This week in our series investigating the many tactics of the devil, we examine the loss of reason in our society and how the Enemy loves to use this to his advantage.
The loss of reason has become the devil’s playground in modern culture. Ages ago people used to debate about topics and when the debate was over, the other person would actually be convinced. There would be a change of mind, because the other person’s argument was convincing and it made sense. Today, that ability to argue and be convinced is almost entirely gone.
A Culture of Experts vs. Reasonable Arguments
C. S. Lewis frames the situation in this way,
[Screwtape, a senior demon writing to Wormwood, his understudy demon] It sounds as if you supposed that argument was the way to keep him out of the Enemy’s [God’s] clutches. That might have been so if he had lived a few centuries earlier. At that time the humans still knew pretty well when a thing was proved and when it was not; and if it was proved they really believed it. They still…were prepared to alter their way of life as the result of a chain of reasoning. (Screwtape Letters, 1)
Screwtape goes on in his letter to explain that they have acquired many weapons recently to combat this sense of reason. He writes,
But what with the weekly press and other such weapons we have largely altered that….He doesn’t think of doctrine as primarily “true” or “false”, but as “academic” or “practical”, “outworn” or “contemporary” or “ruthless.” Jargon, not argument, is your best ally in keep him from the Church. Don’t waste time trying to make him think that materialism is true! Make him think it is strong, or stark, or courageous–that is the philosophy of the future. That’s the sort of thing he cares about. (1-2, emphasis added)
We can see this “culture of experts” in our society even today, whereby we believe everything we see without testing it to determine if it is a valid argument or not. Essentially we view the news stories through the lens of “if the New York Times writes about so and so, then it must be true.”
We open up the newspaper or visit blogs or news sites and instead of arguments that are reasonable and that follow a logical order, we see classic fallacies that appeal to authority or celebrity (if Taylor Swift is doing it, then it must be OK) or appeals to emotions, that make heinous crimes look like the most merciful acts of love a person could do (the suicide of Brittany Maynard is the most recent example).
What the Enemy Hates
It is obvious that the devil hates a return to reason. To teach our children how to make choices based on sound arguments would be the end of all the devil’s hard work. As Screwtape puts it,
The trouble about argument is that it moves the whole struggle on to the Enemy’s [God’s] own ground. He can argue too….By the very act of arguing, you awake the patient’s reason; and once it is awake, who can foresee the result? (2)
It is not surprising then that school systems across the board, including Catholic schools, have done away with Philosophy or Logic. Classical curriculum is far from being in the mainstream and is primarily being used by homeschool families as well as a select few classical school systems.
The devil applauds this loss of reason in our education and it only makes his job easier. However, if we are able to recover this sense of reason in our society, it will have drastic effects on our culture and can very easily turn the tide.
Takeaway Point #1: if we want to combat the devil, we must be reasonable and use our God-given ability to think.
***If you would like to follow-along reading the The Screwtape Letters, I suggest to purchase your own copy of C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters. If you don’t like reading, I highly suggest buying the dramatization of the letters by Focus on the Family, called The Screwtape Letters: First Ever Full-cast Dramatization of the Diabolical Classic (Radio Theatre). It features Andy Serkis, who played Gollum in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit and is well produced.