Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Religion as a Means, not an End

I am a fan of C.S. Lewis, particularly his Christian apologetics. I find him to be the most intellectually satisfying defender of Christianity that I have read. He is brilliant, creative and honest. And he gives due deference to contrary arguments from skeptics. One of his most creative works is The Screwtape Letters, a book in which the "narrator" is a senior level demon, working for Satan, who is advising a "nephew," an up and coming demon, on how to lead a particular human away from God and toward the dark side. So, he cleverly describes various modes of thinking and behaving that tend to lead humans astray and explains how his nephew can encourage those behaviors.

I've been re-reading Screwtape and was struck by the following quote, which I think effectively describes the Christian Right in America in the last 30 years. They use their religion as a political weapon to achieve temporal ends. Bear in mind, Lewis is writing this during World War II and Screwtape is explaining how to push a mode of thought that leads to evil. If C.S. Lewis has it right, these "Christianists" are in for a surprise on judgment day. (emphasis added)
Let him begin by treating the Patriotism or the Pacifism as a part of his religion. Then let him, under the influence of partisan spirit, come to regard it as the most important part. Then quietly and gradually nurse him on to the stage at which the religion becomes merely part of the "cause", in which Christianity is valued chiefly because of the excellent arguments it can produce in favour of the British war-effort or of Pacifism. The attitude which you want to guard against is that in which temporal affairs are treated primarily as material for obedience. Once you have made the World an end, and faith a means, you have almost won your man, and it makes very little difference what kind of worldly end he is pursuing. Provided that meetings, pamphlets, policies, movements, causes, and crusades, matter more to him than prayers and sacraments and charity, he is ours—and the more "religious" (on those terms) the more securely

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