Surprised by C.S. Lewis: Why his popularity endures
December 17th, 2010
05:30 PM ET

Surprised by C.S. Lewis: Why his popularity endures

By John Blake, CNN

C.S. Lewis was talking to his lawyer one day when the attorney told him he had to decide where his earnings would go after his death.

Lewis, who had already written “The Chronicles of Narnia” book series, told the lawyer he didn’t need to worry.

“After I’ve been dead five years, no one will read anything I’ve written,” Lewis said.

Lewis was a gifted writer, but he would have been a lousy estate planner. More than 40 years after his death, the former medieval literature professor has become the Elvis Presley of Christian publishing: His legacy is lucrative and still growing, scholars and book editors say.

The third film adaptation of Lewis’ "Narnia" series, “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” was released in theaters worldwide this month. HarperOne publishers also just released “The C.S. Lewis Bible,” a book pairing 600 selections of Lewis’ writings with matching scriptural passages.

Lewis’ books remain strong sellers. His “Mere Christianity” has been on the BookScan Religion Bestseller’s list a record 513 weeks since the list started in 2001. At least 430,000 copies of Lewis’ books have been sold this year alone, HarperOne officials said.

Lewis’ contemporary appeal may strike some as odd at first because he seemed so firmly planted in the past. A scholar at the University of Oxford in England, he wore shabby tweed jackets, smoked a pipe in the pub and was wounded in the trenches of World War I.

But Lewis’ popularity endures because of several reasons: his distinctive writing style, a tragic love affair and a shrewd choice he made early in his career, Lewis scholars say.

Lyle Dorsett, author of “Seeking the Secret Place: The Spiritual Formation of C. S. Lewis,” says Lewis was fearless.

“He didn’t dodge the tough questions,” says Dorsett, who told the story of Lewis’ conversation with his lawyer in “Seeking the Secret Place.” “People find that refreshing.”

Lewis’ shrewd early career move

Lewis is labeled a Christian writer, but he also wrote essays, children’s fiction, literary criticism and science fiction. He even hosted a popular BBC radio show during World War II.

Some scholars say Lewis’ BBC experience, where he had to make points quickly, honed his writing style. Lewis learned how to systematically explain Christianity in clear and catchy language, devoid of religious jargon.

Philip Yancey, an evangelical author, says Lewis developed this gift because he came to Christianity as an outsider. He was an atheist.

“Coming to faith as an atheist, he had an understanding of and sympathy for people who look at faith wistfully but can’t swallow it,” says Yancey, who writes about Lewis in his latest book, “What Good is God.”

Lewis remains popular because his books don’t seem dated, says Mickey Maudlin, HarperOne's project editor for "The C.S. Lewis Bible."

Lewis didn’t write about the doctrinal squabbles dividing Christian groups of his time, Maudlin says.

“He made a strategic decision early in his career to talk about ‘Mere Christianity,’ ’’ Maudlin says. “He never writes about different modes of baptism, different views of communion or anything that separates one church from another.”

The result: Lewis has a big following today among Evangelicals, Roman Catholics, Mormons - even skeptics, Maudlin says.

“C.S. Lewis wasn’t trapped by tribal thinking,” Maudlin says. “He was able to speak to everybody. He felt called by God to be an explainer of the big issues.”

How 'good infection’ converted Lewis

Though Lewis looked like the prototype of the mid-20th century English professor, he was actually an Irishman. He was born as Clive Staples Lewis in 1898 in Belfast. Friends and family called him “Jack.”

Scholars cite two events as the source for Lewis’ early atheism. His mother, Florence, died of cancer when Lewis was 9. And his best friend, Paddy, was killed during World War I. Most of the men in Lewis’ platoon didn’t survive the trenches.

“When he saw the carnage of World War I, he concluded that if God exists, He is a cosmic sadist,” says Dorsett, Lewis’ biographer.

Lewis' conversion to Christianity was gradual. It was prompted by what he later called “good infection” -  being drawn to faith unawares through the friends he made and books he read.

One of those friends was J.R.R. Tolkien, a fellow English professor at Oxford best known today as the author of “The Lord of the Rings.”

According to some accounts, Tolkien, a Christian intellectual, helped convert Lewis. He showed Lewis that many of the mythological books he loved to read were Christian allegories.

Lewis, though, would later add that there was something more subtle that led to his conversion.

He called it “joy.”

“Joy” was Lewis' term for a stab of longing that unexpectedly welled up in him during moments of contemplation, such as listening to opera or reading an ancient Norse tale.

In his book, “The Weight of Glory,” Lewis wrote that the yearning he experienced during those moments convinced him there was another existence beyond this world.

“For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a love we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never visited.”

Lewis’ painful love affair

Lewis could be poetic, but he could also be brutally honest. He demonstrated this in his most searing book, “A Grief Observed.”

In the book, Lewis writes about falling in love - and losing that love. Lewis was a bachelor who lived with his older brother Warnie for much of his life. Then he met Joy Davidman Gresham, a Jewish American writer who was 15 years his junior.

