The Enemy’s Tactic #1: The Loss of Reason

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.

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Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • patricklencioni

    Right on. Faith and Reason go together. We must teach our children to reason and this will lead them to God and the Church.

  • Hank

    These are excellent points, and well stated. But I wonder how reliably we can estimate the presence of virtues in bygone times, as compared to our own. Isn’t it likely that, in any age, the number of discerning thinkers is rather dwarfed by the rest of us? It is good to argue for thought and discernment, but founding that argument on nostalgia for the good old days seems a bit unsteady.

    I’d also note that the faculty of reason may serve a mistaken or evil end as well as a good one. Screwtape himself is admirably reasonable; were it necessary that we exceed him in wit to gain heaven, I suggest that few of us would do either.

    • Philip Kosloski

      Agreed. While the past can teach us many lessons, it is never good to think that they were perfect or base an argument solely based on its antiquity.

      Reason by itself is never enough. That is why this is the first part of a lengthy series!

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  • JefZeph

    My sons and I mock this lack of thought all the time. Whenever anyone says, “I feel like… ” instead of “I think…”, expect my boys to howl with laughter at the foolishness of the rest of the statement.

    Though it’s hardly funny when you are trying to make a genuine point of logic and it gets dismissed because it doesn’t “feel like” it’s true.

    The new synonym for Modern Man? Pansy.

    • Siwash

      Great point. I recognized a number of years ago that people would give my view more respect if I said, “I feel that. . . ” instead of “I think that. . . “.

      Thinking is seen as uncertainty.

      • JefZeph

        Right on. Thinking is uncertainty, knowing is arrogance, and feeling makes whatever you say OK.

        Unless you’re…

        …a grieving father who had no recourse to prevent his child from being aborted.

        …you’re a jilted spouse who had no recourse against a demonic “no fault divorce”.

        …a Chaldean Catholic in Iraq being ravaged by ISIS.

        In these instances, you’re too selfish for your feelings to count.

  • The_Monk

    “Faith follows reason” is expressed in the “Alpha” series by Nicky Gumbel, an Anglican. And certainly true as far as it goes.

    Am looking forward to more of your articles in this, Philip Kosloski. The loss of reason and recrudescence of tribalism (gangs here in the U.S., the continuing conflict in the mid-East, et al.) signal a new era ripe for martyrs for the King of Truth….

  • rod masom

    I applaud your piece on the loss of reason; it could almost be a case of assaulting the rationality of what used to be called “common sense”, because so many of us had such because it WAS so “common.” But I don’t think you have included maybe the mainspring of this attack on reason and/or rationality, and that would be secular public education, i.e., public schools. Since this is the main institution through which the majority of young people receive their “education,” it was a prime target for the forces of big government philosophy, ultimately known as totalitarianism, in order to muddle and confuse so many in clear logical thinking, thereby insuring the masses’ complicity and, in the end, their acquiescence. Ergo, a whole society totally falling for every irrational notion or concept foisted upon them. So, we’re reaping the whirlwind caused by the sowing of the winds of faulty thinking. Which prove your point, as well. An enemy has done this: Satan or Lucifer has done this. The ” screwtape Letters” I read very early, and was very impressed, like yourself, as was Blessed Fulton J. Sheen, who called IT “spiritual lessons in reverse.” (paraphrase) The huge problem before us who now remain in a minority status within this culture is how to find a way OUT of this unhinged morass our society has collapsed into, and what I’d call “Demonic Delusionality” (with which Barack Obama would seem to be totally immersed in). How to extricate ourselves from it? that’s the very troubling question before us. It may require, finally, the head of the serpent being crushed under the delicate heel of The Immaculata. Things may have gotten that far afield, humanly next to impossible. Holy Mary, Co-Redemptrix of the human race, please pray for us. God Bless.

  • Enders_Shadow

    I was recently discussing the issue of the suppression of an anti-abortion meeting at Oxford University with a PhD from Cambridge. It was his contention that the fact the meeting would only have had men presenting the case made it inherently illegitimate. This is an interesting example of the disease; the idea that rational argument is not enough to address such emotionally charged issues.

    It’s my understanding this follows from ‘post-modernism’, which seems to argue that there is no meta-narrative and no logic underlying the universe, so that everyone’s view is equally valid whatever its rationality. Whilst such beliefs have fortunately yet to pollute civil engineers, we need to be aware of them and challenge their presuppositions – not always easy.

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  • Two2trees

    This conjunction of subjects precisely encapsulates the assault Christendom endures today.

    Astute and incisive!

    First they went after beauty, starting in art. Then they smudged goodness and evil, antihero and sophisticated gray shades; life was next.

    Because those things show subtlety and mark the “qualified”.


    Truth, today, is radical. And to propose it’s very existence, offensive.

    There is much, much work to be done.

  • bcarver

    Thanks for expressing what I have been thinking lately. The devil takes his time to enter into peoples lives. He has been hard at work for the last few decades.

    • Philip Kosloski

      Very true indeed. You are most welcome!

  • bcarver

    So what action will you take to combat the devil? I’m starting with praying for others to have their eyes opened by the light of Jesus Christ. I’m voting for those that are pro life, not just pro birth. I’m tired of complaining and watching as the devil work to keep us frustrated causing me to sit idle. I applause those marching in DC, NY and around the country. They might not know it but they are warriors against the devil! Pray and take action!

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