Argument from religious complexity

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C.S. Lewis makes an unusual argument from religious complexity in his book Mere Christianity:

  • Reality is complicated and defies expectations.
  • A mature understanding of Christianity is complicated and defies expectations.
  • Therefore, Christianity is more likely to be true because it reflects reality and no one can make that kind of thing up.
"Reality, in fact, is usually something you could not have guessed. That is one of the reasons I believe in Christianity. It is a religion you could not have guessed. If it offered us just the kind of universe we had always expected, I should feel we were making it up. But, in fact, it is not the sort of thing anyone would have made up."

Counter arguments[edit]

Which God?[edit]

Other religions make similar claims. For instance, Islam has the "produce a Sura like it" challenge.

Questionable analogy[edit]

The universe might not need an explanation such as this at all. The questions "what lies behind it" or "what is the purpose of it" are meaningless. Motives and thought are probably traceable back to material causes and are therefore not ultimate causes. We probably should be looking for a material cause, which might turn out to be relatively simple, such as the hypothetical theory of everything.

Unsupported assertions[edit]

The assertion that Christianity "is not the sort of thing anyone would have made up" is unsupported. We also have counter examples with many other religions making similar claims. This is similar to the argument from uniqueness.

Unusual stories are memorable[edit]

C.S. Lewis says that Christian theology could not be guessed because it is so surprising. The reason that theology is unusual is not necessarily that it is true, but because it is more memorable for having that property:

"After every plane crash there are special stories about passengers who "should not" have been on the plane-they got a seat at the last moment, they were transferred from another airline, they were supposed to fly a day earlier but had had to postpone. They common future of these poignant stories is that they involve unusual events-and unusual events are easier than normals events to undo [i.e. unpackage] in imagination. [...] Our mind has a useful capability to focus spontaneously on whatever is odd, different, or unusual. [1]"


  1. Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow