“Right and Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe” by CS Lewis

This post is in response a comment Greg gave on my post Summary of my website: Reasons Why I Believe in God. What I wanted to say was too long for a comment:

Greg’s comment made me think of “Right and Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe” by CS Lewis. It was a philosophical radio address that has been included with other essays and printed in the books  Mere Christianity and The Case for Christianity.

The essay begins here:

The Law of Human Nature …

Every one has heard people quarrelling. Sometimes it sounds funny and sometimes it sounds merely unpleasant; but however it sounds, I believe we can learn something very important from listening to the kind of things they say. They say things like this: “How’d you like it if anyone did the same to you?” — “That’s my seat, I was there first” — “Leave him alone, he isn’t doing you any harm”– [and so on.] People say things like that every day, educated people as well as uneducated, and children as well as grownups.

Now what interests me about all these remarks is that the man who makes them is not merely saying that the other man’s behaviour does not happen to please him. He is appealing to some kind of standard of behaviour which he expects the other man to know about. And the other man very seldom replies: “To hell with your standard.” Nearly always he tries to make out that what he has been doing does not really go against the standard, or that if it does, there is some special excuse … It looks, in fact, very much as if both parties had in mind some kind of Law or Rule of fair play or decent behaviour or morality or whatever you like to call it, about which they really agreed. And they have.

The essay gets more thought provoking as it goes on. I read it before I believed in God. The essay goes on to show that everybody innately knows the “rules”. The philosophical discussion of the origin of the rules is a mind blower, even for an unbeliever like I was at the time.

Anyway, I just thought I’d run this up the flagpole.

And then there is little old me… What would cause people to spend the rest of their life just telling people why they believe in God? What indeed!

X

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46 Comments

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46 responses to ““Right and Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe” by CS Lewis

  1. Greg

    Interesting read X, and I\’ll agree that most of us have an innate sense of right and wrong, even people who belong to different faiths. Call it a moral compass if you want. However, I think there\’s a perfectly rational secular (and possibly even evolutionary) reason for such behavior.Shared values are the foundation upon which societies are built. Society cannot perpetuate without them. And I\’m not talking about a checklist that\’s passed around a committee and voted upon. I\’m talking about basic social behaviors that have been written into our genetic code over millions of years. We\’ve been programmed to need to belong to our society, and it\’s a pretty strong need, too. Social behaviors help us to belong, even when they fly in the face of our other base needs.And these behaviors are not strictly a human commodity. Social animals will often express behaviors that seem counterintuitive to self-preservation. Why do bees tell the hive where to find pollen? Because they have to work together to process it. Why do some birds fly in formation? Because they stand a better chance of getting there if they stick together. If one drops out, another will drop out with it to keep a formation until they can rejoin the flock.There are two primary reasons why a moral compass is important: to preserve the social order and our ability to belong to it. Suppose Ogg is cold. He sees that Grog has fire, and he wants to take it. Why doesn\’t he bash Grog over the head and take it? Because if he takes Grog\’s fire, then that means someone stronger can come along take Ogg\’s fire, too. If everyone took things that didn\’t belong to them, then society couldn\’t exist. The need to preserve the social order prevails, or as Spock would say "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few…or the one.Even if our actions don\’t jeopardize the entire society, we need to continue to belong. Look at Lewis\’ example of how an offender attempts to excuse his tresspasses. He doesn\’t try to discount social order, but rather he tries to justify his actions so that he can continue to exist in society. It\’s really just self-preservation on a different level.Of course those are pretty abstract concepts to wrap your head around, so it\’s just easier to point to some powerful outside force on which to pin moral rules. There\’s a really powerful dude in the sky, and he said that\’s a no-no. He made the sun, so you definitely don\’t want to cross him.

