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

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  3,293 Ratings  ·  219 Reviews
Book by Nicholi, Armand
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published March 26th 2002 by Free Press (first published 1988)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Kris
A good premise, but a flawed execution. Worth reading if you have an interest in one of the men, but I wouldn't hold this up as a prime example of scholarship...

Nicholi never quite gets into his groove when he discusses these two men. Sometimes he switches back and forth between them with each paragraph, and sometimes he devotes whole long sections to one man, before ending it and moving on to another long section for the next. He constantly throws in quotes, but never really addresses, evaluate
...more
David
Mar 20, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2008
I'm a bit conflicted about how I feel about this book. It was for sure worth the read; I learned a lot, and I went through different emotions as I read it and thought both about the material in the book and how the ideas fit into my life. The book is flawed, in my opinion, but could of the bias it takes on the side of Lewis. It's main argument boiled down to: Freud had a depressing life and was an atheist, Lewis had an enjoyable life and was a believer, ergo, believing is the right way to go. I ...more
Erinina Marie
Mar 14, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Always a touchy question, there were probably never two more notably opinionated scholars to debate it. Overall, the author uses his research into their letters, lives and published writings to try to formulate a debate on the main topics of love, sex, death, pain and how to live life from a materialist vs. spiritual worldview.

Saving the author’s notably biased conclusions for your own perusal, I found the work enlightening not only on topics of spirituality and psychoanalysis, but as a biograph
...more
Amy
SO excited about this one. Taking all my willpower not to skip homework and just read it right now...
...
Bother, I wanted to like this book so much. The Question of God wasn't bad, but it lacked. The author is immensely repetitive and he states the same facts and quotes in almost every chapter. While this might work for a book designed to function more as a reference, it made a chronological reading boring.
The author also spoon-feeds the reader most of his conclusions. There is very little intel
...more
Paul Toth
Like comparing apples and rocks. Freud's the apple from the nonexistent Tree of Knowledge, and C.S. Lewis the unfortunately all-too-prevalent Christian apologist whose arguments take rocks in the head to accept.

Consider this paraphrased example, which Lewis uses to explain the beginning of his career in helping people better deceive or come out of the wisdom of doubt into into the molesting hands of faith:

~~~ I felt joy. Therefore, a place for joy must exist. Therefore, someone must have made
...more
Jonathan Ridenour
May 11, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
An incredible read. This book compares the lives of Lewis and Freud from a fairly psychoanlytic perspective, that is how their signficant relationships and upbringing shaped their theology, philiosophy, and psychology. Its clear from reading this book why one chose to believe in God and the other saw it as a form of neurosis. This book tackles the important topics of Love, Sex, Friendship, God, Pain, & Death. I just re-listened to the unabridged audio and its a great book. The author is clea ...more
Gregory K.
Aug 11, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reflection
For those who are not very familiar with the biographies and the ideas of Freud or CS Lewis I think this book would be a great starting point. This book paints a general picture of each man, of their lives and of what they believed. There are also many useful references to the books they have written and the books that influenced them at certain key points in their lives.

It is important to note that this is not really a 'debate' as the book cover proclaims. Really this book is more of a comparis
...more
Nathan Schneider
This was an enjoyable and enlightening read. Nicholi, who does write from a Christian perspective, offers a primer of both Freud's and Lewis' philosophy/ theology. Nicholi, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard and a frequent instructor on both men, shows the magnitude of both geniuses' impact in their respective fields. Both experienced similar childhoods and leaned into atheism, before Lewis' conversion to Christianity. Most compelling for me was the writings/beliefs of Freud and how he seeming ...more
Clint
May 12, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
This was a really good book, despite the author. If it weren't for the author, I'd have given in 5 stars, because both Freud and Lewis are such interesting people, or at least wrote interesting things. But my god, this writer was so... argh!!!!

First: There should not be debates between atheists and Christians. Christianity is too specific. There should only be arguments between atheists and theists. The details of theist should be left for later.

