that if god is the ultimate authority of good and evil, how do we make sense of conflicting revelations.
Craig actually thought the guy was a dishonest troll pretending to be Christian, told him that his question was dishonest and ridiculous, and shooed him away. I was listening to the audio, but some reports said that the questioner was about to cry.
What the hell, man? Regardless if the guy was serious or not, the actual question itself is probably the most relevent question of the night. If god actually exists and is the actual source of objective morality, how do we make sense when god tells us two completely opposite things. Doesn’t sound very objective.
Rather than give the guy the benefit of the doubt, Craig refuses to answer. This is the problem with philosophy, with religion, and with Christianity. It doesn’t provide actual answers, just mysterious “answers”. Or it ignores the questions completely, deeming them irrelavent.
You know what provides answers? Science.
I think Harris’ views are pretty sound and can get us on the right track to a good system of morality.
PZ Myers wrote this about Craig’s points:
Darn, I’m going to have to find some time to re-read Sam Harris’s Moral Landscape. It bugged me the first time; I kept trying to make, I think, a judgment based on whether we can declare an absolute morality based on rational, objective criteria. I was basically making the same sort of internal argument that William Lane Craig was making in his debate at Notre Dame, and it’s fundamentally wrong — it’s getting all twisted up in philosophical head-games based on misconceptions derived from the constant hammering of theological presuppositions in our culture.
Craig wants us to get caught up with debating the difference between ontology and epistemology, to which all the other kids who aren’t in the debate club reply, “Who cares?”
Craig wins at debates. Harris wins at life.
“I’m just going to say this one thing and then I’ll let it go. If you give God a chance and you won’t have to search anymore”.
These were the words spoke to me by my wife, TiggerGal, after I receiving my new copy of Richard Carrier’s Why I am Not A Christian and Richard Weisman’s 59 Seconds in the mail. One is a counter-apologetics book, the other psychology and self-help.
I wasn’t in the mood for an argument or a discussion either, so I let it go and went on with doing the dishes. Under normal circumstances, I would have pounced on it. I don’t care very much for drive by evangelism, or any other situation where a person expresses an opinion and refuses to hear responses. But whatever.
Despite this, I couldn’ t help reflecting on her statement.
“Give God a chance”
With every chance I gave “god”, he’s failed miserably and unambiguously.
“You won’t have to search anymore”
As if continually striving to improve yourself, to be a better person, is the same as being a lost or directionless little sheep. As if honing and refining my skills at life is the same thing as trying to figure out who I want to be.
I know the Christian party line requires believers to view non-believers as less than, but I’m pretty sure I know who I want to be and I’m pretty sure I’m on the right track. I’m definitely open to new ideas and to knew ways of thinking, but I’m pretty sure any new revelations won’t be coming from Christianity’s side of the room. We can pretty much forget about that snake oil.
But just for the sake of conversation, if you’re a Christian reading this, I ask you:
Is there ever a point where you could concede that someone has genuinely, honestly, and thoroughly given god a chance and yet still legitimately not believe in him? Or has ever non-believer simply not tried hard enough?
I’m happy to report that, despite my despondent tone in the post, Music as a Defense Against Demons, I’m feeling pretty good again. I think the biggest reason why is that my daughter LadyBug and I have a pretty fantastic relationship, and we communicate really well. She’s really comfortable asking me practically anything, and I’m really good at giving her fair, thoughtful, and honest answers. At 5 years old, she identifies as a Christian, and although my biggest worry is that our religious differences will cause a rift between us in the future, from the evidence I see today, I probably don’t have anything to worry about.
Since the nite-nite music drama, LadyBug and I have had quite a few opportunities to talk about her spiritual beliefs. Most of them were prompted while reading The Magic School Bus and the Science Fair Expedition.
Let me tell you… this book is FABULOUS for introducing kids to the scientific method. It reviews many of the major discoveries and scientific advancements in human history and talks about the challenges each scientist had in proving their theories correct. It pays particular detail about how scientists overcame the nay sayers and deniers of the time with evidence.
As a child, she still relies a lot on authority figures to tell her what to believe (mom is an expert on Christianity because she “knows” god, vs me who doesn’t “know” god so I don’t know Christianity). But this book has really sparked a lot of discussions about epistemology, how we know what we know.
And of course, after church, she’s been getting some bible verses to share with her parents, so we talk about that too.
In our talks, I’ve learned some interesting things about LadyBug’s Christianity.
For starters, god is invisible and he talks to you in your dreams. He live in a castle in the sky called GodLand. This GodLand looks a lot like Bronze Age Middle East; lots of deserts.
When who believe in god die, they get to go to Heaven and live forever. Although I don’t think she’s decided yet if Heaven and GodLand are the same place (I should ask her about that).
For a while, she didn’t know what happens to people who don’t believe in god when they die. However, this weekend she let me know that people who don’t believe in god still go to heaven… they just don’t live forever. Fine by me, because I wouldn’t really want to live forever, that’s kinda boring.
As you’d expect, no Hell yet. I’ll have to ask when kids are introduced to hell.
When asked about her view of non-believers, she says that it’s totally fine for people not to believe in god. There’s nothing wrong with people who don’t believe and I (yes me) get to choose whatever I want, and whatever I choose is totally okay. I was particularly proud of that last bit.
She recognized that a lot of people don’t believe in god, including friend at church’s dad, and well as her Uncle HockeyKid.
It’s actually kinda interesting to see how she’s piecing it all together, and to see how subtle indoctrination can be. I’m hyper curious to see what will happen once she learns that her god is gonna send daddy to Hell.