Dorsett says Lewis was both physically and intellectually smitten with Gresham. He says they used to play Scrabble together, using Hebrew, Greek, Latin and German words to fill in the blanks.

“She had a sharp wit and he loved it,” Dorsett says. “She loved to debate and challenge him. They were always having an intellectual tennis match.”

Lewis’ relationship with Gresham would also challenge his faith.

Lewis married Gresham when he was 58. Soon, however, she developed bone cancer. She experienced what seemed to be a miraculous recovery only to fall ill again. Four years after marrying Lewis, she was dead.

Lewis was devastated. He began to question his belief in God:

“Go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face and a sound of bolting,” he wrote in “A Grief Observed.”

“A Grief Observed” inspired the film, “Shadowlands,” starring Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger. One of the most moving scenes in the film took place when Lewis’ character embraced Gresham’s grieving son, Douglas, and they both wept unabashedly together.

Douglas Gresham at the premier of the latest 'Narnia' film in London.

Douglas Gresham is now 65 with a bristly white beard and a booming baritone. He still holds tightly to his memories of Lewis.

Gresham says there’s one part of Lewis’ personality that movies and scholars often get wrong. Many people think Lewis was a dour Englishman.

“He was full of fun,” Gresham says. “He was always surrounded by people who liked to laugh and drink pints of beer. You could always tell if Jack was in the house. You would hear roars of laughter.”

He was also humble, Gresham says. Lewis spent hours each day answering letters from his admirers.

“Jack was someone who believed that if someone would write him, then the least he could do was give a reply,” Gresham says. “Sometimes people would just show up at the door, and he would never turn them away.”

What would Lewis think of his fame?

Gresham says commentators also often miss the mark on Lewis' friendship with Tolkien.

Lewis and Tolkien were both members of the Inklings, an informal literary group at Oxford that met to swap stories and ale.

In “Shadowlands,” Joy Gresham is portrayed as a party crasher who alienated a stuffy Tolkien. Some scholars have suggested that Lewis and Tolkien’s friendship suffered because of Lewis’ marriage to Gresham.

“Tolkien was a devout Catholic,” says Dorsett, Lewis’ biographer. "He found her quite abrasive.”

Gresham, though, snorts at the suggestion that his mother damaged Lewis’ friendship with Tolkien.

“It never happened,” he says.

Gresham says that when he went to visit Lewis in the hospital during his last days, he saw Tolkien. Tolkien told him he could live with him if anything happened to Lewis, Gresham says.

“Now you don’t do that for someone you’re not fond of,” Gresham says. “He was Jack’s best friend when he died.”

Lewis died at 64 of kidney failure on November 22, 1963, the same day President Kennedy was assassinated. His death was overshadowed by coverage of Kennedy’s death as well as the death of Aldous Huxley, another famous author who died that day.

Lewis, however, grabs his share of headlines today.

Gresham, a retired physiotherapist, spends much of his time talking about Lewis. He’s a producer for the latest "Narnia" film, answers letters from Lewis' fans and has written a biography called “Lenten Lands: My Childhood with Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis.”

He says he doesn’t get tired of talking about the man some still call “Jack.”

“It gives me great pleasure to introduce him to people who haven’t met him yet,” he says. “I’m an unashamed C.S. Lewis fan.”

And what about Lewis? What would he think of the movie franchise he’s spawned and the Christian icon he’s become?

“I think he’d be embarrassed,” Gresham says quickly. “The thought that he would be idolized by so many people would embarrass him deeply.”

- CNN Writer

Filed under: Anglican • Atheism • Belief • Books • Christianity

soundoff (383 Responses)
  1. Jason

    Atheism requires more faith than Christianity. If you don't believe in Jesus then your god is Death because there's no way you(or anyone) can argue that you don't have to meet Him someday.

    I'm not trying to be mean; just trying to clear up the mirror a little so an atheist can see he's just as "faithful" as a Christian, just in the wrong thing.

    My God beat Death; so I may have to meet him some day, but I've got backup when I do.

    December 18, 2010 at 11:48 pm |
    • Don

      Atheism requires no faith at all.

      December 18, 2010 at 11:57 pm |
    • Ktusoon

      It's funny how so many believers talk about the virtue of faith, then turn around and try to use it as an insult or criticism of unbelievers.

      December 19, 2010 at 12:01 am |
    • Jason

      Don, yes Atheism does require faith. Atheist believe, by default, that Death is the supreme being of human life since no human has overcome him and NO human can avoid him. It takes a great deal of faith to believe that Death is supreme. The problem with that is that Death is only a destructive force. There is a creative force that man refuses to acknowledge. The atheists would be better served by acknowledging that there is a creative force and then trying to learn who that is.

      Humans can't be supreme because we would have figured out a way not to die. We are subject(slaves) to the destructive force. Someone else is at the helm.

      December 19, 2010 at 12:24 am |
    • Marconi

      Atheism requires faith like not lifting weights requires efforts.

