My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such violent reaction against it? A man feels wet when he falls into water, because man is not a water animal: a fish would not feel wet. Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too—for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist—in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless—I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality—namely my idea of justice—was full of sense. 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 never know it was dark. Dark would be a word without meaning.So, having realised that his childhood belief was childish, and based on his own false expectations, C.S.Lewis concludes that the only possible explanation is that the Christian god must exist. Quite how he gets from realising that his arrogant notion that somehow the universe should conform to his ideas of justice and the startling realisation that he couldn't define these notions, to the conclusion that therefore the locally popular god from his culture exists is never explained.
Let's break this argument down into it's component steps and see if the dots join up:
- The universe should conform to my preconception because a god would ensure it does.
- The universe doesn't conform to my preconception therefore this god doesn't exist.
- I don't know what my preconception is so I don't know if 2 is right or wrong.
- Therefore 2 is wrong.
- Therefore this god must exist.
And how about the initial premise? Where is the logic behind the assumption that my preferred god should be ensuring the universe conforms to my preconception in the first place?
No. All we have proved is that the initial preconception was wrong. There is no requirement at all for the universe to conform to C.S.Lewis' preconception and, there is no reason at all to assume that, because C.S.Lewis realised he didn't know what his preconception was, it was therefore wrong.
Still not convinced? Okay, If Lewis' logic holds we should be able to apply it to other arguments with equal validity, so let's change the initial premise slightly and see what we can prove with the same 'logic':
- The universe should be unjust because the Christian god doesn't exist.
- The universe is just, therefore the Christian god must exist.
- I don't know what justice is therefore I don't know if 2 is right or wrong.
- Therefore 2 is wrong.
- Therefore the Christian god doesn't exist.
And of course nowhere in all this has Lewis presented any reason to conclude that the only god on offer is the locally popular one. Even if his dots joined up they could be used with equal validity for any god, or indeed a Celestial Peanut-butter Sandwich, if that was what you were trying to prove runs the universe. This is why it can be used equally to 'prove' there is no god.
It's hard to believe that C.S.Lewis could not see the blatant logical fallacies this argument contained, the parochial and cultural arrogance which under-pinned it, and how it could, with equal validity be applied to any god or any daft notion he could dream up, if he was the intellectual giant he is portrayed as.
But, he was marketing his wares to a culturally arrogant and parochial British public in 1952 of course, and he knew that market well, having lived off it for many years.
No. There is no proof of anything in this argument but it does highlight the following problem for Christian theology. If the universe is run by an omni-benevolent god, why does it look just as you would expect it to if such a god is entirely absent? Perhaps it was his subconscious awareness of this fundamental problem which motivated him to abandon his intellectual integrity in order to try to dismiss it. Cognitive dissonance, and years of practice at coping with it, often seems to explain much of religious apologetics.