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The Question of God: C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Sex, and the Meaning of Life Paperback – August 7, 2003

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; First Edition edition (August 7, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 074324785X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743247856
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (167 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #25,135 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Of course we can never really answer the question of whether God exists. And of course it would have been highly unlikely for Sigmund Freud and C.S. Lewis to discuss this question in person, considering that they were born in different countries and a generation apart. Nonetheless, The Question of God allows readers to listen in on one of the most articulate debates possible by creating a virtual meeting of Freud and Lewis. For the past 25 years, Armand M. Nicholi has taught a similar course at Harvard, where he compares Freud’s atheist-based reasoning against the atheist-turned-believer C.S. Lewis. Both men were considered brilliant, highly educated thinkers who profoundly influenced 20th-century thought. And both men presented compelling arguments for and against the existence of God.

At the core is Freud’s assertion that God is a figment of the imagination (more accurately, God is an outcome of our deep-seated need for protection, stemming from the helplessness of early childhood). Lewis, on the other hand, did not see the belief in a higher power as a childish need for comfort. In fact, he wrote, "rendering back one's will which we have so long claimed for our own, is, in itself, extremely painful. To surrender a self-will inflamed and swollen with years of usurpation is a kind of death." Nicholi never take sides. Instead he gives both men a chance to eloquently answer the big questions of humanity: why is there suffering? What should be our guiding belief? How do we form a moral compass? Surprisingly, this debate turns out to be a fascinating page-turner, with most of the credit going to Nicholi. Because he understands these men's arguments so well and respects their beliefs so thoroughly, believers could begin to have doubts and atheists could start to wonder. Regardless of where you ultimately land on the question of God, this stellar book will deeply enrich your understanding of humanity. --Gail Hudson

From Publishers Weekly

While Freud and C.S. Lewis never actually met, the atheistic theories of the psychoanalyst and well-known unbeliever are pitted against those of the Christian don in The Question of God: C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Sex, and the Meaning of Life. Author Armand M. Nicholi Jr. is a Harvard Medical School psychiatry professor who has taught a class on the theological writings of Freud and Lewis for more than 25 years. In this accessible study, he outlines the lives of the two thinkers, both preoccupied with the question of god's existence, and compares how the two approach questions of conscience, happiness, pain and death. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

In this book, Dr Nicholi examines the lives of Sigmund Freud and CS Lewis.
Michael Bond
And I think that even those who do believe in such a being can be rather pessimistic folks.
Agent Cooper
I plan to reread the book many times, and my friends who saw it are all reading it too.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

170 of 181 people found the following review helpful By Matt on November 18, 2003
Format: Paperback
I thoroughly enjoyed exploring both the thoughts of Freud and Lewis through Dr. Nicholi's summary in this book. People who are not familiar with the writings of Lewis or Freud (or both) will find this a very readable primer on their basic worldviews.
I confess that I am puzzled at those who accuse Nicholi of "stacking the deck" in favor of Lewis, or merely feigning objectivity while actually casting Freud in a poor light. The thinly veiled assertion seems to be that Freud was actually very different than he is made out to be in this book, and that Nicholi either consciously or unconsciously skews Freud's real positions and ideas. I found that far from the truth.
First, Nicholi readily acknowledges that no one is truly objective and dispassionate, particularly on such fundamental questions as the meaning of life and existence of God. But I believe he does an excellent job of not injecting his own bias into the equation. Second, Nicholi takes pains to point out many of the (rather substantial) contributions Freud has made to modern thought, particularly in his field of psychoanalysis. Finally, Nicholi's text is historical. Where people may have encountered frustration (particularly supporters or Freud's wordlview) is when Nicholi attempts to look at the actual EFFECT of each man's worldview on his life; a perfectly appropriate tactic given the goal of the book. Nicholi cites nothing but historically verifiable facts about these two men. Whether one believes in God or not, the rather dramatic nature of Lewis' conversion is undeniable -- one may debate the cause(s) of his change, but not the existence of the change. The same holds true for the despair and lonliness that Freud freely acknowledges experiencing in heavy doses.
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96 of 101 people found the following review helpful By biz_buzz on April 28, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Quite simply, The Question of God is an exceptional book. Where to start? Dr. Nicholi's basic premise is ingenious: compare and contrast the material (Atheistic) wordview of Sigmund Freud with the spiritual (Faith-based) worldview of C.S. Lewis. The result is an exceptional book that goes straight to the heart of life and living: Is there a God? Is death our only destiny? How can we/should we enjoy life? Answers to these and other life and death (literally) questions are addressed through Dr. Nicholi's remarkable and successful effort.
Dr. Nicholi's writing style is lucid, learned and accessible. Other critiques of his writing style as merely being "Freud says this, but Lewis says that" simply do not hold water. Dr. Nicholi injects his text on Freud and Lewis with meticulous direct quotes from each man's writings, both public and personal, plus accounts from others who knew Freud or Lewis. Dr. Nicholi's writing succeeds on all levels: fairness (Dr. Nicholi's truly unbiased prose is to be commended), lucidity, and captivation: as the favorable comments from readers on the back cover notes, I too had a hard time putting this book down.
At least one earlier Amazon reviewer dismissed the book because Lewis, being a generation after Freud, always gets the last word, so the book's premise is hopelessly flawed. On the contrary, while Dr. Nicholi not only notes in the Prologue that Freud had no chance to rebut Lewis directly, he nevertheless anticipated some spiritual worldview arguements made by Lewis, and are so noted by Dr. Nicholi.
Finally, still other reviewers dismissed C.S. Lewis as just another "apologetic" and not a very good one. Ridiculous!
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66 of 71 people found the following review helpful By Cipriano on November 29, 2003
Format: Paperback
Prior to reading this book I knew very little about Sigmund Freud, and already quite a bit about C.S. Lewis. To be honest, my initial interest in purchasing and reading the book was based on my shameless/addictive quest to own and read everything I possibly can, about LEWIS.
Having said that though, I am glad to have learned so much about Freud in the process. I think that the author does a good job of presenting the viewpoints of each man, with respect to their opinions on such topics as Creation, Conscience, Religious Conversion, Happiness, Sex, Love, Pain, and Death.
Big issues. Worthy of big, deeply felt convictions. And each man had them.
So many reviewers here have speculated that the author does not write this book from a disinterested stance, that he in fact, favors Lewis, and presents him as being a more consistent and (for lack of a better word) healthy individual. I agree that Lewis does come off as being such. But what is most important to me (as a reader of the information) is... is it TRUE? Is this slant toward Lewis as a more self-actualized person fair? Or is it fabricated? Is it manufactured? Is Lewis deliberately favored?
Dr. Nicholi has studied the philosophical writings of both men for over twenty-five years, and teaches a course at Harvard based on an examination of these two worldviews. Somehow, I do not imagine this present book as some latent "hate-on" for Freud finally making itself known in printed form. It did not appear that way for me, although yes, Lewis does come across as being someone who lived a more personally fulfilled, whole life.
I believe that the quotation marks speak for themselves. This is a well-researched book, I do not feel that Dr. Nicholi is really putting words or ideas INTO the mouth and mind of either figure.
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