Was C.S. Lewis shrill?

Russell Blackford’s “My most popular posts of the year” post reposts an interesting remark about C.S. Lewis:

Meanwhile, forthright Christians who want to argue publicly for the truth of their views manage to be at least as ‘shrill’ as Dawkins. For example, I’m currently reading Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, which I don’t think I’ve previously read in its entirety and have not opened for decades. As usual with Lewis, his style varies between blunt, emotive, self-righteous, and downright snide (I’ll bracket off how naive the actual arguments are). His approach gets a free pass in our culture, but if an atheist wrote in exactly the same way he or she would be roundly condemned.

  • http://exconvert.blogspot.com Kacy

    I noticed something similar while re-reading Chesterton as a skeptic, instead of as a Christian. His book, Orthodoxy, is as polemical as Dawkins when Dawkins is being most polemical, but when I point this out, I’m accused of taking an uncharitable reading of Chesterton.

    • Chris Hallquist

      Oh my science, Chesterton is as obnoxious as fuck. It often seems as if his real point is, “look at me! I live in a society where religion is so privileged, I can tell obvious lies and get away with it!”

  • Don Gwinn

    He gives an implicit answer for why Lewis gets a pass on his tone: people don’t actually read the book. They just pass around quotes that confirm their biases. They couldn’t tell you what the tone of the actual book was if you offered them golden ponies.

    • http://homeschoolingphysicist.blogspot.com PhysicistDave

      I’ve read a number of books by both Lewis and Dawkins: neither is shrill. They are simply guys with strongly held views who make the best case they can for those views. Both men wrote on so many issues that it is easy to agree with each on some issues and not on others.

      Personally, I think Dawkins is right on religion and Lewis is wrong. But, one nice thing about Lewis’ religious writings is that he wrote clearly enough that it is fairly easy to identify where and why I think he went wrong.

      Dave Miller in Sacramento

  • Chris Wild

    Thanks for posting this. I too have long been turned off by Lewis and Chesterton’s prose. Maybe not shrill. But smug and obnoxious, yes. And terribly overrated.

  • smrnda

    I’ve always found CS Lewis to sound patronizing, like his the Big Grown Up patting the little kid on the head going ‘tut tut, just like Mummy and Daddy tell you to do things and can’t explain why because your little mind wouldn’t understand, god is just like that.’ He has this pretentious, faux-chummy appeal that makes me feel like he can only write down to people. He’s got such a childishly simplistic view, and he seems to take that as a selling point. I think his goal was to create some idealized childhood he didn’t have, but it makes him write in a way that makes me want to jump out a window. He’s his day’s king of empty Christian platitudes.

    Dawkins shrill? I’d say he’s aggressive and a bit verbose at times, but at least I think he respects my intelligence.

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