Twice as Much as a Child of Hell

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are. —Matthew 23:15

The Pilgrim’s Regress by C.S. Lewis includes a fascinating story about a young boy’s first encounter with religion and one of its religious professionals. Since Lewis is one of my favorite authors, I’ve read and studied about his own childhood, and it seems that some of what he is talking about in this fictional story is autobiographical, with a direct relationship to his own experiences with Christ-less religion when he was growing up.

In The Pilgrim’s Regress Lewis tells us about a young boy named John, who was taken by his parents to see their local vicar (pastor). It was their way of formally introducing John to God. His parents talked with the vicar first—while John waited—and then, when that conversation was finished, John was invited to talk with the pastor alone.

At first, as John remembers the incident, the vicar seemed to be a warm and engaging person. They talked about fishing and bicycles, topics that captivate many young boys. But then, suddenly, the religious professional took a terrifying mask off the wall of his office, and put the mask on his face. As the vicar talked to John through that mask which, with its long white beard, was supposed to be a visual image of God, he told John that God is very kind, but he also has lots of rules. And if John didn’t obey all the rules, even though God is very kind, God would throw him into a black hole filled with snakes and scorpions.

Because Christ-less religion is all about control, it presents God as a controlling God. Not only does Christ-less religion control its followers with intimidating threats, it controls its followers by offering them an illusion. Christ-less religion knows that human beings love to think that they can take charge of their own destiny, so religion reinforces the idea that we all instinctively want to believe—that we can control our own destiny. The sad irony is that those who are duped by this seduction, in their efforts to avoid hell, often become twice as much a child of hell as those who recruited them.

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