To Hell With C.S. Lewis’s Standard


I’ve never liked dressing up. Anyone in my life who has tried to dress me up at any point knows that it requires the same amount of force as wrasslin’ Kerchak from Tarzan to the ground, and putting some goddamn pants on him. And sure, once I’m all decked out, I enjoy feeling cool and confident enough to hit on my sister’s friends at a wedding, but the rest of the time, it’s just not worth it.

I also happened to go to a conservative religious boarding school (or were some of those words unnecessary?) and dressing up on Saturday was kinda their thing. We were told that not only did God want us to worship him on the Sabbath, as defined in his holy book, but he also wanted us to look our best. Church was like a date with God, so to speak, so he wanted us dressed to the nines to show our love for him.

The Thing About Standards

Standards only work if you agree to them. This is a method to control human behavior.

But, for all you Reading Rainbow fans out there, you don’t have to take my word for it. In his book Mere Christianity, children’s author and apologist C.S. Lewis explains the process by which certain standards guide human behavior. Listen to him talk about what happens when we object to someone’s behavior on the grounds of it being unseemly or unfair:

Now what interests me about all these remarks is that the man who makes them is not merely saying that the other man’s behavior does not happen to please him. He is appealing to some kind of standard of behavior which he expects the other man to know about. And the other man very seldom replies: ‘To hell with your standard.’

Lewis is droppin’ some real bombs here, but probably not in the way he intended. This is the way that my teachers could get me to dress up, not drink caffeine, not go to the movies, not eat pepper or mustard, not have sex before marriage, not drink, not go out to eat on the Sabbath, the whole shebang.

And they knew it.

They can control your behavior as long as you agree to the standard. There are two problems with this.

  1. The standard is completely arbitrary.There’s no reason that you have to believe in God. There’s certainly a lack of (or if we’re being generous, conflicting) evidence to the fact. And if you do believe, there’s no reason you have to think the Bible is his word. Plenty of people don’t. Just ask a Muslim. You don’t have to believe Jesus was his son. Plenty don’t. Ask a Jew. And even if you do, there’s no reason that that belief somehow translates into why you need to put on a suit.

    This is a cheap way to control your behavior.

  2. The standard is (usually) based on not knowing, prematurely dismissing, or badly contorting other options.When I took World Religions in high school, it was more “Why the others are wrong” class. Kids were told to go on spiritual journeys, but that meant “Come back with the right answer.” Planetarium field trips and science classes were pockmarked with “But we know that’s not true” whenever billions of years or transitional fossils were mentioned.

    What I’m saying is that keeping us thinking that way was based on a heavy curation of what was allowed to enter our minds, which is thought-pruning to the max. And I suppose it was because they know that if you know how old the earth is, and how “not original form” the modern Bible is, or believe evolution, or know how many gods have “existed” throughout time, or just how small the pale blue dot is in comparison with the totality of all the known universe… might be less likely to think you have your own personal deity.

    And you’re free to believe what you want to believe, but half the reason that so many are still stuck in a prison of their own minds is that they haven’t yet figured out that they can say the thing they’re not expected to.

    They can say, “To hell with your standard.”


    They say: “Oh, but dearie me, you’re not dressed up, and the Bible says…”

    And I say: “Who gives a shit?”

    Try it. You might like it.

Feel free to comment, like, share, and follow below!



*Just in case there is anyone in a fragile personal or professional state, just know that I always give advice based on the status of the listener. If you are someone who would suffer undue hardship, professional angst, termination, or suffer physical violence from taking any form of this advice, don’t do it, and seek help. This kind of advice is only meant for people who can actually take it freely. Stay safe!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s