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The Question of God: C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Sex, and the Meaning of Life [Hardcover]

By Armand M. Nicholi Jr. (Author)
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Item Number 150240  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   304
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.8" Width: 5.88" Height: 1.03"
Weight:   0.86 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Apr 30, 2002
Publisher   Free Press
ISBN  0743202376  
EAN  9780743202374  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
Outline ReviewOne way of learning the difference between the sheep and the goats, according to Armand M. Nicholi Jr., is to look at the lives of Sigmund Freud and C.S. Lewis side by side. The Question of God is based on Nicholi's popular Harvard course comparing the two men and their worldviews. Lewis represents "the spiritual worldview, rooted primarily in ancient Israel, with its emphasis on moral truth and right conduct and its motto of Thus saith the Lord"; Freud represents "the materialist ... worldview, rooted in ancient Greece, with its emphasis on reason and acquisition of knowledge and its motto What says Nature?" Nicholi believes that everyone embraces some form of one of these worldviews, and The Question of God helps readers figure out which camp they're in. For the most part, this book remains neutral on the question of who's right and who's wrong. Nevertheless, The Question of God does give Lewis the last word. --Michael Joseph Gross

Product Description

"This elegantly written and compelling comparison of the worldviews of Sigmund Freud and C. S. Lewis provides a riveting opportunity to consider the most important questions mankind has ever asked: Is there a God? Does he care about me? This profound book is for anyone who is earnestly seeking answers about truth, the meaning of life, and God's existence."

-- Francis Collins, Director, National Human Genome Research Institute

Many of history's greatest thinkers have wrestled with the ultimate question of belief and nonbelief in God. Though it might seem unlikely that any new arguments could possibly be raised on either side, the twentieth century managed to produce two men who each made brilliant, new, and lasting arguments, one in favor of belief and one opposed. Few spokesmen have ever championed their respective positions better than Sigmund Freud and C. S. Lewis. Sadly, as far as we know, they never met or debated each other directly.

In The Question of God their arguments are placed side by side, as if they were standing at podiums in a shared room. Both thought carefully about the flaws and alternatives to their positions; each considered the other's views. Both men considered the problem of pain and suffering, the nature of love and sex, and the ultimate meaning of life and death. Here, with their debate made explicit, we can take ringside seats at one of history's most profound encounters.

For more than twenty-five years Armand Nicholi has studied the philosophical writings of both men, and has taught a popular course at Harvard that compares the two worldviews. In The Question of God he presents the fruits of years of labor among the published and unpublished writings of Lewis and Freud, including an extensive exploration of their private letters. He allows them to speak for themselves on every major question of belief and nonbelief, but also skillfully draws conclusions from their own lives. Why did Freud have such difficulty maintaining lifelong friendships? How did Lewis's friendships change after his transition from atheism to belief? Why was Freud unable to willfully ignore his own internal moral sense, even though he believed it to be purely a product of socialization and not in any way eternally "true"?

The Question of God may be the best book about belief and nonbelief ever written, since it does not presuppose which answer is correct. Instead, it uses two of history's most articulate spokesmen to present arguments on both sides. In the end, readers must join Nicholi's hundreds of former students in deciding for themselves which path to follow.

Buy The Question of God: C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Sex, and the Meaning of Life by Armand M. Nicholi Jr. from our Christian Books store - isbn: 9780743202374 & 0743202376

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Gets Redundant After A While  Jan 23, 2007
At the time when I picked this book up, I thought it was an intriguing subject; to juxtapose these thinkers arguments and try to form somewhat of a debate. Unfortunately, the author seems to say everything he can make out of their writings & lives within the first couple of chapters. Afterwards you're just left reading the same thing over & over again. I would suggest reading their individual works if you want something more stimulating. However, this may be a good starter book if you know nothing about either person.
An Interesting View of Two Powerhouses  Mar 13, 2006
This book is well done. It has matched up the essays CS Lewis wrote in response to Freud's. As a fan of both, it's a great and easy way to read a debate between two great minds of the 20th century.
Not as good as the PBS show of the same name  Feb 23, 2006
I initially saw the PBS show of the same name and then read the book. I found the television show enormously educational about the views of Freud. Before I saw it, I had a notion of Freud as being an egotiscal, misguided, father figure who needed to be knocked off his pedestal. After it, I found him, through the description of his life by others and his writings themselves, to be an incredibly amazing figure, fully worthy of his spot in the 20th century. An amazing thinker, the sort of person who comes only once in epoch and someone who truly created our modern world. And I had enormous respect for his Atheism and the courage it took to take that stand. Not so, Lewis.

I loved Lewis' books as a child, but I truly question his thought processes. I think it is easy to turn to a God figure, especially after traumatizing events in our lives, particularly since it is so socially sanctioned. What Freud did went beyond finding personallly satisfying rationalizations for mainstream beliefs. I found Lewis' "responses" to Freud's incredible dissections of popular belief to be well, Bilbo Baggins-ish. I wasn't convinced that these feelings of joy, of something other could not be explained away by naturalism, the way our brains react to the stimuli of life and that God is tacked on there because it is the way we are trained from a young age to explain things. I call it the "bowling alley effect". That is we roll the ball down the bowling alley, because that is what we are trained to do. Is it not at all surprising that most people raised in a particular cosmological concept stay within it their entire lives? In all, I don't think that Lewis is really the equal of Freud. Something I find amazing to say, since, before the show I wouldn't have even considered the question at all. Also, their positions within the societies they occupied were so different. Freud, a Jew in an anti-semitic society faced such different challenges, of course, his ability to get along with others was compromised. Lewis, a white, Protestant male in a country ruled by the same, well it is an unfair comparison. And society really does reward you for joining in on its delusions. Sorry to use Freud's words, I know they are terribly off putting, but there you have it.

