Screwtape writes to his apprentice devil, on one of the spiritual “perils” of war:
“And how disastrous for us is the continual remembrance of death which war enforces. One of our best weapons, contented worldliness, is rendered useless. In wartime not even a human can believe that he is going to live forever” (16).
As Lewis writes, the “Enemy” here would have us stupidly holding onto the illusion that death is something abstract and remote, nowhere to be seen or many years down the road. Thus war – or at least such a war as World War II, which provided the backdrop for Lewis’s classic work – can offer a healthy dose of reality to “contented” human beings who live as if death will never come. It forces one to become acquainted (one prays in a healthy and not traumatic way) with the cold fact of death, and in so doing provides a necessary and more complete perspective of life. Indeed, many philosophers and thinkers have said something similar – that it is a wise thing to hold the prospect of death before one.