      And just faith won't cut it for Christianity. To worship a three-in-one god born of a virgin who he impregnated himself, and then killed himself as a sacrifice to himself, so that he may spare his own creation from his own wrath requires a constant pounding of myth for extended periods of time from childhood.

      It takes work to be that insane

      December 19, 2010 at 1:34 am |
    • Marconi

      Don, yes Atheism does require faith. Atheist believe, by default, that Death is the supreme being of human life since no human has overcome him and NO human can avoid him"


      You do not even know what atheism is. Atheism is the world view that there is no god or God or deities of any kind.

      Please do not lie, since lying for Jesus is still lying. Use a dictionary.

      Boy, Christianity does fry the brain to insanity

      December 19, 2010 at 1:37 am |
    • david believer

      Right Marconi.

      Go die on a cross or stay on one before you die, and let me know how that goes.

      You have no concept or appreciation or persceptive.

      December 19, 2010 at 2:02 am |
    • Don

      Jason, stop being so terrified of death that you have to believe in some magic space daddy to make you feel better about dying. Death is a natural happenstance. It's not evil. Grow up and stop being terrified of death, kid.

      And understanding that death is final isn't faith, Jason; it's fact.

      December 19, 2010 at 10:14 am |
  2. A Challenge for Our Unbelieving Friends

    William Lane Craig has been wiping the floor with athiests for a while now. I don't know that he's lost a debate. All you athiests posting on here, get in the ring with this guy and see how "reasonable" your claims are . . .

    December 18, 2010 at 11:45 pm |
    • Don

      A challenge for Billy Craig: show that "creating the universe" and "existence apart from the universe" have any sort of real ontological meaning. Until Billy can do that, his Kalam garbage will forever remain a stolen concept fallacy.

      December 18, 2010 at 11:59 pm |
    • MMH

      Right on. Ontology will always be a problem for Christianity, which is metaphysical at its core. But I think materialist ontology always comes to a problematic hermeneutic circle of sorts. I think the most convincing materialist account of ontology is Alain Badiou's fascinating _Being and Event_, which, of course, turns to mathematics set theory as an explanation for being (multiple multiplicities). However, even if the set is reduced to the lowest subset it is still a set. And my question for Badiou is how did the set get there in the first place. I think this is what Christians mean when they say that atheism requires "faith"–that is, atheism assumes an origin, but never questions that origin. So for Badiou, the set is at the origin, but his philosophical inquiry never gets into the matter of how the set itself came into being. Is there a way for metaphysics to be conversant with ontology and phenomenology that will allow us to develop a meaningful non-religious/non-metaphysical answer to such questions?

      December 19, 2010 at 12:37 am |
    • Don

      Sure: the universe has necessarily always existed. It cannot come into or go out of existence, for it is, in essence, existence. There is no "origin" as a creation; there was a state-change.

      December 19, 2010 at 10:12 am |
  3. icedawg

    Revelation 19:11-16 11 Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. 13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 14 And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.

    December 18, 2010 at 11:33 pm |
    • Hope

      yes, Icedawg,..... That's the kind of Christ Jesus will they see when He comes in His glory! Not the kind He 's being portrayed by even so many Christians. God is a God of mercy and love to those who humble themselves before Him, and acknowledges His glory and their need for Him. But to those who oppose themselves and in their arrogance mock Him, claiming their independence of Him, to them He will stretch out His sword, and the rest of it is history written in advance. Make no mistake , you people who scorn Him, and us who speak His word! You will meet your appointment day, you will not be able to miss this one! You'll see who's the looser and who has been the fool! So, don't boast yourself ahead of time!

      December 20, 2010 at 11:56 am |
    • Ossuary Jones

      Sounds very loving and merciful

      December 20, 2010 at 8:09 pm |
    • Hope

      @ O J
      "Sounds very loving and merciful"
      Yes indeed it does... if you don't cherry pick the lines.... To the humble He is merciful, to the rebellious, the arrogant, the mockers and the like He will be the executor of JUSTICE! And it will be true JUSTICE!

      December 20, 2010 at 10:39 pm |
  4. Bill the Science Guy

    For those who accept science, the evidence of spiritual reality can be found all around us. It is in human free will. Many prominent scientists, including Stephen Hawking, Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, Richard Dawkins, Erwin Schrodinger, William Provine, and others agree that human free will cannot be explained as a natural phenomenon as described in the book The Science of the Soul. Human free will can also be found in everyday frivolous acts.

    December 18, 2010 at 11:32 pm |
    • Rohn

      I'm pretty sure that Dawkins and Hawking don't believe that, although if you can give me a quote from them to the contrary, I'll be perfectly willing to change my mind. I don't know about the rest of them, but I'll bet you a cat that Schrodinger believed both at the same time that free will could and could not be explained as a natural phenomenon.

