Can we truly live good lives devoid of Christianity? Is being “good” and leading a “good” life truly sufficient? CS Lewis doesn’t think so.
In “Man or Rabbit,” Lewis makes the distinction between two type of people: the Christian and the Materialist. He says that the Materialist has this life ideology:
All I’m interested in is leading a good life. I’m going to choose beliefs not because I think then true but because I find them helpful.
Lewis immediately dismisses this view for its inherit laziness. He says that “One of the things that distinguishes man from the other animals is that he wants to know things, wants to find what reality is like, simply for the sake of knowing.” Thus, he condemns those who merely seek practicality and not truth. Moreover, Lewis also denounces someone who wonders whether Christianity is the right way to go, but not for the right reasons. The one who asks “Need I bother about it? Mayn’t I just evade the issue, just let sleeping dogs lie, and get on with being ‘good’?” This kind of person, the kind who wants the comfort of knowing that he is saved without bothering with the trouble of living the Christian life to the fullest, is like the man who “deliberately ‘forgets’ to look at the notice board because, if he did, he might find his name down for some unpleasant duty.” He is a coward and not living as a full human being, but more like a “rabbit” or an ostrich with its head in the sand.
However, Lewis seems to have an interesting tolerance for those who simply choose not to disregard Christianity after having truly wrestled with it. He mentions J. S. Mill “who quite honestly couldn’t believe it,” and says that he has much more respect for this person than for a “lukewarm Christian,” since he is believing what he sees as truth. Lewis says that “Honest rejection of Christ, however mistaken, will be forgiven and healed – “Whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him.’” I have never heard such a direct affirmation on this subject, and I would certainly like to believe that Lewis is right; but how can one be saved without actually accepting Jesus, as the Bible says we must? This open question Lewis implicitly poses is almost rhetorical, for how can we truly ever know? If we can, in fact, reject Christianity with solid reasons, does this mean that we can reason or way out of serving God and into heaven? This strikes me as odd, but is good food for thought.