The Wormwood Letters: Reply to Screwtape Letters 1-2 (Written By An Atheist)
Thank you for your letters. Your advice on not making rational arguments – on confusing my charge as much as possible – failed miserably. I wonder if you are intending to feast on my flesh and highly suspect you are in service of the Enemy.
I did EXACTLY as you told me. He was in the library, reading about the logical arguments for and against the resurrection of Christ. And I followed your instructions by taking his mind off the rational question of whether or not the resurrection actually happened – as you suggested, I encouraged him to think about his peers, about thoughts that were fashionable at the time. I encouraged him to choose his beliefs on the basis of Popularity and not Truth, as, I whispered in his ear, Truth was ultimately unknowable, anyway.
Screwtape, it opened the door! As soon as he began thinking about Popularity he realized that he was in a region where the majority of the population WAS Christian, and that embracing Christianity gave him a profound social advantage and a shortcut from rational thought and uncertainty to certainty within a void of knowledge (a void that was my doing in the first place). He does not care whether the resurrection actually happened, thanks to my following of your advice – now he merrily decides to go with it because he likes its story of heaven and the standing being a Christian will give him in his community! I can’t help but think that a more rational approach would have worked better – perhaps he would have paused at Jesus turning the water into wine, or walking on the water, or the virgin birth, or the entire book of Revelation, after some careful rational thought.
It seems, Screwtape, that human beings have different degrees of certainty. Some aspects of life they readily accept because they find doing so convenient. Some they are unsure of. This man, for example, is not sure what the age of the earth is, exactly, but he is sure that he had pancakes for breakfast. It seems that these humans do not function in complete confusion – they have a kind of provisional knowledge they use for their daily affairs, even while they are unsure about things they can afford to suspend judgment on. It appears that this suspension of judgment enables them to examine claims more closely – what you had me do, by seeking to attack his provisional science-based knowledge with uncertainty, actually convinced him that a science-based viewpoint was so hopeless and worthless that he was forced to reject science and embrace Christianity just to make daily decisions.
The advice of your second letter, in which you responded to his conversion, is working rather poorly, as well -- my determination to make him focus on the vices of the churchgoers is drawing him CLOSER to God, not farther away. Before, he might have seen an action the Enemy regarded as evil and still respect the individual as a human being, seeking to understand more than judge. Now he sees the actions as Sin, no thanks to your encouragement to help me help him find fault in his fellow churchgoers. Before, he was on their same level, so he had no excuse for feeling superior to his fellow churchgoers. But now (thanks to your encouragement to help him find fault in his fellow churchgoers) he sees the Enemy’s moral code as a way to feel superior over those he attends church with. Far from weakening his faith, the judgmental nature resulting from the superiority complex that YOU instructed me to cultivate in him increasingly relies on his interpretation of the Enemy’s moral code, which further increases his faith in the Enemy himself.
In addition, your suggestion that I remind him how the modern day church is different from his picture of the “ancient” church actually has the effect of further segregating him from the world outside of the church that we would like him to be part of. He is now frequently trying to get the congregation back to a sense of “real” Christianity that is coupled with his particular take on morality (as I said before, a take that is based on his interpretation of the Enemy’s moral code). Far from turning him away from the Enemy, your instructions have made him one of the Enemy’s staunchest advocates in the church – a Christian fundamentalist, obsessed with getting back to the “original faith,” insulated from any attack of reason, obsessed with upholding the Enemy’s morality, and exponentially more distanced from the very world we want him, someday, to be part of.
I fear it is your goal to feast on my flesh for eternity…