  2. X-Evolutionist

    @Greg: From your response, I\’ll bet you would get a kick out of reading the entire essay. It\’s probably in your public library. All the things you brought up are the same kinds of things that CS Lewis brought up. CS Lewis uses a lot of philosophy in his arguments. As you may know, he was a die hard atheist before having to bow down under the evidence for the existence of God (as he saw it). He spent much of the rest of his life sharing what convinced him that there is a God. Different things convince different people. Journalist Lee Strobel ran around the country asking learned men why they believed in God after his wife up and became a Christian. He\’s spending time now telling what convinced him: IE his book "Case for a Creator" etc. And then there is little old me… What would cause people to spend the rest of their life just telling people why they believe in God. There are a lot more fun things to do than being called an idiot all day….X

  3. Michelle

    X,there is fun in being called an idiot, depending on the day and the weather of course. LOL I had a dream last night about telling someone why I believe in Christ. It was very strange because of the location I was at in the dream but the gist of it was that I could not get away without telling the person what Christ did for me, how He changed my life. It now reminds me that as Christians we can lose our perspective sometimes. Get out of focus so to speak. And that is when the flesh tries to take over…satan knows we are vulnerable and he gets us focused on other things or issues. The behavior Greg mentions is just plain sinful flesh wanting what it wants. Self preservation?? Just man being selfish. Christ came along and introduced a way for man to exist within society. To do unto others in which you have them do unto you; give and it will be given unto you; love your enemy, etc. CS Lewis explains the philosophy of it but it all comes down to sin, we want what we want when we want it. Some may steal, some my manipulate, some may go in debt, some may fight for it. That is why God says in His word that we should "die to self" He afterall wants us to have the desires of our hearts (ones in which he places there in the first place) but He also wants us to not put anything before Him (idolatry). God\’s word is black and white, no gray area. I am not sure if I spoke to your conversation with Greg but I do like what you say, "What would cause people to spend the rest of their life just telling people why they believe in God?" I will because He changed my way of life…I don\’t have to steal, manipulate, go into debt or fight for it. I don\’t even need it if God does not give it to me. There is peace in walking with God and His ways!!! Why wouldn\’t I tell others about that???? You go girl!!!grace to youshell

  4. X-Evolutionist

    @Michelle: Actually, I don\’t mind being called an idiot several times a day. It just comes with what I\’m doing. Besides that, it\’s payback. I thought people like me were idiots until 13 years ago. I\’m going to keep doing what I"m doing as long as there is life in my body, and maybe a little while longer. Who knows what God has in store. X

  5. Fernando

    Hey, congratulations for the health care reform approval !!!!

  6. X-Evolutionist

    @Fernando: It passed in the House. It still needs to go to the Senate. I\’m not in favor of it. It costs me way to much money for the government to give me free stuff. X

  7. Fernando

    But think about all the good it will do … I beat God would be pleased

  8. X-Evolutionist

    @Fernando: I can not afford to buy health insurance. But, I CAN afford to pay cash when I go to the doctor and get a discount because of it. This health care "reform" will force me to pay MORE money than just for my own medical care. When the government gives "free" stuff, it costs the taxpayers money. X

  9. Fernando

    What if the problem you have is so big, that you don\’t have enough money to pay for it? I don\’t know exactly how the system would work for you; but here we pay a percentage (people who have more pay more) of our income to have social security, and even if you don\’t get the best attention in the world (here); a lot of people get surgeries and treatments that they wouldn\’t be able to pay otherwise. Other countries in Europe have much better healthcare systems, and the fact is, that these systems save lives. I know many cases, 2 of my friends had breast cancer and they were able to treat it because the healthcare system.

  10. X-Evolutionist

    @Fernando: You said: "What if the problem you have is so big, that you don\’t have enough money to pay for it?" For that matter, "What if" a lot of things? I pay for my own house insurance, I pay for my own car insurance. What if my house burnt down. What if my car burns down. Should the government cover all the bad things that could happen? X

  11. Fernando

    You can recover from all those things as long as you are alive and healthy; I don\’t think that is correct to compare a property with a life and pretend to apply the same rules for both; it is a false analogy in the moral sense. Also, correct me if I am wrong; but isn\’t true that right now a lot of life insurance companies have clauses regarding stuff about preexisting conditions and that kind of stuff.It is not my country and not my business (I have much worst problems in my country than you do), but I don\’t quite understand, why the people that is most religious in the US are the ones against the policies that would benefit the poorest part of the population.