Second: CS Lewis is of course well known for bein
...more
Joshua D.
Jan 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Armand Nicholi, Jr is a psychiatrist and professor at Harvard Medical School. He is an expert in Freud studies and has done extensive research both on Freud's psychoanalytic method and his life (including regular meetings with Freud's students and even his children). For years Nicholi taught a class on Freud's worldview. But as the years went by he thought that for the class to be more effective, Freud needed a foil: someone who shared some common biography but ultimately embraced a different wo ...more
Lee Harmon
Apr 23, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great book. I hated it.

This isn't really a "debate;" it's a biography of three men: the pre-conversion Lewis, and the post-conversion Lewis, and Freud. Nicholi does a great job of portraying both Lewis and Freud, perhaps two of the greatest minds of the last century.

Could any two men have needed religion more than Freud and Lewis? Both experienced suffering, as do we all. Freud was a noted atheist his entire life, yet the question of God continued to preoccupy him. Lewis was an atheist for the
...more
Joe
As wonderful a book as I've read in some time. The author, Nicholi, walks a narrow, but fair path between both Lewis's and Freud's divergent philosophies on God and spirituality. As someone who has never read anything written by either Freud, OR Lewis, I found this book to be an amazing insight into their psyches as they grew and developed into adults, and grew to either embrace or grow disgusted with the world.

Where Lewis sees a positivity and a goodness to await, Freud sees only the negative,
...more
Autumn
Aug 09, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I couldn’t even finish this book because the author’s extremely apparent bias was getting in the way of everything (despite his claim in the introduction that this is an “objective and dispassionate” venture). The premise is intriguing but I quickly realized that the way it’s set up here is all wrong. First of all, Freud discusses religion where Lewis discusses Christianity. Nicholi’s proposal that these are equivalent topics says all you need to know about where he’s coming from. Secondly, Lewi ...more
Dale
Jul 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic. A most interesting book.

The Question of God is a fascinating book. I heard it is an audiobook. I listen to audiobooks as an interesting diversion during my commute to work and I found this book to fit the bill perfectly. It is narrated wonderfully by Robert Whitfield.

Fans of Freud have complained about the book because they think that Lewis comes out of these debates much stronger than Freud. I agree. But, I do not think Freud was disparaged or misrepresented in these "debates."

La
...more
Kevin
Feb 21, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fantastic, if somewhat academic, look into a couple of the most influential minds of the 20th Century. This book is essentially a post-humus debate about religion, the existence of God, and the relevance of God in our lives (with respect to morals, death, sex, etc.). Critical reading for any individual who is a fan of EITHER C.S. Lewis or Sigmund Freud. I would also recommend it to anyone who has struggled with this debate themselves (i.e. whether or not there is a God, and what it means in my ...more
Sørina
Jul 26, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: um... nobody?
Well, I guess I wouldn't say to avoid it. But it's not actually a book: it's a very clever string of quotes from the writings of Freud and Lewis. And the prose is not very smooth prose or well organized, which is annoying. Basically it's a substitute for thinking about the ideas of Lewis and Freud on your own; but since most of us don't have good enough memories or enough time to read all (or even most) of the works of those two thinkers and compare their works, it's very handy. Especially as I' ...more
Laura
Nov 09, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thank you, Emily, for finding this gem! Appreciate even more, your excellent review of it. I found it interesting to read about the personal lives of both of these giants of the 20th century. I agree with you that Lewis obviously came through his experiences with life and with God in way better shape than Freud did. This read was extremely enlightening and I am grateful to be reminded about a writer who is much loved due to his Christian beliefs and who I need to revisit soon. This may well be o ...more
Madeline Ellis
Mar 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spirtual
Wow great book. i love C.S.Lewis..and this book is a wonderful comparison of his life and beliefs and teachings etc. to that of sigmund freud. it is a very thorough deep look into the lives of these two men who have had such a huge impact on the way we see things today. very fascinating. i loved it obviously but i might be weird...
