C.S. Lewis: Is War Always The Greatest Evil?

C. S. Lewis
C.S. Lewis

Daily Dabble in the Classics, C.S. Lewis

The doctrine that war is always a greater evil seems to imply a materialist ethic, a belief that death and pain are the greatest evils. But I do not think they are. I think the suppression of a higher religion by a lower, or even a higher secular culture by a lower, a much greater evil. Nor am I greatly moved by the fact that many of the individuals we strike down in war are innocent. That seems, in a way, to make war not worse but better. All men die, and most men miserably. That two soldiers on opposite sides, each believing his own country to be in the right, each at the moment when his selfishness is most in abeyance and his will to sacrifice in the ascendant, should kill [each] other in plain battle seems to me by no means one of the most terrible things in this very terrible world. Of course, one of them (at least) must be mistaken. And of course war is a very great evil. But that is not the question. The question is whether war is the greatest evil in the world, so that any state of affairs which might result from submission is certainly preferable. And I do not see any really cogent arguments for that view.


Source: Excerpt from C.S. Lewis’, The Weight of Glory Ch. 3, “Why I Am Not a Pacifist”, p. 62.


Daily Dabble in the Classics is a project of The Moral Liberal’s Founder and Editor In Chief, Steve Farrell. The collective project, as well as any individualized spelling modernizations, unique formatting, and introductory or explanatory notes, Copyright © 2009-2012 Steve Farrell.


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