In The Screwtape Letters, published nearly 80 years ago, C.S. Lewis foretold this very nightmare (which Ernest Becker also illuminated, though more abstrusely, in The Fear of Death, published in 1973).
(My thanks to Vera Sharav for passing this along.)
′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 – ′′ Old Devil’s Letters To Young ′′ 1942.