As part of a book trade, I’m reading “Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life” by C.S. Lewis. In addition to being his autobiography, “Surprised by Joy” also happens to chronicle Lewis’s path from a wishy-washy Christian, to a hardcore atheist, and back to a much more thoughtful and devoted follower of Christ.
I’m back and mentally refreshed to dive back into C.S. Lewis’s life. And in cracking open Chapter 7, titled “Light and Shade” all I can say is:
WTF DID I MISS SOMETHING!?!?!?
In the previous chapter, Lewis introduced us life at Wyvern College and is insane psuedoaristocratic Bloodery system. He made brief mention to House Tarts (effeminate looking small boys) and something about them doing favors. I thought to myself “hey that sounds kinda gay”, but I didn’t think too much else of it. And then he wrote something about “fagging” which I though meant, you know… beating or hazing. The way he wrote it made it sounds like some pretensions fraternity or secret society kinda pranks used to establish a pecking order.
Oh how naive I was.
As it turns out, the fagging system is actually sodomy.Ritualized sodomy. Sodomy meant to humiliate and degrade a person. To knock the nonsense out of them and make them into a humble person.
What the hell is wrong with you people?
Although the whole process was intended to create a humble person ready for adult life, Lewis contended that it often had the opposite effect:
“Where oppression does not completely and permanently break the spirit, has it not a natural tendency to produce retaliatory pride and contempt? We reimburse ourselves for cuffs and toil by a double dose of self-esteem. No one is more likely to be arrogant than a lately freed slave”.
I hear that. While I’ve never been anally raped into submission, I can say that I’ve definitely seen the overreach of someone who was previously oppressed but has suddenly found their pride and power. It happens quite often, and I’ve actually burned a couple bridges myself in the short burst of self-esteem following a deep depression.
Despite the rampant sexual assault, Lewis believes something about school life that was far worse to the human soul:
…was a life almost wholly dominated by the social struggle; to get on, to arrive, or having reached the top, to remain there, was the absorbing preoccupation.
This meaningless struggle, devoid of beauty or joy was probably quite revolting to Lewis.
Before closing out the chapter, Lewis gives us another brief glimpse into his views of atheism:
I was at this time living, like so many Atheists or Antitheists, in a whirl of contradictions. I maintained that God did not exist. I was also very angry with God for not existing. I was equally angry with Him for creating a world.
Err… I wish I could relate to him here. I really do. But I honestly have a hard time fathoming being mad at someone who doesn’t exist. This is the part where I question Lewis’s atheism. I don’t want to get all “No True Scotsman“, but this almost sounds like a wayward theist rather than the “God doesn’t exist because there is no evidence” atheists that I hang around.
Although, I can reasonably understand a bit of grieving over the loss of the concept of god. That makes sense to me. But I don’t quite feel like this is what’s going on here.
Chapter 8 is titled “Release” was a little slow for me. Here, Lewis describes the discomfort he feels back at home, being able to relate to his brother and father less and less. His father is portrayed as a generally unrelatable man who is generally uninterested in fully listening to what you have to say and generally poor at remembering what you said.
With his brother, Lewis found less and less common ground. His brother also went to the bastion of rape that was Wyvern College, but apparently had a significantly better time there than Lewis did.
Loving the place as he did, he had looked forward to the days when this too could be shared between us… Instead he heard, from me, blasphemies against all his gods; from Wyvern, that his younger brother looked like becoming a Coll Punt. The immemorial league between us was strained, all but broken.
The chapter closes with Lewis ending his time at Wyvern and being sent to Surrey to study under a man named Mr. Kirkpatrick AKA Knock
Chapter 9, titled “The Great Knock” was an interesting one indeed.
Knock was to be Lewis’s new private teacher. And although Lewis’s father described Knock as a loving and affectionate mentor… loving and affectionate was far from the case. Indeed, Knock was more a mix between Mr. Spock from Star Trek and Dr. Gregory House from House MD. Super-rational, super-intelligent, and super-precise. At their first encounter, Knock chastises Lewis for making small talk in commenting about how the scenery in Surrey was much wilder than he expected. Knock, knowing full well that Lewis had no idea what Surrey looked like, much less any idea to have a preconception of it from concluded:
“Do you not see, then, that you had no right to have any opinion whatever on the subject?”
The whole chapter is like this. I loved it. Lewis describes him further:
If ever a man came near to being a purely logical entity, that man was Kirk. Born a little later, he would have been a Logical Positivist. The idea that human beings should exercise their vocal organs for any purpose except that of communicating or discovering through was to him preposterous. The most casual remark was taken as a summons to disputation.
I was unsurprised, then, to discover that Knock was an atheist. Although Lewis qualifies:
Having said that he was an Atheist, I hasten to add that he was a “Rationalist” of the old, high and dry nineteenth-century type. For Atheism as come down in the world since those days, and mixed itself with politics and learned to dabble in dirt.
Lewis looked on Knock with reverence and appreciation, noting him as one of the two greatest teachers in his life. While it would appear that Knock helped sharpen Lewis’s mind, I think I’ll make a prediction why Knock wouldn’t help Lewis’s atheism stick. Lewis describes Knock as a person almost entirely devoid of joy. He describes Knock’s atheism as “the chiefly anthropological and pessimistic” kind. Indeed, all of Knock’s endearing qualities seem to stem from his socially negative characteristics, like a giant ogre who is adorable when he accidentally squashes a flower. And while Knock definitely sharpened Lewis’s mind, was a poor role model in the area of social adjustment and emotional happiness.
Lewis has been driving at joy the entire book. Were Knock sharp of mind and warm of heart, I wonder if Lewis would have gone back to Christianity. Feeling comforted is still a big part of religion.
Six more chapters to go. If we don’t start getting into reconversion, I hope we get a little more atheism insight.