      December 18, 2010 at 11:48 pm |
    • Don

      Free will != spiritual reality

      December 19, 2010 at 12:00 am |
  5. Ktusoon

    Spend your life believing in "something" (god? afterlife?) and in the end, if there is nothing, you won't even know it. Spend your life not believing in that stuff and, if there is something (god? afterlife?) you lose everything. Or what if there is a god, but he's not the god you believe in and his idea of the afterlife excludes you? I can imagine an infinite number of such gods. What are the chances that the god you believe in happens to be the one that really exists? What if there's a god who favors unbelievers? You see, the possibilities are truly infinite! Good luck playing Pascal's Lottery.

    December 18, 2010 at 11:28 pm |
    • I Can't believe I tried to figure out a clever name

      If there is a god, then I'm certain by nature of "God" that they would accept you and your presumable ways for being so faithful to something in general. obviously showing your worth as a loyal follower?

      December 18, 2010 at 11:42 pm |
    • Rohn

      "What if there is a god, and a heaven, but only the atheists are allowed in?" (David Mitchell's corollary to Pascal's wager)

      December 18, 2010 at 11:50 pm |
  6. lyn_jasmine

    i find Jimmy Wales looks like C.S Lewis when i search for him in wikipedia ^__^
    nice Sunday morning every1!

    December 18, 2010 at 11:09 pm |
  7. brad

    @I Can't believe I tried to figure out a clever name

    the best comment on this entire thread.. your last lines : "All judgment aside, all selfish pursuits aside.
    Spend your life believing in something and in the end find out there is nothing, or spend your life believing in nothing and in the end lose everything."
    that is the best paraphrasing of Pascals Wager (google it, you'll see what I mean) for 16 you are mature beyond your years.. The purpose of living is to help others whenever you can, how ever you can, in whatever way you can.. not for accolades, rewards or pride, but because you can.. and in turn ACCEPT help from others in the same way when you need it and its freely offered in the same way described above.. that's the reason for our existance, and our lives.. and you my friend UNDERSTAND that very well...and you, being created in the image of God, are well on your way to being the best human being you can be.. let God do the rest, you just SHOW UP!

    December 18, 2010 at 11:07 pm |
    • I Can't believe I tried to figure out a clever name

      In response to brad.

      My thinking is in the right place, but being pressured by media, and my friends, makes being a "stand out guy" more and more difficult by the day. I am a popular guy, I have a lot of friends. And even more so because of this my actions are well monitored and scrutinized. To be honest I barely even talk like this outside of this blog. So no I am not mature beyond my years, though I strive to be. I am assuming you are older, and freer from the bonds of the tyrannical media and popular movements, in that case. Please I AM BEGGING YOU, do not focus on the teens, they are already lost and only can find light through their own means now. Inspire or maybe do work of your own to save the youth. The innocence once so revered that is being crushed under the weight of my age's impulsive actions.

      Let everyone else suffer, but save the youth, work on them younger, help them to find self confidence and teach the the message of the church that I find wonderful now but simply to late. And too lacking in any motive or confidence to do anything about it.

      December 18, 2010 at 11:34 pm |
  8. Rohn

    His Narnia books are fine children's books (although they're not up there with Harry Potter or the works of E. Nesbit). Despite their very obvious christian undertones, I though that the last book contained an argument against religion (more-so organized religion, which is a bit different), where the donkey and the monkey pretend to respectively be and be acting for Aslan (the Jesus symbol) and their actions result in widespread chaos, and the eventual collapse of Narnia.

    December 18, 2010 at 11:05 pm |
    • Joy

      I believe those characters were supposed to parallel the anti-Christ and his prophet from Revelation. But I would agree that Lewis would not be a proponent of blindly following an organized religion without understanding, questioning and researching them for yourself. For that matter, neither was Jesus since some his harshest words were to the Pharisees who were the leaders of organized religion in his day.

      December 19, 2010 at 3:37 am |
    • Don

      The beast is in Revelation; the anti-christ is in 1 or 2 John. Different things from different writers.

      December 19, 2010 at 10:10 am |
  9. I Can't believe I tried to figure out a clever name

    I am young, only 16 so call me naive, but for a year now I have been trying to keep up with the debates between atheists and god believing others.

    And from this I have found something very disturbing. The art of debate has become a method of funneling hatred and ill-researched facts, along with demeaning behavior and scary presumptions.

    When did we become such berating people? When did access to google searches turn regular happy people into demoniac heartless monsters hiding behind a text so small a man past my age struggles to read it.

    It scares me that my generation is becoming so dehumanized. Debate all you want, but in the end you are only accomplishing a self made need for anger and violence carefully disguised as opinions on both sides, and at times even more from the church followers.

    As for me, I have always struggled with this issue, and in the end I regressed to the same question over and over again, what is the purpose of everything? why do I even have the power to compute these questions?

    All judgment aside, all selfish pursuits aside.
    Spend your life believing in something and in the end find out there is nothing, or spend your life believing in nothing and in the end lose everything.

    December 18, 2010 at 10:45 pm |
    • Nate

      I think a lot of people in your (our) generation are trying to figure out the purpose for our existence. The literature of our time, from Narnia to Harry Potter to The Matrix to Percy Jackson to Twilight all share the same deep common thread: the uneasy feeling that there is another world beyond the one we see and feel in our everyday lives, and that it is in some ways more "real" than the "real world". Mankind has always believed in the spiritual world, every fairy tale ever written (or told orally before the written word) only serves to show our deep longing to reconnect with something that has been lost.

