Mere Christianity: The Life-Force

Over the weekend I decided to re-read Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. It has been very rewarding. At the end of chapter 4, “What Lies Behind The Law,” after explaining the Materialist view and the Religious view, Lewis adds an excerpt on the In-between view called Life-Force philosophy, or Creative Evolution. The moment I read it I thought to myself that it is a perfect explanation of our society today though written 70 years ago.

The wittiest expositions of it [Life-Force philosophy] come in the works of Bernard Shaw, but the most profound ones in those of Bergson. People who hold this view say that the small variations by which life on this planet ‘evolved’ from the lowest forms to Man were not due to chance but to the ‘striving’ or ‘purposiveness’ of a Life-Force. When people say this we must ask them whether by Life-Force they mean something with a mind or not. If they do, then ‘a mind bringing life into existence and leading it to perfection’ is really a God, and their view is thus identical with the Religious. If they do not, then what is the sense in saying that something without a mind ‘strives’ or has ‘purposes’? This seems to me fatal to their view. One reason why many people find Creative Evolution so attractive is that it gives one much of the emotional comfort of believing in God and none of the less pleasant consequences. When you are feeling fit and the sun is shining and you do not want to believe that the whole universe is a mere mechanical dance of atoms, it is nice to be able to think of this great mysterious Force rolling on through the centuries and carrying you on its crest. If, on the other hand, you want to do something rather shabby, the Life-Force, being only a blind force, with no morals and no mind, will never interfere with you like that troublesome God we learned about when we were children. The Life-Force is a sort of tame God. You can switch it on when you want, but it will not bother you. All the thrills of religion and none of the cost. Is the Life-Force the greatest achievement of wishful thinking the world has yet seen?

Lewis, C. S.. Mere Christianity (C.S. Lewis Signature Classics) (pp. 26-27). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

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