I have been reading the final book in CS Lewis’s space trilogy That Hideous Strength, and I came across an excerpt worth sharing. For those unfamiliar with the book a man named Mark (who is an unbeliever) is being programmed under the threat of violence to think “objectively,” meaning without influence of the “chemical reactions” that produce our moral (read emotive) judgments. The scientist in charge of his progress commands him to trample a crucifix. Mark hesitates… and puts his life in danger.
Mark was well aware of the rising danger. Obviously, if he disobeyed, his last chance getting out Belbury alive might be gone. The smothering sensation once again attacked him. He was himself, he felt, as helpless as the wooden Christ. As he thought this, he found himself looking at the crucifix in a new way—neither as a piece of wood nor a monument of superstition but as a bit of history. Christianity was nonsense, but one did not doubt that the man had lived and had been executed thus by the Belbury of those days. And that, as he suddenly saw, explained why this image, though not itself an image of the Straight and Normal, was yet in opposition to crooked Belbury. It was a picture of what happened when the Straight met the Crooked, a picture of what the Crooked did to the Straight—what it would do to him if he remained straight. It was, in a more emphatic sense than he had yet understood, a cross.
Here Lewis shows through his character that it is impossible to see the Cross from “objective” neutrality. Further along he explains why:
He [Mark] was thinking, and thinking hard, because he knew that if he stopped even for a moment, mere terror of death would take the decision out of his hands. Christianity was a fable. It would be ridiculous to die for a religion one did not believe. This man himself, on that very cross, had discovered it to be a fable, and he died complaining that the God in whom he trusted had forsaken him—had, in fact, found the universe a cheat. But this raised the question that Mark had never thought before. Was that the moment to turn against the Man? If the universe was a cheat, was that a good reason for joining its side? Supposing the Straight was utterly powerless, always and everywhere certain to be mocked, tortured, and finally killed by the Crooked, what then? Why not go down with the ship?
The cross shows that there is no middle ground between choosing to do wrong or to suffer wrong. All the secular mind can do in the face of this choice is to obtain some kind of “objectivity” that denies right and wrong altogether. And that, of course, is madness.