C.S. Lewis on Happiness

happiness C.S. Lewis

During the course of his life, C.S. Lewis made a number of incisive observations about God, human nature, our place in the world, among many other topics. We are all in pursuit of happiness, but do we really have a good grasp of what happiness is? What follows are some of Lewis’s observations about “happiness.”

If you think of this world as a place intended simply for our happiness, you find it quite intolerable: think of it as a place of training and correction and it’s not so bad. Imagine a set of people all living in the same building. Half of them think it is a hotel, the other half think it is a prison. Those who think it a hotel might regard it as quite intolerable and those who thought it was a prison might decide that it was really surprisingly comfortable. So that what seems the ugly doctrine is one that comforts and strengthens you in the end. The people who try to hold an optimistic view of this world would become pessimists: the people who hold a pretty stern view of it become optimistic. [1. C.S. Lewis (God in the Dock,”Answers to Questions on Christianity” (1944), ans. 5, p. 52.)]

God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing. [2. C.S. Lewis (Mere Christianity, bk. II, chap. 3, para. 7, p. 54.)]

A “right to happiness”… sounds to me as odd as a right to good luck. For I believe – whatever, one school of moralists may say – that we depend for a very great deal of our happiness or misery on circumstances outside all human control. A right to happiness doesn’t, for me, make much moře sense than a right to be six feet tall, or to have a millionaire for your father, or to get good weather whenever you want to have a picnic. [3. C.S. Lewis (God in the Dock, “We Have No ‘Right to Happiness’” (1963), para. 5-6, p. 318.)]

Which of the religions of the world gives to its followers the greatest happiness? While it lasts, the religion of worshipping oneself is the best… As you perhaps know, I haven’t always been a Christian. I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity I am certain there must be a patent American article on the market which will suit you far better, but I can’t give any advice on it. [4. C.S. Lewis (God in the Dock, “Answers to Questions on Christianity” (1944), ans. 11, pp. 58–59.)]