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

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  3,937 ratings  ·  260 reviews
Throughout the ages, many of the world's greatest thinkers have wrestled with the concept of -- and belief in -- God. It may seem unlikely that any new arguments or insights could be raised, but the twentieth century managed to produce two brilliant men with two diametrically opposed views about the question of God: Sigmund Freud and C. S. Lewis. They never had an actual m ...more
Paperback, 295 pages
Published August 7th 2003 by Free Press (first published 1988)
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Start your review of The Question of God: C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Sex, and the Meaning of Life
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
Mar 20, 2008 rated it liked it
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
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
Michael Perkins
Nov 13, 2014 rated it liked it
At some point, I saw the author on PBS leading a roundtable discussion similar to what's covered in this book. I did a bit of digging. The reality is that he's pushing the C.S. Lewis POV, which I recognized in this book.
Paul Toth
Sep 15, 2008 rated it it was ok
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
Joshua D.
Jan 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Jonathan Ridenour
May 11, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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 clearly ...more
Brice Karickhoff
Jan 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Here is one of those books that my friends will grow tired of hearing me talk about!! I absolutely loved this book - one of my favorites I’ve read in the past year.

The book is written by a Harvard professor who has spent his entire professional life studying Sigmund Freud, and much of it studying CS Lewis. He uses this book, which he considers the culmination of his career, to pit the two against one another, and to, himself, play the neutral moderator. He does an incredible job.

The author use
Jul 30, 2018 rated it it was ok
A real debate between these two would have been deeply fascinating, but this book is a pretty flagrant critique of Freud and endorsement of Lewis. I pretty much adore Lewis and I still found it hard to read. The biographical material makes up the most interesting parts of the book, but you could just read a biography of either man instead.
Matthew Richey
Really quite good. I was surprised how engaging and readable this was. Nicholi does a good job putting the views of Lewis and Freud alongside one another in a way that flows quite well and makes an interesting contrast between two of the 20th century's most influential thinkers.
Gregory K.
Aug 11, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Mar 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
The author is a practicing psychiatrist. The subject matter derives from a Harvard course he taught for twenty five years. The book deals with all the great questions: God, morality, pain, sex, and death. It explores them through the life and writings of two great men who were roughly contemporary: Sigmund Freud and C S Lewis. It forms, therefore, a marvelous intersection of psychology, biography, and philosophy, conducted by a highly capable and interesting guide. To be highly recommended to al ...more
Sep 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Wow, this book was so good. Is there a God? Two influential men’s viewpoints are compared and contrasted in this fascinating book. I stumbled across this AMAZING book and devoured it soon after. The author, a professor at Harvard Medical School, compares and contrasts the worldviews of Freud and C.S. Lewis on the subject of whether there is a God or not, primarily, and than moves into the topic of love, sex, and the meaning of life under those two worldviews.

.He primarily uses their own words,
Mary Catherine
Apr 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book was a well-written, comprehensive, and clear study of the views of two major figures in psychology and theology. Although the author does not hide his own beliefs, which weigh decidedly on the side of C.S. Lewis, he provides equal space to the beliefs of Lewis and Freud, offering both quotations and examples of how each lived out his beliefs. I enjoyed reading this, and would recommend to anyone interested in exploring two major sides of the theological spectrum, although Freud present ...more
Apr 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, philosophy
A couple of years ago I went to a play called "Freud's Last Session". It was based on the possibility that these two men met one evening in Oxford and had a discussion/debate about their individual perceptions, beliefs, and philosophies. Whether or not these great thinkers actually had such an encounter is unknown, but it's an excellent play, very thought-provoking. So when I saw this book on the bookstore shelf I knew I had to have it. It's quite good. It was almost like the play in that there ...more
David Blynov
Sep 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
Dr. Nicholi, a psychiatrist and professor from Harvard University, explores the many similarities and differences between CS Lewis and Sigmund Freud, both in terms of their worldviews and their lifestyles. The author draws upon many works and letters in order to understand how the two rivaling worldviews (Freud's athiestic materialism and CS Lewis's Christianity) answer questions of God, moral law, happiness, sex, love, pain, and death.

Clayton Keenon
Aug 06, 2019 rated it liked it
Solid. Interesting way to frame the discussion of big ideas. But if you are basically familiar with Lewis and Freud, then not much will surprise you.
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
May 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
James Cloyd
Don't be fooled by the title, Armand is an apologist pretending to be a neutral moderator for a debate in which he speaks for both sides, & it is all too clear which side he is on. The book isn't so much of a debate as it is a biography, or rather 2 bios laced together. One is a celebration of the life & conversion of Lewis, the other a criticism of Freud & everything he stood for.
This book does not deal with evidence, for or against God or Christianity, outside of the positive effects belief
Lee Harmon
Apr 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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,
Dec 25, 2016 rated it did not like it
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 the 2 ...more
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."
Feb 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 26, 2007 rated it liked it
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
Nov 09, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
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...
Jul 09, 2008 rated it really liked it
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.
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