How did C.S. Lewis turn from Atheism to Christianity?

While Clive Staples Lewis never actually converted to Catholicism, he made a serious and significant transition from atheism to Christianity and he believed in many Catholic concepts.  His morals and beliefs are often talked about in the context of his novels and other writings because of the symbolism he incorporated into them.

In a recent episode of The Cale Clarke Show, Cale tackled the incredible journey and transformation of one of Britain’s most respected authors from the darkness that entered his life, to the mental conflict of his identity, and ultimately to his eventual embrace of Christ.

“And how did C.S. Lewis descend into atheism when he was a young man? Well, it kind of all started with the death of his mother. And when his mother passed away, he questioned God, ‘How could you let this happen? How could you let her die?’” Cale went on to say that this is not just a problem reserved for those who experience the death of a loved one.  It’s often the cause of most departures from God: One might experience other tremendous hardship or suffering and begin looking for a reason or for somebody to blame. With no earthly explanation in sight, they start to question the reality of God, the Omnipotent.  How can He be Omnipotent if He allows such pain and conflict to exist? He wouldn’t, therefore He cannot be.

Lewis went on like this for years, serving in the military during World War I and then moving on to teach philosophy with an old professor of his.  But to him, something about atheism didn’t sit right. “‘In other words, I’m going to prove that you can be good without God.’ That’s what C.S. Lewis tried to do. Well, he tried to do it, but he failed. He wasn’t able to pull this off. He said, ‘It can’t be done.’ All he really succeeded in doing was convincing himself that there is something outside of the material universe,” said Cale.

Lewis determined that that “something” outside of the physical world could not be actual matter and therefore must be spiritual, something like a mind that had moral standards and a decidedly clear stance on right and wrong, on good and evil.  He had not reached the point of embracing a personal God like the One Christians did, but he was getting closer.

After determining that both Pantheism and Dualism were faulted belief systems, Lewis then turned his attention to the analysis of Christ as a religious figure.  He said that there are three possible explanations for the person of Jesus Christ: he’s either a “liar”, a “lunatic”, or the “Lord”.  If He says He is the Son of God, but knows that this is untrue, He must be a liar and an evil man.  If He says He is the Son of God and truly believes it to be so, but in reality He is not, He must be a lunatic, an insane person.  But if He says that He is the Son of God and it is true, He is the Lord and Savior.

After reading G.K. Chesterton’s The Everlasting Man, Lewis admitted he could not get it out of his head and later credited the book with “baptizing” his intellect and bringing him to embrace Christ at last.

Listen to the full talk below:

Tune in to The Cale Clarke Show weekdays at 5-6pm CT only on Relevant Radio.

CS Lewis
John Hanretty serves as a Digital Media Producer for Relevant Radio®. He is a graduate of the Gupta College of Business at the University of Dallas. Besides being passionate about writing, his hobbies include drawing and digital design. You can read more of his daily articles at relevantradio.com and on the Relevant Radio® app.