MAYBE you think the younger generation is going to hel these days. But you may not take that thought literally until you hear a conversation like one I overheard recently in a bookstore.
Two teen-age boys with a much younger lad in tow were checking out the "Occult" section for books about Satan. I didn't hear all of their conversation, but it went roughly as follows.
One of the older boys seemed disappointed that he couldn't find a certain work.evillest book in the world, and they don't have it!" he said.
The youngest boy asked, "Where's the Satan book?"
Hearing a boy barely taller than a fireplug express interest in "the Satan book" was a frightening reminder that some children's reading habits focus on radical evil.
Before you say, "Oh, it's another of those yahoos who want to ban books from school libraries," let me tell you a bit about my background and why this particular issue -- children's fascination with the devil -- concerns me.
I am an editor and author with eight books published, plus a long string of articles. Some of my writings deal with controversial subjects and might get me imprisoned or shot in many other countries.
So our nation's freedom of expression is precious to me. That's why, as a rule, I oppose attempts to censor reading material available to children or to anyone else.
But I think literature that celebrates the devil is an exception to that rule.
I believe in suppressing such literature. I advocate keeping it out of bookstores where children may buy it, and out of libraries where they might read it. And if children get their hands on it, I think parents are justified in confiscating it and burning it, then taking whatever steps are needed to see that the kids stay away from it.
You see, I'm an evangelical Christian as well as a journalist, and I take the devil seriously. You may not believe the devil exists. But I believe he does, for several reasons.
First, the Bible says the devil exists. Christ warned us against him, and I for one am not inclined to question the word of my God. Second, as C.S. Lewis said in his book, "The Screwtape Letters," belief in the devil's existence is consistent with what I know of human history and psychology. Indeed, it's hard to explain some episodes in history by anything except diabolical influence. The Holocaust comes to mind in this context, but read also what Suetonius has to say about the crimes of the more notorious Caesars.
Third, I spent years in the so-called "New Age" movement, which is merely the old occultism under a new name. In that time, I never met the devil in person. I got a whiff of him, though, and that was enough.
You are free to agree or disagree with my views as you prefer. That's your privilege as Americans.
But it's difficult to ignore the fact that American children are geting caught up in a sinister romance with the devil. You read about it. You see it on TV. You even overhear it in bookstores where kids gather.
Do you know what your children are reading? If you don't, perhaps it's time to check.
David Ritchie writes from Silver Spring.