C.S. Lewis, the late author of books including “The Chronicles of Narnia,” has been credited with penning a passage that predates the pandemic by about 80 years but might sound contemporary to some.
In the passage that’s being shared on Facebook as a work by Lewis from 1942, a “youngster” asks an “old devil” how he managed to bring so many souls to hell.
“I instilled fear in them!” the devil replies. He goes on to say that these poor souls “believed the only thing they had to keep, at any cost, was their lives. They stopped hugging or greeting each other. They’ve moved away from each other. They gave up all social contacts and everything that was human! Later they ran out of money, lost their jobs. But that was their choice, because they were afraid for their lives. That’s why they quit their jobs without even having bread. They believed blindly everything they heard and read in the papers. They gave up their freedoms. They didn’t leave their own homes, literally they didn’t go anywhere. They stopped visiting family and friends. The world turned into a concentration camp, without forcing any of them into captivity.”
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In other versions of this passage shared online, people have claimed that it was pulled from Lewis’ 1942 book, “The Screwtape Letters,” a satire told through the letters of Screwtape, a devil who instructs his nephew on how to tempt and damn humans.
But the words in the post don’t appear in the book. In fact, as has previously been documented by fact-checkers and people who have studied Lewis, it doesn’t appear in any of his works.
“Lewis did NOT write it,” said William O’Flaherty in a 2020 post about “another fake Screwtape quote.” O’Flaherty, who maintains a website devoted to Lewis and wrote a book called “The Misquotable C.S. Lewis,” also details the different versions of the passage in a 2020 YouTube video.
Joel Heck, a professor at Concordia University Texas who has written four books about C.S. Lewis, told us he couldn’t find “any indication” that Lewis wrote the quote in the Facebook post.
In “The Screwtape Letters,” Heck said, Lewis writes about fear. Some lines are evocative of the post, such as “we want him to be in the maximum uncertainty, so that his mind will be filled with contradictory pictures of the future, every one of which arouses hope or fear.”
But the phrase “instilled fear” that appears in the passage in the post appears in none of Lewis’ writing, Heck said. “Perhaps this post is an attempt at a creative retelling of some of the theology of Screwtape.”
We rate this post False.
This fact check was originally published by PolitiFact, which is part of the Poynter Institute. It is republished here with permission. See the sources for this fact check here and more of their fact checks here.