  12. Keith

    Plus, as I blogged not long ago, it will require everyone to purchase insurance, it will be just like car insurance, which is (in my opinion) way to expensive. I do see Fernando\’s point about a "large problem". The insurance I had before my wife\’s insurance took effect only covered 70 to 80%. That extra expense was very difficult to handle.

  13. X-Evolutionist

    @Fernando: I was comparing them because your comment was about not having enough money. People think that the government gives away magic, free money. That is not true. The government only gives away money it takes away form other people. You want me to pay my bills plus somebody else\’s bills X

  14. X-Evolutionist

    @Keith: Thanks for popping in! Yeah, this whole thing is a bait and switch. It started out as "FREE" health care. Who ever heard of paying for free stuff? If everything is going to be paid for, then why pay insurance premiums anyway? Insurance carriers make money from premiums because not everybody gets sick, so they don\’t alway have to pay. But, if the government is going to pay for everybody, all the time, with no restrictions, insuance premiums is money down the drain. X

  15. Fernando

    All the services the government give you are financed by taxes. You pay for the police. What if you never need the police? You would still pay it right?The real issue is where to draw the line between which services should provide the state and which shouldn\’t. For example, here, the state provides electricity, water, insurance, telecom … way to many things.I believe that life is a fundamental issue (like security), and as such should be regarded by the state. Now, you can disagree on that, because is a political issue; but shouldn\’t be the pro-health care position the christian position? I never read about jesus going around fixing everyone financial issues, but he was always willing to heal people, wasn\’t he?

  16. X-Evolutionist

    @Fernando: In the USA, half the people agree with me and half the people do not. There are at least two ways of looking at everything, and you and I are just going to have to agree to disagree. X

  17. Greg

    Well, this conversation may be going off topic, but I\’m going to chime in here. You and I have had this discussion before, and I find it rather interesting, so here are my thoughts.There\’s this hoarding mentality that we as a society must get over. Let me frame it in another context. Suppose there was an option to pay $15 to buy a single album on CD that you could keep forever, or you could just pay $15/month to get access to as many albums as you\’d ever listen to on-demand. You\’d be nuts to keep plunking down $15 bucks per CD, right? You might say those who never listen to CDs are paying for those who listen to lots, but overall it\’s a superior system, because everyone has universal access to tunes.You might say that it should be your choice whether or not to participate in such a system, and you\’d be right, because entertainment is a personal choice. To some extent, so is whether or not to receive healthcare.I\’m all for personal freedom of choice, but here\’s the difference, X. It\’s not just yourself being put at risk. People without insurance (by choice or otherwise) are a risk to everyone else in the healthcare system, because when a catastrophe hits them, their treatment becomes a burden on those who do have insurance in the form of higher charges, which in turn raise premiums.It\’s for reasons like that you are required by law to have car and house insurance. Why would you not want to do the same for your health? Maybe if it had a catchier name, like "HealthPass."

  18. ROCKET

    X – I have no intention of entering into a debate on politics or religion but I would like to give you my personal perspective on this subject.If you pay for your own homeowner\’s insurance and your home burns down, your insurance company pays for it, not the government. The same applies with your car insurance. We pay exorbitant rates for medical care to help cover the cost of patients who do not have health insurance. When I was in intensive care in 2005 my sheets were not changed once because I could not be moved but there was a $550 linen fee on the bill; 5 days @ $110 a day. I know this for a fact because my health insurance was cancelled while I was in that bed and the hospital billed me direct. The total bill for the surgery to repair my fractured lumbar vertebrae, all of them, came to nearly $700,000. How much cash would it take to cover that at a discount? Should I have asked to have the procedure reversed? Since I was disabled and could not work as a result of the accident that put me in that bed where is the money to negotiate a discount supposed to come from?Another thing I noticed that is missing in this discussion is the number of states filing suit to stop the mandatory health insurance portion of the bill within those states. Virginia, where I live, is one. Then there is the fact in this great debate that nobody bothers to mention the scandalously cheap health care available to our elected officials. I know about those rates first hand because I was covered under the Postal Worker’s plan for the last 9 years of my civil service employment. This entire issue could be resolved very simply; offer that same plan to all Americans. Even minimum wage workers can afford that plan. As of 2004 I was paying $62 a pay period (15th and 30th of each month) for complete medical, dental and vision coverage for a family of 3.The there is the fact that after being turned down for medical coverage through the US Department of Veterans Affairs for 5 years in a row under the Bush administration because our annual Social Security Disability Income was $1100 above the allowable income level (and it was also below the federal poverty level for my family), within 3 months of Obama taking office that limit was raised and the VA contacted me to advise that I was now eligible. By this time I also had Medicare but we couldn\’t afford the co-pays and deductibles for that. My medical care is now 100% government provided and is the best I have had since leaving the US Air Force and that includes the years I had Travelers/Blue Cross & Blue Shield/Postal Workers and Anthem Healthkeepers plans and was paying over $7,000 in premiums annually plus co-pays and deductibles. It is also not free. I paid into Social Security for 43 years before my accident and I gave 14 years of my life in service to this country. Nothing I now receive is unearned or a giveaway.As I said, none of this is theory or conjecture; it is personal experience. I\’m not saying the health care plan voted on last night is the solution but I will tell you this; after having been there I can tell you that any health care is better than none.

