It is also one of his more laughable arguments, of which there were several.
Briefly, his argument was, "Every desire is necessarily a desire for something, and every natural desire must have some object that will satisfy it. Since humans desire the joy and experience of God, therefore there must be a God that will satisfy our desires."
He stated it reasonably concisely:
A man’s physical hunger does not prove that man will get any bread; he may die of starvation on a raft in the Atlantic. But surely a man’s hunger does prove that he comes of a race which repairs its body by eating and inhabits a world where eatable substances exist. In the same way, though I do not believe (I wish I did) that my desire for Paradise proves that I shall enjoy it, I think it a pretty good indication that such a thing exists and that some men will. A man may love a woman and not win her; but it would be very odd if the phenomenon called "falling in love" occurred in a sexless world.
C.S.Lewis; The Weight Of Glory (1949)
What is amazing in this argument is that an otherwise intelligent man could have thought it convincing let alone how anyone reading it can.
|Sorrowing Old Man ('At Eternity's Gate'); Vincent van Gogh, 1890|
Creating God by Desire?
"Every desire is necessarily a desire for something,"
True enough as it stands. I desire a large, heated swimming pool in my back garden. I could also desire spending a term at Hogwarts in the company of Albus Dumbledore. No doubt at all that they are 'something'. There is a lot of doubt about whether they are real or imaginary though, but let's not rush too far ahead.
"..and every natural desire must have some object that will satisfy it."
Hmm... Some problem here, I think. I'm not sure why Lewis includes the word 'natural'. Can there be any other sort of desire? He couldn't be trying to surreptitiously associate the object of any desire with being natural, could he? Perish the thought, for Lewis was an honourable man...
But why does it follow that every desire must have some object that will satisfy it? This is never more than an assertion. Certainly a large, heated swimming pool in my back garden would satisfy my desire. Hold on, I'll just go and check to see if there is one....
Not there, I'm afraid (how did you guess?)
Of course it would satisfy my desire if it were real but, sadly, that doesn't make it real. Maybe the lack of evidence for one just isn't sufficient evidence of its absence. Maybe it's a faith thing. Perhaps if I erected a diving board and dived in....
And as for the term at Hogwarts with Albus Dumbledore? Well, they are written about in books so maybe they are real, otherwise how would the author of those books have known about them? So I should be able to satisfy that perfectly natural desire. All I need to do is pop along to King's Cross Station, London and find Platform 93⁄4 ...
"Since humans desire the joy and experience of God, therefore there must be a God that will satisfy our desires."
Same as Albus Dumbledore, Hogwarts, large heated swimming pools and Platform 93⁄4 at King's Cross Station, obviously. To be fair to Lewis, he only claims to think this argument is "... a pretty good indication that such a thing exists...".
Of course, C.S.Lewis's 'brilliant' apologetic for the existence of the Christian god is nothing more than our old friend the God of Personal Necessity fallacy - my god must exists because I believe it does, or even the even more arrogant assumption - a god must exist because I want one to.
The only thing amazing about this argument is not so much Lewis' arrogance and intellectual dishonesty in thinking his desire for a god could somehow oblige it to exist, but the credulous gullibility of those who find it convincing.
What's that you say, Mr Lewis? "Unless you teach your moods 'where they get off', you can never be either a sound Christian or even a sound atheist, but just a creature dithering to and fro, with its beliefs really dependent on the weather and the state of its digestion."
Ah! So you can't trust your desires, eh? Oops!