Screwtape is a demon and he is writing letters to his nephew, Wormwood. The letters are meant to help Wormwood, who is fresh out of Tempter’s College, in his endeavors to prevent people from becoming Christians. In the end Wormwood fails and is eaten by the more successful demons.
The advice given by Screwtape was potentially effective, but it was also subtle.
- Church members can be used to keep people away from the Gospel, especially if they behave rudely or practice immorality.
- Family discord, lack of self-examination, and critical thoughts toward others will promote a self-righteous attitude.
- Keep people away from prayer or have them use memorized superficial prayers that can be repeated without meaning.
- Keep people focused on themselves and their own problems to promote selfishness and prevent charitable behavior.
- Keep people focused on personal feelings.
- Teach people to reverence religious objects, so the object replaces God.
- Teach people to view the past as happy and peaceful. Teach them to view the future with dread and hopelessness, so they will believe not even God can save them from certain destruction.
- Create anxiety to prevent people from focusing on God.
- Promote hatred for those who are different from them and hatred for enemies.
- Promote malice towards the people around them and keep benevolence out of their minds.
- Increase temptation during times of struggle, so sin appears to be the best way to elevate depression and inner turmoil.
- If people desire to attend church, help them find one that focuses solely on friendship and self-help topics.
- Teach people to live two parallel lives. Sunday is for church, but during the rest of the week there is no thought of God. This will allow them to live in sin, but still feel self-righteous.
- Lull people into the path of wickedness, “Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”
- Don’t allow people to be rooted in a church, “if a man can’t be cured of church going, the next best thing is to send him all over the neighborhood looking for the church that ‘suits’ him until he becomes a taster or connoisseur of churches.”
- Promote discord in the church, so the members are arguing over petty things, then they will be unable to teach the gospel with any effectiveness.
- Encourage false spirituality among the people.