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Friday, November 4th, 2011


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7:57 p.m. - C.S. Lewis on Theocracy
There seems to be some reason to quote this every other week and a quick search for it in my own journal didn't turn it up, so it's about time for me to post this passage here.


I am a democrat because I believe that no man or group of men is good enough to be trusted with uncontrolled power over others. And the higher the pretensions of such power, the more dangerous I think it both to the rulers and to the subjects. Hence Theocracy is the worst of all governments. If we must have a tyrant a robber baron is far better than an inquisitor. The baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity at some point be sated; and since he dimly knows he is doing wrong he may possibly repent. But the inquisitor who mistakes his own cruelty and lust of power and fear for the voice of Heaven will torment us infinitely because he torments us with the approval of his own conscience and his better impulses appear to him as temptations. And since Theocracy is the worst, the nearer any government approaches to Theocracy the worse it will be. A metaphysic, held by the rulers with the force of a religion, is a bad sign. It forbids them, like the inquisitor, to admit any grain of truth or good in their opponents, it abrogates the ordinary rules of morality, and it gives a seemingly high, super-personal sanction to all the very ordinary human passions by which, like other men, the rulers will frequently be actuated. In a word, it forbids wholesome doubt. A political programme can never in reality be more than probably right. We never know all the facts about the present and we can only guess the future. To attach to a party programme--whose highest real claim is to reasonable prudence--the sort of assent which we should reserve for demonstrable theorems, is a kind of intoxication.

--C.S. Lewis, from the essay "A Reply to Professor Haldane," as printed in On Stories And Other Essays on Literature

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Comments:


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From:nellorat
Date:November 5th, 2011 05:28 PM (UTC)
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This is magnificent!

Synchronicitously, my epic dream last night at one point turned into a confrontation between good & evil, with Mythopoeic Society people on the side of good (at one point, I literally was given a sword and proceeded to slay a dragon), but I had to deal with an evangelist who was very condemning of others. To or about him, I said that he seemed to be on God's side, but I had a hard time accepting how much he--" "Hates?" someone else suggested. "Well, not hate like Satan hates," I replied after thinking it over, "but something like that."
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From:hummingwolf
Date:November 6th, 2011 01:47 AM (UTC)
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Sounds like a fascinating dream!

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