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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

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  3,498 Ratings  ·  224 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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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
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
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
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 clea ...more
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
Jeff Wofford
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
Nathan Schneider
Apr 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: theology, apologetics
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
Emma Secton
Feb 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Fue muy entretenido y muy revelador el poder ver los mismos tópicos vistos desde puntos de vistas casi opuestos. Ver los resultados que cada perspectiva trajo a la vida de cada uno también es algo que este libro nos da para apreciar. Y también el hecho de entender lo humanos que fueron ambos personajes. Lo disfruté bastante, lo recomiendo mucho.
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
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,
Aug 09, 2011 rated it did not like it
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
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...
Jayce O'Neal
May 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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.
Jan 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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.
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.
Jun 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Freud and Lewis debate God, love, and sex. Do you really need more information than that?
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.
Mar 27, 2012 rated it liked it
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.
Sep 29, 2011 rated it did not like it
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
Jul 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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
Alexander Claussen
A few stylistic issues with the book: interjections of personal experience as psychoanalyst into otherwise 'objective' narrative; grouping of ideas into categories that don't quite fit (Darwin as 18c Enlightenment figure); use of hackneyed and almost grandiose phrases ("[mother of Freud or Lewis] had little idea that they had just given birth..."). Much more problematic is that it is proposed as an objective narrative, but the decision of Nicholi (on the side of Lewis and the existence of God) i ...more
Feb 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audio-book
Great debate between their 2 world views. Explains a lot why Freud thought the way he did. Confirms our childhood experiences have lifelong consequences on our behavior, thought processes, etc. Still do not like Freud too much or his strange ideas. CS Lewis affected so many with his writings. He was very well read. He always looked at opposite view points when debating subjects. He was a great thinker!
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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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