      Your question, "why do I even have the power to compute these questions?" is right on the mark. Why indeed? When we feel that something is wrong in the world, or that person A should treat person B a certain way, where does that standard come from? In the end there can be only one possible answer: that there is some Standard that is outside of ourselves.

      I would encourage you to read "Surprised by Joy", and to also read GK Chesterton's "Orthodoxy", which also examines these questions in a very broad sense and then leads to how Chesterton eventually came to believe in Christianity.


      December 18, 2010 at 11:03 pm |
    • MMH

      "For I know the plans I have for you," declares he Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future" (Jer. 29:11).

      December 18, 2010 at 11:07 pm |
    • Rohn

      As an atheist (also 16), I agree with you (at least up until the last line) that on both sides you have a lot of incredibly obnoxious people who are just making the debate an issue of hatred. I don't believe in god, but I think that other people have a right to believe what they like so long as it doesn't hurt anybody else.

      I would encourage you to take a look at The Salmon of Doubt by Douglas Adams (as well as his other books, because he's a brilliant writer), which contains several of his essays on atheism, which I think are much more rational than a most of the stuff you hear now.

      Here's his speech from Digital Biota 2 in 1998, which is at least an interesting look at the topic. http://www.biota.org/people/douglasadams/

      December 18, 2010 at 11:30 pm |
    • BF2350

      My heart went out to you, clever name, when I read your post. You are 16 and trying to figure out what life is all about. I have been there myself, so I fully understand where you are coming from at this point in your life. If you are serious about your search, may I suggest some reading for you that, I think, will help you in your search. Josh McDowell was an atheist. He decided he was going to prove that God did not exist. He was an intelligent, educated man, who began serious research into the subject. The end result of his research was that Josh, to his surprise, found God. He never thought this would happen, but that is what happens when a person sincerely, truthfully, with an open heart and mind, seeks the answer to whether God exists or does not exist. Josh has written several books on the subject to prove that God does exist. The Bible says that if you seek God, you will surely find Him. God is a gentleman. He doesn't brow-beat anyone into believing in Him. The Bible says Jesus stands at the door of your heart and gently knocks, asking to come in. You make the choice of whether or not to admit him.

      I am going to tell you about my own conversion. I was in church on Easter morning. At the end of the sermon, the minister gave the invitation for anyone who wanted to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior to come forward to the front of the church. I was standing, about three people in from the end of the pew. Suddenly there were two voices I was hearing in my mind. I knew, without a doubt, that one voice was Jesus and the other voice was Satan. Jesus was asking me to let him come in. Satan was saying, oh, no, you don't want to do that. Just think...you will have to get out into the church aisle and walk down in front of all those people and that will be embarrasing. Put if off to another time. There was definitely "warfare" going on in my mind. Jesus said to me...if you take the first step, I will take the rest for you. I remember stepping past the other people in the pew, reaching the church aisle, and I remember nothing else until I was standing in the front of the church. When I took that first step, I cannot begin to tell you how I felt....it was like a hundred pounds had been lifted off of me. I felt clean and free. Later, as I thought about this experience, I realized that what I felt was the taking away from me my sins because Jesus had paid the penalty for them and the moment I accepted Him as Lord and Savior, I was free for eternity. I do have to warn you, however, that Satan does not want you to let Jesus come into your life and you can expect a real battle going on as you make the decision to ask Jesus in or to reject Him. I have never in my life ever experienced such a battle as I did then. It is an experience I have never forgotten and it seems like it was just yesterday that it occurred. I can honestly tell you that it was the best and most important decision I have ever made in my life. I can also tell you that Jesus has never disappointed me. He has always been with me, guiding me through life. I can tell you that: WHEN A PERSON HAS BEEN TOUCHED BY THE LIVING GOD, THEY KNOW IT, AND NO ONE CAN EVER MAKE THEM BELIEVE OTHERWISE.

      I will address one other thing that seems to be discussed often. The Bible says there is only one God, yet atheists and agnostics like to bring up the Trinity, saying Christians worship three Gods. One day I asked God to explain the Trinity to me. He told me to think of a large round ball, like the sun. He said that represented God. Then God took a slice out of the ball and came to earth in human form as Jesus. When Jesus was resurrected, He returned to Heaven and the ball was again solid. Then God took another slice out of the ball and came to earth as the Holy Spirit where He remains today until such time as the Holy Spirit is taken out of the world when the ball will be solid again. This was a simple, but easily understood explaining of the Trinity to me. Clever name, it is my prayer that you will find God, that you will know, without a doubt, that He is real. May God bless you in your honest search for answers.

      December 19, 2010 at 1:39 pm |
  10. Brent

    If you have not yet come into a relationship with the living G-d, you will never "get it" or understand. C.S. Lewis was gracious toward those who were not yet understanding–and remembered well the "before" when he did not "get it" either. That is what I enjoy about him, no demagoguery–just a simple honesty and appreciation for the joy that he encountered.

