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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Is there a universal morality? Does human nature, like the laws of nature, exist in accordance with inalterable rules? Is there a benevolent God? Are men and women, by nature, good? These questions may well have reached a pinnacle of urgency during World War II, when they took on profound and personal significance for those witnessing the chaos and inhumanity ravaging Europe. C. S. Lewis, one of the most influential Christian writers of his time and author of the beloved Chronicles of Narnia series, explored these questions and more in his legendary wartime BBC radio broadcasts, which were then edited and released in print as The Case for Christianity, Christian Behavior, and Beyond Personality and later collected under the title Mere Christianity. Listeners can once again experience these talks -- by far Lewis's most popular body of nonfiction -- in the medium for which they were first created, through this compelling new audiobook read by Geoffrey Howard.
At once a moving and rational case for Christianity and a refreshing exploration of the ideas that are the foundation of all faiths, Mere Christianity takes a sympathetic look at humanity, the differences that cause rifts between Christians, and the doubts haunting people of all religions. By asserting that all forms of Christianity, which throughout history has splintered into denominations erecting barriers between adherents, have at their heart some "belief that has been common to nearly all Christians at all times," Lewis returns to the very foundation of Christianity, creating a nonpolitical forum in which all Christians can find agreement and unity. "We are on the wrong road," says Lewis gently to his audience, "and if that is so, we must go back. Going back is the quickest way on."
His arguments are not exclusively for Christians, however. He probes the essence of all religions, exploring what he believes to be universal truths about human nature and the essential paradoxes that exist within it. He asserts that people everywhere share the belief that they ought to act in a certain way, yet by nature they do not act that way. He addresses the questions surrounding ideas of morality in the face of different beliefs, asserting that there is only one acceptable -- and universal -- morality for all people. He takes on the dualities of good and evil, stating, "Evil is a parasite, not an original thing. All the things that enable a bad man to be bad are good things." Most important, as a former atheist, he succeeds in playing his own devil's advocate to present a rational argument for the existence of God.
Though the thinking behind these talks is very powerful, C. S. Lewis succeeds in making his discussion highly informal, his arguments grounded and conversational. Geoffrey Howard's warm and powerful voice captures the tone of the writing beautifully, conveying an intimate blend of friendliness and conviction, making Mere Christianity as entertaining, enlightening, and necessary at the dawn of a new millennium as it was in the middle of the last century. So, sit by the fire, settle down by your speaker, and listen. (Elise Vogel)
Elise Vogel is a freelance writer living in New York City.