Sunday, April 06, 2014

C.S. Lewis on the Oppression of "The Good"

"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be "cured" against one's will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals."
C.S. Lewis "The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment" AMCAP Journal Vol.13 No1. 1987. 151.


  1. Reminds me of the old saying, "Tantum religio potuit suadere malorum"-- Religion alone can persuade men to such evils. (But the zeal of communists, nazis, and followers of Pol Pot have come up with even worse atrocities.)

  2. Rachel,

    I agree that the atrocities of the 20th century were horrible and primarily politically motivated. However, I think Lucretius's quote doesn't take into account the evil already in men's hearts. In fact, most of the wars waged in human history have been fought for power or wealth. The rulers may guise such desires in religious rhetoric to try and rally the populace, but they are secular motivations with a religious facade. See for more.