    December 18, 2010 at 10:21 pm |
  11. Ben Wilson

    top 5 reasons I am not an Athe8st

    1. No good holidays
    2. Chicks don't like atheist
    3. No happy ending when you die–your just dead
    4. No good atheist music or songs
    5. I choose to believe there is a reason for my existence

    December 18, 2010 at 10:05 pm |
    • MMH

      I suspect ridicule is not the best means of evangelizing. Peace.

      December 18, 2010 at 10:12 pm |
    • Collins

      1. Thanksgiving & Halloween
      2. Thoroughly unfounded–have known/dated several wonderful non-believing women
      3. Simply telling yourself that there's a happy ending doesn't change the fact that YOU'RE JUST DEAD
      4. Blatantly plagiarized from a Steve Martin folk song
      5. Perhaps the most stock, simple minded justification of religion of all time

      December 18, 2010 at 11:13 pm |
    • Rohn

      1: Don't worry, we can take your holidays and adapt them just like you did with the pagan holidays.
      2: Atheist chicks do.
      3: No Hell either
      4: Tim Minchin, check him out on youtube
      5: The problem with the "why do we exist?" question is that "why" (as a means of determining intent), unlike "how", "where", "when", or "what", is not a question about reality, it's a question about psychology (which we can ask because we've evolved to deal with people, who think in terms of "why") and therefore presupposed that there is a "why", which is not necessarily true. For instance, if I drop a stone, it falls to the ground. If I ask "when" there is an answer based on reality (11:39). It's the same if I ask "what?" (a stone). But if I ask "why?", so as to determine what the intent was for the stone dropping to the ground there, there isn't one. If I ask "why?" as in "what caused it?", however, there is an answer (the mass of the earth greats gravity, which pulls the stone towards it). So here's why you exist: millions of years ago a bunch of particles happened to bond in a form that was self replicating, there were then millions of years of evolution (you can find the details elsewhere), and here you are

      December 18, 2010 at 11:42 pm |
    • MMH


      I've enjoyed your posts so far and agree with your choice of atheist authors. Dawkins and Sam Harris are doing a grave injustice to atheists. There are so many better atheist writers out there. Now, back to this topic. I think the Christian would respond, "Yes, there were particles, but where did they come from? Were they created ex nihilo?" Saint Augustine almost never got beyond Genesis 1:1. He kept asking, "God, what do you mean by 'In the beginning'?" because if there was a beginning then what was it that was before it? So if there was a particle, where did it come from and what was it doing there? That's what I can't get over. There isn't a thing on earth I can create ex nihilo, and this is the problem that baffles me.

      December 18, 2010 at 11:57 pm |
    • Rohn

      I don't know where all of the particles came from. Science hasn't explained it yet (although it's getting close with developments in quantum theory). But they might have just always been here. If you can believe that God has always existed, I don't see why you couldn't believe that about particles.

      December 19, 2010 at 2:40 pm |
    • MMH

      Hi Rohn,

      Yes, perfectly possible. In fact the Genesis account seems to suggest that matter was present in the beginning, but it needed God to give it form. John Milton (Christian author of Paradise Lost and good acquaintances with Isaac Newton) was a "material monist"–that is, he believed that all creation came out of God's being. So the eternity of particles would be consistent with such a theology. Of course, the problem will remain: how did particles create themselves? And, of course, the same problem remains for Christians: how did God become God? Someone like Augustine (who was a pagan until he converted, even when it would have been much more convenient to remain a pagan) didn't have an answer for that, and confessed that the solution was tautological: God is God. Or as God states in the Hebrew Scripture: "I Am the I Am."

      December 19, 2010 at 4:26 pm |
  12. MMH

    To all atheists and agnostics who have bravely posted in response to this article:

    I applaud you. I don't agree with you, but I enjoy reading your thoughts on Lewis and your reasons for not believing in Christianity.

    I also want to apologize for all Christians (in these posts and in your daily lives) who have not taken you seriously, have scoffed at your thoughts, have ridiculed your ideas, and have defended their faith by turning to vitriol and anger.

    Jesus was never afraid of skepticism, and he showed compassion to skeptics even at the moment of his death. That's why I love him and embrace him. The Apostle Paul puts it this way: "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:8). He loved me and embraced me when I wasn't worth spit.

    Maybe he will find his way into your hearts someday. Maybe he won't. Either way, peace and blessings.

    December 18, 2010 at 10:02 pm |
    • Wenteast

      MMH, a kind and gentle response. I don't, however, condemn (most of) the Christian responses because many (most?) of the athesit ones have not been made to foster intelligent conversation but just to tear down. And most of the attempts, especially by Don the Troll, have been pretty sad ones at that.

