I’m not sure what I expected from The Screwtape Letters, but a series of instructional letters by a demon on how to subvert Christianity seemed like it might be a funny, stimulating fantasy premise. At the very least, I expected a well-written turn of phrase on human nature by an accomplished scholar of the 20th century. There was none of the former and only some of the latter.

There were a few passages I found useful and interesting morally. Attempt to ascertain the underlying motivations of your wants and desires so that they remain pure. Moderation and being truly humble are virtuous endeavors. However, Lewis also criticizes intellectualism, the search for knowledge, non-conformity, enjoying sex or food or alcohol, and wanting to meet people outside your own limited social circle where everyone has the same backgrounds and values.

The idea that satanic demons are assigned to each of us individually in order to corrupt us to sin reinforces the conspiracy theory to which so many of us so desperately cling. If there isn’t someone out there actively trying to sabotage all of the good people’s efforts, who is there to blame but ourselves? If there’s no one against us, what are we fighting for? It’s an easy way out without having to assume responsibility for being a citizen of the world.

I only recommend this book to well-read Christians who have the patience for outdated syntax in order to receive a message that they have already heard, or for those with a very specific interest in period British literature