Back in the day when people thought enough about hell to joke about it, the assumption among many was that it was sort of a fun place. People that I know would tell me they anticipated ending up there and they would be among their friends to pretty much do what they always wanted to do here: party, drink, run around, and have a grand old time unfettered by well-intentioned friends, family, and now, even death!

I was never sure if such folks actually believed hell was little more than Mardi Gras on steroids or if they just wanted to see my reaction. Either way, they didn’t take it very seriously and moved on to another topic rather quickly.

In his preface to the 1961 edition of The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis responds to a question he was often asked: did he ever think of continuing the book beyond thirty-one demon inspired letters? He did not. In explaining why, he writes,

“But though it was easy to twist one’s mind into the diabolical attitude, it was not fun, or not for long. The strain produced a sort of spiritual cramp. The work into which I had to project myself while I spoke through Screwtape was all dust, grit, thirst, and itch. Every trace of beauty, freshness, and geniality had to be excluded. It almost smothered me before I was done. It would have smothered my readers if I had prolonged it.”1

His explanation made me wonder: if this is the experience of someone simply imagining the atmosphere of hell, what must it actually be like?

“For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment . . . what is going to happen to the ungodly” – 2 Peter 2:4-6.

  1. C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1980), xiv.

One Response to Next Time You Itch, Think.

  • The Screwtape Letters is one of my favorite works from CS Lewis. I never heard his explanation of why he did not expand the book past 31 letters. That was very interesting. I suppose with the reality that Hell is a very real place as discussed in God’s Word in the verses you sited from 2 Peter above, it is also comforting to know that in the very same book, God wants each and every one of us to have the opportunity to remain united with Him through repentance and be saved from Hell… 2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”

    Thanks again for this great blog
    In Health and Faith, Jay Korsen

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Thank you for visiting. This blog is the result of a lifetime of reading C. S. Lewis and a desire to sit down opposite him over a cup of tea seeking his advice. His responses are based on his letters and books.

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