HPL & C. S. Lewis Compared & Contrasted in Christian Magazine

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#3
I think that one of the things I object to in such pieces when discussing HPL is that they present a monolithic view on his part, which is far from the truth. His view on such matters was quite complex and not at all easily summed up. One might argue, of course, that such articles rely on the fiction for the impressions they receive, yet here we also have quotations from letters and essays; the same letters and essays which, when read attentively, show just how complex and difficult to summarize his positions on these things were.

Much has been made (largely rightly) of Lovecraft's atheistic position; yet he well understood the need of human beings for myths, and in fact sympathized with those who found in tradition and myth beauty and a source of emotional sustenance. At times he even had kind things to say about this or that aspect of religion. But he did not believe -- based, as one of the excerpts presented makes clear, on the best evidence available -- in the objective, factual truth of any religious view... and so far the evidence has tended to back his view much more than that of Lewis. And, as Lovecraft was quite aware, one of the reasons religion continues to exist is that it does indeed fulfill, at least to some degree, an emotional "need" or desire for many, regardless of the factual basis or lack of same of whatever religion may be involved. Lovecraft was also quite aware that all the world's major religions tend, in the end, to have as much validity when it comes to the supernatural aspects of their beliefs as each other, yet they obviously can't all be right. Nor, given the fact that human beings have existed such a short time, is it at all likely that we have any special importance in the "scheme of things"... as he famously commented in another context, no more than mosquitoes, rats, lice, etc., or "any other form of biological energy". To assign to us any more significance than any other form of life (or energy, for that matter) on a cosmic scale, is simply unwarrantable if one relies on evidence rather than the desire to have it so.

Which is not to say that he did not realize just how genuinely poignant a pang the loss of such belief would engender for many, nor how tragic the outcome might be; simply that he recognized that this matters (so far as we have any genuine evidence) only to us (and, perhaps, insofar as they have the cognitive ability to evolve such thoughts, to those species which are dependent on or in close relationship -- friendly or otherwise -- with us). Yet to us, as he also rightly noted, such things are supremely important, and to therefore be taken into consideration when dealing with human psychology and relationships.

I won't go into Lewis because I frankly don't know that much about him other than the Narnia books, the Ransom trilogy, and some of his apologetics, none of which I have read for some time. I would, however, venture to guess that Lewis' views, too, were more complex than is often credited. I simply feel that, if one is going to undertake such a comparison, one had better do a much more thorough job of research than I see here; else it comes across less as a balanced comparison than having an axe to grind in order to build up a favored writer at the expense of another. And, in this case, that "other" happens to be a writer whose thoughts on such issues are intensely difficult to summarize without doing them an injustice.
 

Ray McCarthy

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#4
else it comes across less as a balanced comparison than having an axe to grind in order to build up a favored writer at the expense of another.
That's only one viewpoint, I didn't think it was at all trying to build up one vs the other.

Nothing whatsoever is provable on a scientific or mathematical basis of either position. I don't think the author was trying to "diss" Lovecraft either or present a simple view of Lovecraft's obviously complex thoughts and beliefs. It didn't come across as Atheism vs Faith piece or Lewis vs Lovecraft but an interesting contrast of two amazing people that overlapped in time and sometimes in their interests in other authors and Myth.

I've only read about Lovecraft and his creations. I've been meaning to read something actually by Lovecraft, but generally I gave up reading "horror genre" about 40 years ago. The article made me more curious to read a Lovecraft story. To me it ONLY compares and contrasts them and "disses" neither. Unlike Lovecraft, Lewis wasn't primarily a fantasy/fiction writer at all. The Ransome trilogy isn't even conventional SF, but written as a challenge when Lewis's friends were critical of him for criticising SF (I think his objections were valid actually for some authors and he just hadn't read the better stuff). The Narnia books were really the only fiction he particularly intended to write. Very much aimed at kids. His Inkling friends seemed to think they were a little silly.
 
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willwallace

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#5
I felt the article was biased against Lovecraft, with some faint praise thrown in to make it seem somewhat balanced. I also have little experience with Carroll, so no comments for that part of the article. J d's comments about HP pretty much dovetail with what I would have said, albeit much less eloquently.
 
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Essentially, that's the impression I got as well. There is a very obvious bias in favor of a theistic view, and the opposing view is often not-so-subtly phrased to make it sound uninformed or even sophomoric... which would rather surprise the majority of scientists and philosophers dealing with these topics (save, perhaps, for those who are themselves apologists). Lovecraft himself is treated none too well in the phrasing, either... yet he was one of the most impressive autodidacts to come down the pike in a verrrrry long time; enough so to have garnered more than a little attention from a number of scholars and professors worldwide for his wide variety of interests and often insightful comments on same.

