Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The problem with Ezekiel Bulver's discovery that "you're wrong"

I find the fruits of [Ezekiel Bulver's] discovery almost everywhere. Thus I see my religion dismissed on the grounds that ‘the comfortable parson had every reason for assuring the nineteenth century worker that poverty would be rewarded in another world’. baird porter Well, no doubt he had. On the assumption that Christianity is an error, I can see early enough that some people would still have a motive for inculcating it. I see it so easily that I can, of course, play the game the other way round, by saying that ‘the modern man has every reason for trying to convince himself that there are no eternal sanctions behind the morality he is rejecting’. For Bulverism is a truly democratic game in the sense that all can play it all day long, and that it gives no unfair privilege to the small and offensive minority who reason. But of course it gets us not one inch nearer to deciding whether, as a matter of fact, the Christian religion is true or false. That question remains to be discussed on quite different grounds — a matter of philosophical and historical argument. However it were decided, the improper motives of some people, both for believing it and for disbelieving it, would remain just as they are.

C.S. Lewis, "'Bulverism,'" God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 273-274.
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  1. I remember first reading this essay when I was in university and it struck me that this is exactly what guys like Sigmund Freud and the sociologists of religion like Weber and Durkheim did.

    They said, "Well of course these poor farmers etc believe in an afterlife because it helps them get through this life which is so hard." Bulverism!!

    First, show us why we are wrong and THEN tell us 'how we came to be so silly'. Don't dismiss our belief by throwing out a curveball to distract the discussion.

    Besides, that door swings both ways. We could always say... "Well of course these atheists don't believe in God because then they would have to be accountable and maybe change their lives."

    I said that once to a teacher and he couldn't answer me...he'd never thought of it the other way around before. :-)

  2. PTA, I had a teacher who could've been named Bulver in Grade 13. He always challenged our beliefs, and looking back, I wish I had known about Bulverism back then. I would love to engaged the boomerang effect as you did. It would've showed him that he was a Bulver and not the great debater he thought he was.