Jayce O'Neal
May 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A delight conversation between two of the leading minds of the past 100 years. A debate between an atheist and atheist turned Christian thinker. Any person who has ever questioned about life, God, or love sould read this book.
Sara
Jan 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting book that compares the views of C.S. Lewis and Sigmun Freud. It seems to me that Lewis thought about things on a more complex level than Freud...he dug deeper into issues and followed through more thoroughly in his thinking.
Madeline
Jul 09, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
really enjoyed it. kept me interested the whole time. lots of good quotes. it wasn't supposed to be biased. but maybe i'm just biased b/c i think Lewis came across much more positive. and freud more of a weirdo than i even thought he was.
Anna
Jun 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Freud and Lewis debate God, love, and sex. Do you really need more information than that?
Ratforce
Armand Nicholi pairs the writings of C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud to provide a well-rounded debate into many of philosophy's biggest questions. The result is a fascinating read.
Josh
Mar 27, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lewis, culture
Not bad. Pretty faithful to Lewis. And Freud i believe. The comparison was interesting. Time would be better spent just reading some of Lewis' works. Read in 2009.
Vincent
Indulge me, if you will, in this little scenario. You are told that you will bear witness to a debate between two great minds over life’s most import questions and the moderator promises to remain completely objective. Debater #1 is then immediately placed in a soundproof cage and is allowed to simply ramble about anything he desires. He is also unaware that he is in a debate. Debater #2 responds to Debater #1 whenever he wishes, sometimes not even addressing the same subject, yet this is a smal ...more
Anthony Cleveland
What an imaginative and creative approach to an interesting proposition ... imagine the dinner conversation between the great writer of Christian apologetics, C.S. Lewis, and the brilliant atheistic founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud. Where would they start? What would they talk about? Would they agree upon anything? A great book written in an easy to follow style. Could not put the thing down and have read it twice since the purchase. Holds a special place on my desk at work. I have recom ...more
Phillip
I like it. It isn't as Lewis-centric as these things usually are. That is refreshing. But it still provides the material.
Nathan Albright
Apr 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: challenge
Admittedly, I probably read more about C.S. Lewis than most people probably do [1], but although there is something about the book that intrigued me when I first read about this book, there is something about the book that initially concerned me as well. After all, C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud never debated each other, and likely never met each other, although there is a slight chance that they met during the end of Freud's life when he was an exile in England just before World War II, and there ...more
Heather Denigan
Good introduction to the life and thought of Freud and Lewis. I came to this book very familiar with Lewis but quite unfamiliar with Freud.
Some reviews have touched on the author's bias. Armandi gives Freud a pretty fair shake and he's sympathetic to Freud's predicament, but it's obvious that he doesn't share Freud's worldview. But that said, Armandi confesses in the introduction that Freud had the disadvantage of dying first and so never had the opportunity to respond to Lewis' philosophy. It's
...more
Jc
Dec 25, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is the basis for a similarly titled PBS show, where Nicholi moderated a panel of citizens with different views of god and religion. The show & book both purport to use the lives and writings of Lewis and Freud to delve into deep questions of life, spirituality, and theology. Well, sort-a. Watching only a few segments of the program made me suspicious that Nicholi was NOT as neutral as he pretends. For one thing, I would argue that Lewis is NOT a good example (let alone the greatest of t ...more
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“Why did Freud write a book about which he had such doubts? We can only conjecture. Peter Gay wrote that “it is highly plausible that some of the impulses guiding Freud’s arguments in Totem and Taboo emerged from his hidden life; in some respects the book represents a round in his never finished wrestling bout with Jacob Freud.” Gay also mentions that Freud realized he was “publishing scientific fantasies.” 0 likes
“A moderately bad man knows he is not very good: a thoroughly bad man thinks he is all right . . . Good people know about both good and evil: bad people do not know about either.” 0 likes
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