  19. Fernando

    Yes, we agree to disagree.. wait, but I thought we somehow knew what was right and what was wrong…It just takes to touch someone\’s pocket and things start to look blurry, right?Sorry for hijacking your post.

  20. X-Evolutionist

    @Fernando: I said we disagree. I did not say I was wrong. I accept your apology for hijacking my thread. X

  21. ROCKET

    Me, too. Sometimes my fingers don\’t know when to shut up.

  22. X-Evolutionist

    @Rocket and @Greg: I did not notice there were more comments before Fernando\’s last one. Obviously this is a hot button issue. I\’m happy to give us all a forum to duke it out. X

  23. Mandy

    There seems to be a bit of short sightedness going on about these health care reforms! I\’m not (that) sick now, doesn\’t mean I\’m never going to be that sick, X, you pay to go each time to the doctors, if you knew how many times you would go to the doctors each year, and could spread the cost going each time, over the year would that make more sense? Can you guarantee that you will only need to go there, once in a while? and if you or your hubby got really sick (and as we get older that is more likely to happen) will you still be able to pay for the treatment cash? If one of you were in hospital for an extended period? I pay less than £10 per month (If I earned more I\’d pay more) (less than £120 per year) I can go to the doctors and sometimes need to, as many times as necessary, (every day if I want) in hospital for whatever ails me, and pay no more! (we do pay for prescription here) If I went to the docs 3 – 4 times per year and pay cash it would cost way more.

  24. ROCKET

    I just got an e-mail alert from my hometown paper. Thought y\’all would be interested: http://hamptonroads.com/2010/03/va-attorney-general-sues-over-federal-health-care-overhaul

  25. ROCKET

    I just got an e-mail alert from my hometown paper. Thought y\’all would be interested: http://hamptonroads.com/2010/03/va-attorney-general-sues-over-federal-health-care-overhaul

  26. X-Evolutionist

    @Rocket Man: Thanks for the link. It will be interesting to see what happens with that. X

  27. X-Evolutionist

    @Everybody: I have been made out to be the Grinch in these comments. I want to reiterate my stance. This was initally sold to us as "Free Healthcare". But, they did a bait and switch. It has become mandatory to pay for health insurance. What happened to "Free"? When I pay cash, I am in charge of my own health decisions, not the insurance company. I had an HMO for many years, and I hated it. X

  28. ROCKET

    I must have missed something somewhere as far as the FREE thing is concerned. I thought this whole battle was intended to make affordable health care available to the millions of American tax payers who can\’t afford health insurance.At the moment I don\’t understand why so many people are in a panic. The vast majority of us won\’t see any effect from this new law for years. As far as I know, nobody outside the Beltway and very few within knows all the particulars of the bill Obama signed. What I want to know is how many pork barrel riders were tacked on to get this thing passed. That will be where most of the excessive cost to the tax payers will be found.

  29. X-Evolutionist

    @Rocket: I bumped up another rant on the health care debate. In my humble opinion, insurance companies are gamblers, and the house always wins. When you pay cash, you have control, not the insurance carrier, in my humble opinion. (It\’s cheaper too) http://x-evolutionist.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!25A0033DD834DD1D!9425.entry

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