      December 18, 2010 at 10:49 pm |
    • MMH

      If we live by the sword, then we die by it. I won't condemn the atheist responses because we haven't been turning the other cheek, and Christ bid us to do that–even unto our deaths. Paul said that we were to suffer because Christ suffered. In America, Christians have had it pretty darn good, and atheists have had it pretty bad. We can't deny that. I've never been persecuted for being a Christian, but I've witnessed atheists being persecuted for not being Christians.

      I can't speak for Don, but I suspect that he's met a lot of Christians who have made him want to respond in kind.

      December 18, 2010 at 10:59 pm |
    • Don

      Wenteast is just throwing a tantrum because he keeps getting banned for trolling. MMH.

      December 19, 2010 at 12:11 am |
  13. Steve S

    It's simply a fact that a number of attrocities in history have been carried out in the name of Christianity – however, many atheist leaders of the last 100 years have taken human suffering to a new level ... Marx (killed an estmated 20 mil of his own people), Hitler (killed 10 million people) Mao Zedong (up to 50 mil!), Pol Pot (1-2 mil)... Power is dangerous in the hands of any leader, Christian or not but when there is a lack of belief in accountablilty to a higher power (here or in the afterlife) and a belief in the "survival of the fittest", the results have been horrific.

    The glory of God is all around us – the complexity of a single cell from the human body and the order present in our universe should point us all to our creator. Although we come up with all kinds of reasons to deny God's existence he has made his existence abundently clear through our surroundings and the discoveries of science... when it comes down to it, most in the science community don't like the idea of a creator because then they'd have to answer to that creator... this reality will keep many from accepting the Truth found in Jesus (absolute Truth)....

    December 18, 2010 at 9:57 pm |
    • MMH

      Do you mean Stalin or Lenin? Marx never killed anyone. I suspect this is an honest mistake.

      December 18, 2010 at 10:04 pm |
    • Andrew

      He must mean Stalin. Lenin was actually a decent leader, and Marx of course was never a leader to begin with. I think Stalin's figure is more between 30 and 50 million dead, though.

      December 18, 2010 at 10:10 pm |
    • Don

      Hitler was catholic. I know christians love to lie and say he was an atheist, but he was catholic. Further, how many whomever has killed gets one nowhere at all. What matters is that no theist has ever been able to coherently define "god". As a result, "god" simply cannot exist, for it remains gibberish.

      December 18, 2010 at 10:42 pm |
    • Wenteast

      Don says no one has ever been able to define God to his satisfaction, so therefore He can't exist.

      December 18, 2010 at 10:46 pm |
    • MMH


      Above you stated to Dan that you "used to be a christian. Then I grew up and realized that the notion of some magic space pixie creating everything is utterly laughable." I suspect the "magic space pixie" is a bit tongue-in-cheek (I somehow picture David Bowie in Stardust fashion). But if you're still around, I'd honestly like to know what that experience was like (because I've never had it). What suddenly changed your frame of belief/thought?

      December 18, 2010 at 11:17 pm |
    • Andrew

      Don, a careful look at Hitler's actual life story will show you that Hitler abandoned Catholicism at a very early age and was highly critical of it later in life.

      December 18, 2010 at 11:45 pm |
    • Don

      Andrew, Hitler never abandoned catholocism. Nice try, but lying won't help you.

      December 19, 2010 at 12:01 am |
    • Don

      No Wenteast, I say that god simply hasn't been coherently defined, period. But if you wish to strawman: do so. All it means is that you have no argument.

      December 19, 2010 at 12:02 am |
    • Don

      MMH, what changed my mind was the realization that "god" as an explanation simply didn't answer anything, and then later I realized that the claims of what god "is" made no sense at all. That all the claims for the existence of said three character string (g-o-d) were fallacious or rested on gimblebabble. Thus, we have atheism as the stance of theological noncognitivism.

      December 19, 2010 at 12:04 am |
    • MMH

      Hi Don-

      God as "an explanation" for what? Being? Morality? Good and evil? Or was it more personal (perhaps not appropriate for a public discussion forum like this)?

      Here's another question. When you were a Christian, did you ever believe that you felt God's presence, or was your faith experience more cognitive than anything else? If you did believe that you felt God's presence, did that feeling immediately subside when you abandoned Christianity?

      Most of my atheist friends aren't "apostates" (a term I've never really liked any way), so I'm curious about the experience of abandoning faith.

      December 19, 2010 at 12:29 am |
    • Don

      An explanation for anything, MMH. When the supernatural is invoked, it clearly means the person has no actual explanation and wants to resort to "I don't want to look like I don't know, so I'll just say that it's magic".

      My faith was cognitive, and when I let go of it I felt so much better about myself. I realized that I had been intellectually dishonest, fooling myself into believing something that just wasn't true. So eliminating that false belief allowed me the pride of intellectual integrity.

      December 19, 2010 at 10:09 am |
    • MMH

      Don, I feel like we're experiencing a parallax view. My faith experience isn't entirely cognitive–that I will confess. But I also don't believe that I've ever fallen into the trap of group psychology (even in the liberal sense–people really need to read up on their Freud and Lacan these days, because the term is so often misused), nor have I ever felt brainwashed. In many ways, I've tried to be an atheist, but I just can't do it, because I believe it would be intellectually dishonest to do so. And I find my faith to be liberating, not because it answers everything but because it continually confesses that it can't answer everything (not on earth). Most Christians are unwilling to concede that point–much to our detriment, I suppose.

