The Screwtape Letters Continued: Technological Progress

screwtape continued

My Dear Wormwood:

We have succeeded in convincing the vermin that technological progress is the same as moral progress. Our old enemy, that Oxford don, even gave it a name: “chronological snobbery”—or, what is new is good, since it is more “advanced,” “modern,” “up to date,” and so on. 

But that old character, who coined the phrase “chronological snobbery,” never even used a typewriter for his writing (we are trying to discredit him still), but his idea is so useful to us—as long as our charges never quite crystalize the concept and become aware of our stratagems. You know, of course, that we must always divert them from real reasoning and reflection. Bring down the clouds of loose thinking, loose living, and chronic business. Given present conditions, fulfilling this task is not hard at all, considering all our previous victories. We even have the scholars coming up with new names for this condition such as “multitasking,” “continuous partial attention,” and “the absent presence.” We should be so proud that our work is now being studied by the best scholars and thinkers—and not just those pesky and pretentious theologians. Yes, we should be very proud indeed. But don’t let it go to your head, Wormwood. The lower downs in the Lowerarchy deserve most all the credit. And I am your Infernal Superior.

But back to our game plan. How delicious! Your man thinks that the more technological “connections” (how they love that mindless word) he has, the larger he is, the more urbane, and up-to-date. Another of one our adversaries, a stodgy Professor Boorstin, gave this kind of thoroughly modern urchin a name, “homo-up-to-datum” in one of his books, which is on our list of forbidden books. That was annoying, since it dispersed some of the fog that we so love to envelop the mortals. However, few read his works now and his books are a bit out of fashion. In fact, they are out of date! How wonderful is the irony. Keep watch on those who advocate the reading of such counter-revolutionary and reactionary material. These meddlers, some quite well read, are more dangerous than they think. Make sure people call them “curmudgeons,” “contrarians,” and “cranks.” As you know, insults go a long way to insulate the dullards from argument and keen observation.

May your little cyborg feel that he cannot be alone with his thoughts. He has few of his own anyway. Tell him that this is a waste of time, dead air, lost connection; he is being unplugged. Don’t let it enter his overstimulated and over-saturated brain that being unplugged is a way to still the soul and listen to the insistent and incessant whispers of the Enemy, who (what nerve!) calls himself the Word, and even commands silence on occasion. Yes, make sure they don’t read those portions of the Bible. But as I have previously written, we will drive out all silence and true music in the end. I know it. We have so much evidence in our favor.

No silence for him. Give him his gizmos, his devices, his toys (adults even use “play stations” now), his apps. (They are even wearing them now. Or perhaps the technology is wearing the humans. I like that.) Keep him lusting for more, more, more, so that he ignores the dog on his leash, the man on the bus, the student and teacher in classroom–or even his wife in their bed. Not a few of these jokers sleep with their cell phones and have huge TV screen in front of their beds. As another of our adversaries, a Dr. Postman (an apt for a media theorist, I must say), wrote that these vermin really do worship technology, since it is their de facto God.

It [is] far from asinine to speak of the god of Technology—in the sense that people believe technology works, that they believe in it, that it makes promises, that they are bereft when denied access to it, that they are delighted when they are in its presence, that for most people it works in mysterious ways, that they condemn people who speak against it, that they stand in awe of it, and that, in the born-again mode, they will alter their lifestyles, their schedules, their habits, and their relationships to accommodate it. If this is not a form of religious belief, what is?

Now, Wormwood, you know that our ultimate end is that they worship our Father Below, but take heart. Once they begin worshipping any part of nature or culture, they are treading on our broad road that leads to their destruction. Watching their digression is delicious.

If they do not change course, we will have them! Oh, how we love this “cloud,” this cyberspace world. Our Father below is, after all, “the prince of the power of air.” The Bad Book at least got that right. How I loathe the grandeur of that old King James’ version of the Big Book, however, but that will be the subject of another letter. So, stay alert, especially since most humans have forgotten that art.

Your affectionate Uncle,


(Photo Credit: Luis de Bethencourt)

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About the Contributor

Doug Groothuis

Doug Groothuis
Doug Groothuis is Professor of Philosophy at Denver Seminary, where he has served since 1993. He is the author of eleven books including, The Soul in Cyberspace, Truth Decay, and Christian Apologetics. He has been writing and teaching on the philosophy of technology for many years, thus making him a pain to many people. 

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