Fact check: C.S. Lewis didn’t write ‘so many souls’ quote tied in post to COVID-19 actions
The claim: C.S. Lewis wrote a passage in a 1942 book ‘The Devil’s Letters to His Nephew’ that has similarities to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A recent post shared on Facebook claims that author C.S. Lewis wrote in one of his novels that “so many souls” are being led to hell out of fear of getting sick.
The text of the post, accompanied by an illustration of children wearing masks following a figure playing the flute, features an alleged conversation between two people.
“And how did you manage to bring so many souls to hell at that time? -Because of fear,” the June 22 post reads. “But what were they afraid of? Fear of being tortured? Fear of war? Fear of hunger? -No. -Fear of getting sick.”
The text goes on to say that people participated in “a big concentration camp for voluntary prisoners” because people did not leave their houses, have human contact or take walks.
Users on social media attributed the passage to Lewis — well-known for writing “The Chronicles of Narnia” — and related the text to current behaviors of the COVID-19 pandemic.
No evidence Lewis wrote passage
The text also does not appear a book called the “Quotable Lewis” that features 1,500 quotes from the British author.
While a Google search of the passage does not appear in the digital version of “The Screwtape Letters” via Google Books, one expert says it is possible the novel could have inspired the claim.
Our rating: False
There is no evidence that British author C.S. Lewis wrote the text in the post. Lewis has a long history of being misattributed, and at least one expert says that quote did not come from Lewis. We rate this claim as FALSE because it is not supported by our research.
Our fact-check sources:
- “The Quotable Lewis” February 23, 1990, by Wayne Martindale
- The New Yorker, “The Devil You Know”
- Google Books search, “The Screwtape Letters”
- Essential C.S. Lewis, “Another Fake Screwtape Quote-Souls to Hell”
- YouTube, “Fake C.S. Lewis SCREWTAPE Quotes | 90 Seconds to Knowing C.S. Lewis”
- O’Flaherty, William (2014) “What Lewis NEVER Wrote: Quotes Misattributed to the Oxford Professor Don”
- Christianity Today, “Top 10 Lines Falsely Attributed to C. S. Lewis”
- C.S. Lewis Foundation Frequently Asked Questions
Fact Check: Quote falsely attributed to C.S. Lewis on “fear of getting sick”
July 7, 202010:40 PM
Updated 8 months ago
By Reuters Staff
Users on social media are sharing a quote misattributed to C.S. Lewis that describes “the fear of getting sick” and its effects, suggesting that the British writer prophesied the COVID-19 pandemic. However, there is no evidence Lewis ever wrote these words.
The alleged quote begins “And how did you manage to bring so many souls to hell at that time? -Because of fear (…) Fear of getting sick.” The exchange continues “they had no human contact for days and days”, “they lost their jobs, spent all their savings” and “they did not leave their house, did not walk, did not visit their relatives.”
One version of the claim ( here ) alleges the quote appears in Lewis’ “The Screwtape Letters”, published in 1942. It consists of a set of letters from a devil, Screwtape, to his nephew, Wormwood, in which Lewis examines theological issues related to temptation ( here ).
The exchange presented in this claim does not appear in the book ( here ) .
Other iterations (here, here , here and here) attribute the extract to a book by C.S. Lewis allegedly titled “The Devil’s Letters to His Nephew”. This is a direct translation from the Spanish edition of The Screwtape Letters (known in Spanish as “Cartas del Diablo a su sobrino”) ( amzn.to/2WbiyS3 )
Professor Joel Heck of Concordia University Texas, author of four books on C.S. Lewis, told Reuters these words were not written by the author. “It’s not Lewis. The theology [apparently Christian] fits Lewis, and the language sounds a bit Screwtapian, so it lends itself to believability,” Heck said in an email.
William O’Flaherty, a researcher of quotations falsely attributed to C. S. Lewis, also debunked this quote here .
The Reuters Fact Check team has previously debunked another quote misattributed to Lewis, who is best known as the author of “The Chronicles of Narnia” here .
False. C.S. Lewis did not write the “prophetic” words attributed to him in the post.
This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts here
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
C.S. Lewis Foundation
Here’s the misattribution as we’ve seen it.
IT IS NOT BY C.S. LEWIS:
MISATTRIBUTION: “Interesting Prophesy from 1942…From the book: “The Devil’s Letters to His Nephew”by C. S. Lewis(1942)“And how did you manage to bring so many souls to hell at that time? -Because of fear. -Ah, yes. Excellent strategy; old and always current. But what were they afraid of? Fear of being tortured? Fear of war? Fear of hunger? -No. -Fear of getting sick. -But then, no one else got sick at that time? -No. -Yes, they were sick. -I’m sorry. -Nobody else was dying? -Yes, they died. -But there was no cure for the disease? -There was. -Then I don’t understand. – Since no one else believed and taught about eternal life and eternal death, they thought they had only that life, and they clung to it with all their strength, even if it cost them their affection (they did not hug or greet each other, they had no human contact for days and days); their money (they lost their jobs, spent all their savings, and still thought themselves lucky to be prevented from earning their bread); their intelligence (one day the press said one thing and the next day it contradicted itself, and still they believed it all); their freedom (they did not leave their house, did not walk, did not visit their relatives. …it was a big concentration camp for voluntary prisoners! They accepted everything, everything, as long as they could overcome their miserable lives one more day. They no longer had the slightest idea that He, and only He, is the one who gives life and ends it. It was like that, as easy as it had ever been.” From the book “Letters of the Devil to His Nephew” by C.S. Lewis, the Christian author of “The Chronicles of Narnia”…The book published in 1942.”
The fake quote
Received via WhatsApp:
Isnt this amazing …
written so long ago by our English poet and author C S Lewis
This was written in 1942!!
How crazy is this? How prophetic? C.S. Lewis wrote these words in his book “The Screwtape Letters” nearly 79 years ago. Amazing how this could have been written today:
′′One young devil asked the old man: “How did you manage to bring so many souls to hell?” The old devil answered: “I instilled fear in them!” Answers the youngster: “Great job!
And what were they afraid of? Wars? Hunger?” Answers the man: “No, they were afraid of the disease!” For this youngster: “Does this mean they didn’t get sick? Are they not dead? There was no rescue for them?”
The old man answered: “but no . . . they got sick, died, and the rescue was there.” The young devil, surprised, answered: “Then I don’t understand???” The old man answered: “You know they believed the only thing they have to keep at any cost is their lives.
They stopped hugging, 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 anywhere. They stopped visiting family and friends.
The world turned into such a concentration camp, without forcing them into captivity.
They accepted everything!!!
Just to live at least one more miserable day . . . And so living, they died every day!!! And that’s how it was very easy for me to take their miserable souls to hell….. ′′
C.S. Lewis in 1942 – Old Devil’s Letters To Young
It sounds like, it feels like …. this is what we are living in and through, right now, since March 2020. It’s almost been a year.
Shared from Randy Joco Gayares