      December 19, 2010 at 1:59 pm |
  14. Egypt

    C.S Lewis was a truely inspired man. I believe he was one of very few intellects throughout the Christian history who were able to experience genuine faith and to translate it into inspired books and articles. The amazing richness and deepness of his rightings come from his authentic experience of God. I believe he never wrote a single word that he hadn't lived in his heart.
    Calling his books "Christian apologetic work" is nothing but demeaning to his legacy. Neither he nor his God had anything to apologise for. He's a man who dared to listen to his inner thirst to truth and when he put his arrogance aside, the rivers started flowing inside him, he then put his inspiration in his books. No one will be able to touch his inspiration without the same thirst. No one can drink before admiting he's thirsty!

    December 18, 2010 at 9:51 pm |
    • chelseykia

      Christian "Apologists" does not mean apologizing for Christianity. 🙂 It refers to the intellectual defense and discussion of the relationship between God and you, as well as Christianity in general. The debates can be intensely engaging and stimulating for the mind, and many, particularly scholars, have been drawn to Christ as a result.

      Look up Dr. William Lane Craig – many have supposed him to be the modern C.S.Lewis of the 21st Century.

      December 18, 2010 at 11:52 pm |
  15. wilburn

    About the definition of "atheism." Is the absence of faith in God's existence tantamount to faith in God's non-existence?

    December 18, 2010 at 9:38 pm |
    • fatsean

      People who worship the rapist Yahweh, who knocked up Mary without asking...AND ordered the Hebrews to commit genocide...they're all uppity and angry about people who find no compelling reason to believe the childish claims of religion.

      They're all over this thread 😀 Gotta to defend the propaganda, eh?

      December 18, 2010 at 9:54 pm |
    • Dave

      I marvel at how you must have been raised, "fatsean".

      December 19, 2010 at 2:43 am |
  16. Jason

    Reading the "Screwtape Letters". Very good Lewis book.

    The most convincing part of the Bible is that regardless if you think its true or not it contains the story of the only Person in human history that made the outlandish claims(too many to recount) that he made and STILL has followers today; more than 2000 yrs after his assasination. Neither Buddah, Muhammad, Moses, Zeus, Pharoah, Amun, Ra, nor any other person ever said, "Come to me All you who labor and are heavy laden(burdened) and I(did you see that "I") will give you rest...."

    The other thing is, what is it about this Man that He caused so much controversy while He was alive(in the flesh) AND now, again 2000 yrs later he is still just as controversial. All this while never saying a bad thing about anybody; never leading a riot, never THINKING a bad thing about anybody. Man, you atheists just don't know what you're missing! READ THE BIBLE!

    December 18, 2010 at 9:02 pm |
    • fatsean

      Are you serious? The fact that people still worship Jesus 2000 years later is EVIDENCE?

      Um, What about Jews? They've got a few thousand years on the convicted criminal Jesus...

      You believers...

      December 18, 2010 at 9:56 pm |
    • Jason

      Kinda hard to tell if you're being sarcastic fatsean, but anyway what about my second point? Why has such a completely docile humans' story been met with such vitriol for so long? It would seem that His story would have been buried in the ancient news cycles a long time ago. There ain't kingdom or corporation in history with this kind of staying power.

      December 18, 2010 at 11:32 pm |
  17. BF2350

    I do declare....the atheists and agnostics make this site lively. I have often wondered why they are so interested in this site. One would think, believing as they do about Christianity, they would have better things to do, and yet they spend what appears to be hours here. Could it be deep down inside they aren't sure about their non-belief and they are hoping others will agree with them so they can feel more comfortable??? I am just waiting for some brave soul to actually sincerely seek God, and put God to the test, and when he or she finds Him, to come back on this site and proclaim that they have found God and they were wrong in their non-belief. Wouldn't that be something. Stranger things have happen. In these days, it seems it is politically incorrect, but I will anyway wish each of you a Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year. May the year 2011 be your year of enlightment.

    December 18, 2010 at 8:56 pm |
    • Don

      Or could it be we just like discussion? Naaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah! Couldn't be that, could it? COULD IT?

      December 18, 2010 at 10:40 pm |
  18. JiminNM

    Ravi Zacharias is a good apologist RZIM.ORG C.S. Lewis really searched for the truth, and that is evident in Mere Christianity.

    December 18, 2010 at 8:48 pm |
  19. Dave

    I've heard nothing but good things about CS Lewis. Granted, I haven't heard a *lot*. I really think I should pick up a copy of "Mere Christianity" sometime though. My curiosity summons.

    December 18, 2010 at 8:44 pm |
  20. Jim Haviland

    Shadowlands was inspired byGresham's book Lenten Lands.

    December 18, 2010 at 8:38 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.