Granted, he had his flaws, and certainly his racism is something even the most devoted of his readers find distasteful; yet I rather doubt that many who are informed about such matters are likely to find it "troubling" when a writer of his generation showed such tendencies, given that the vast majority of writers and artists (as well as composers) throughout history, until just recently, had such tendencies. The main problem with HPL in this regard, as de Camp and others have noted, is that he was so articulate about something concerning which he frankly made himself appear to later readers and writers as a fool. Still, these views were held by many of the best and brightest even in his day, and only our own modern biases and lack of experience with the history of the subject's prevalence keeps us from being aware of that fact.

As for the statement "[n]othing whatsoever is provable on a scientific or mathematical basis of either position"... I would say that depends on what you mean by "provable". If you mean definitively proven, you are quite right; but then, nothing in science ever is, as it is always subject to challenge based on new information. However, the preponderance of the evidence does indeed come down on Lovecraft's side on this one (unlike his racial theories), whereas the views of Lewis and other apologists have taken a severe beating, in the main. I would also add that this is one of the reasons why Lovecraft's work has taken on such stature in the worldwide literary spectrum; he has in many ways voiced the existential crisis of the ensuing decades to a remarkable degree; making him something of a spokesman for the increasingly religiously unaffiliated (which is also a rapidly increasing percentage of the world's population)... a thing which would quite frankly have flabbergasted him....

HPL had his faults, certainly, and I've made no bones about criticizing him on various of them; but I'm afraid the writer here was severely off-base in his presentation, and his bias comes across in resounding tones -- as much so as Lovecraft's own in many of his early writings for the amateur press....
 

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#8
We had a thread elsewhere about Science and Faith or Religion. So I won't repeat it. Anyway as a result of the article I'll be reading a HPL book and I think HPL fans and anti-theists are over-reacting.
 

willwallace

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We had a thread elsewhere about Science and Faith or Religion. So I won't repeat it. Anyway as a result of the article I'll be reading a HPL book and I think HPL fans and anti-theists are over-reacting.
HP isn't for everyone, so hopefully you like whichever book you choose to read.

I don't believe any of us who are characterizing the article in Touchstone-a conservative Christian magazine, which has also espoused intelligent design in publishing a book of essays Signs of Intelligence: Understanding Intelligent Design-as biased, are over-reacting at all. On the contrary, I believe the response from j d and others has been very measured and intelligently laid out, without hyperbole.
 

Ray McCarthy

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publishing a book of essays Signs of Intelligence: Understanding Intelligent Design,
I have no interest in such a book* and while it might be relevant to the outlook of the author of this piece, prior actions are only used in considering sentencing, not the trial. I feel I must have read a different article. :D

As I only know the hype surrounding Lovecraft, and haven't read his books or biography, perhaps the article is very biased, but my initial comment was that it is interesting, and though I don't read Horror hardly at all since 1980, I'm now curious to read a representative Lovecraft book. As I've little money are there any half decent one on Gutenberg out of copyright?

(*I regard virtually all US creationist philosophies as childish, ill-informed and based on their own theology about the Bible, not what the Bible actually says in the style and context of the passages. I've read just about every Lewis book, someone mentioned Carroll, a quite different Author of Alice books and photographer of small girls.)
 

willwallace

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As I've little money are there any half decent one on Gutenberg out of copyright?

I've read just about every Lewis book, someone mentioned Carroll, a quite different Author of Alice books and photographer of small girls.)
Anything he wrote before 1923 is out of copyright.

That was me who mixed up my Lewises :(
 

Ningauble

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Amazon has cheap e-book collections. A Complete... for 3 bucks and a Best of for 2 bucks.
True, but the site Ningauble has suggested uses the corrected texts, whereas nearly all other versions have serious textual problems; and with Lovecraft, that can make a considerable difference. And, of course, it's free.

Ray: I am not basing my reaction on the source of the article, nor did I know about the other item mentioned above. I simply noted the careful phrasing of the article in the link in both cases, which makes such bias obvious. Nothing particularly wrong with having such a bias, but one should note such a bias simply as a caveat before attempting such a comparison, where the bias is inevitably going to influence the writer's assessment. Otherwise, it tends to come off as more than slightly disingenuous....

I am glad you found the article interesting, and that you are thinking of reading Lovecraft; but, as remarked above, he isn't for everyone. While he is best known as a "horror" writer, I think it is more accurate to describe him as a writer of "weird tales", or a fantaisiste, as his work is by no means strictly concerned with "horror", but also with awe, wonder, a sense of the tragic, and often beauty of one sort or another. Taking all the "hype" with a large amount of salt, and simply approaching him with curiosity rather than preconceptions is more likely to be fruitful than any other approach. After all, the range between, say, "The Quest of Iranon" or The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath and "The Music of Erich Zann", "The Colour Out of Space", The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, or At the Mountains of Madness (and even between the latter four) is quite considerable.....
 

Ningauble

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