The book written by Nicholi, which is not tempered by the incredible interviews of those knowledgable about Freud, I found to be terribly one-sided and weighted toward Lewis. There were in the show, interviews with Harold Blum and Ismar Schorsch that were utterly amazing in their description of Freud's ideas. The way Freud put together the analysis of Moses and the psychological underpinnings of Anti-Semitism is brilliant. My mouth almost dropped to the floor. As an American Indian, a member of two tribes that faced holocaust, I was completely overtaken with, yes, Joy at his audacity, fearlessness and absolute genius.

I also found Nicholi's lack of analysis of the power of the state and belief in God to be an extreme oversight. The role of an all-powerful God in legitimizing the overarching power of an Emperor or King is a major component to the whole idea of God in most civilizations. In many, many medieval paintings of heaven and hell, the order of God, angels, humans, devils is shown reflected in a parallel painting of the order of King, vassals and serfs. It was so fundamental to the administration of power over others. If you didn't believe in God that meant you challenged the present social order sanctioned by God, were an enemy of the King and should be killed. This acted as a major force to keeping the belief in God in everyone's lives for many centuries. It also prevented any real discussion of God's existence and even the development of science. The separation of church and state is essential for the protections of basic freedoms and human rights. I should also note, that powerful clerics like the Pope supported the annihilation and enslavement of American Indians. The infallible Pope apologized in 1995, some 500 years after a papal bull legitimized the murder of some millions of children, women and men in the New World. Today, followers of Lewis are leading the charge to take down the barriers between church and state and to create a "Christian Nation". Of course, I think that Lewis would have been perturbed by this, but nonetheless, that is what is happening.

In Jonathan Kirch's God Againts the Gods, he makes a good point that belief in a single, all-powerful deity was not possible without the enforcement of a powerful police state. The natural state of things for most of human history was the belief in a multitude of gods and goddesses. A plurality that is not discussed at all in The Question of God. Monotheism is in itself an extremely unusual state of human spirituality. Traditional peoples believe in many supernatural forces that act in many different ways. Even the Lakota "Great Spirit", Wakan Tanka is really a term that denotes hundreds of supernatural entities both good and bad. This is the natural form that spirituality takes when a society is not forced through an overarching power like a King, a Law Giver or an Emperor. Monotheism and the power of the state are inescapably intertwined. We cannot ignore that our present belief system is a direct product of centuries of this forceful conditioning. Without it the whole discussion of God becomes disingenous.
The Question of God: C.S.Lewis and Sigmund Freud.......  Sep 25, 2005
I would recomond this book. The book is very worth reading.
There are only so many choices...  May 20, 2005
Dr. Nicholi has obviously been teaching the particulars of these two for a long while. For me, they represent the ying and yang of my life: Freud was my fascination as a young grad student deciding what I really believed. His nihilism was always a little unsettling, but being unsettled is often the norm in the college years. But in adult life, I have found the humility, humor, genius insight, peace, joy and truth in the writing and philosophy of C.S. Lewis to be without peer. In the book Nicholi offers the reader two options; I'm not sure there are more, unlike an articulate lady posited in another review.

The reality is a life founded in materialism can be enjoyed by some; they identify a god to worship and spend their lives doing so dependably and with great passion. The material they worship is not the stuff they collect or the regimen they follow; the material of worship to the materialist is the image seen reflected in the mirror. The underlying void of real spiritual fulfillment is combatted on the internal, totally personal level, mostly not open for outside observation. There is little difference between the apparently Karma-comforted non-theistic Buddhist and the totally self-absorbed millionaire sports fisherman with his multi-million dollar fishing boat, $5,000 tankfuls of fuel, the boat bunny he brings to the remote fishing island while the wife thinks he's with the boys, the drunken stupor he finds himself awaking from without planning it. Both ends of the Freud spectrum are fighting desperately to find peace on their own terms. While the more sober and introspective Buddhist may put on the better show from a mental health perspective, both are running on a treadmill that will eventually throw them off into oblivion. This book underscored my belief that those not on the Lewis end of the spectrum are clearly trapped in the Freud end; it is only the personal character traits of the individual where the overt, observable behavior is different. Inside it is always some kind of chase; the chase of self-love that never brings satisfaction.

Lewis' philosophy is at the other end of the spectrum. Lewis' worldview is typified by peace, rest, security and tranquility. Outside appearances will almost always reveal an interior decor of serenity and confidence. This state of personal assuarance is a result of a chase surrendered. The work of a heart hardening against a higher power is given up to face whatever dire music must be faced, only to discover the surrender is actaully release from prison, slavery and the chase. The joy of liberation is such a profound paradox from the anticipated chains of legalism expected by the regenerated chaser that it's impossible to articulate adequately. But Lewis can get close to it and Nicholi exposits it clearly and with passion.

This book is a brilliant reminder of the choices life offers and the two fascinating personalities of the 20th century who personified the options... there are only so many, maybe only these two.

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