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Armand Nicholi: The Question of God


Nicholi explores their lives and beliefs by highlighting the broad topics of God, love, sex and the meaning of life. Freud, for all his sharp commentary on religious realities and social customs, emerges as a timid, dejected man, afraid to follow the logical conclusion of his own stated beliefs. As a result, he turns violently on his own followers when they deviate from his pronouncements; he hungers for fame and is cruelly disappointed when he doesn’t receive it (at one point in a biography he blames a fiancée for interfering with his experiments in using cocaine for local anesthesia in minor surgeries; another colleague succeeded, received the credit, and Freud is still bitter about it at the age of 80; p.119). He is morbidly afraid of his own impending death from the age of 35, but insists there is no spiritual reality beyond this life to be afraid of; he dismissed belief in God as a sign of intellectual weakness early in life, but even his last book was consumed with proving there is no God.

Lewis, in contrast, emerges as a man whose beliefs formed his worldview, both before and after his conversion. He passes from depression and an aching desire to be famous into a man who was famous (even before his death in 1963) and did not pay it much notice. The contrast between the two is striking. Freud is the fountainhead of a theory which finds belief in God (and a resulting worldview that acts upon God, not man, at the center) to be a wish, which is thus an illusion, which is thus falsehood. Freedom, for Freud, meant realizing this and daring to live with simple advancement of ones own wishes and needs first, instead of hiding behind golden rules (p.8-9). Lewis’ experience of conversion (as well as the experience of Harvard undergraduates who have converted) shows the lie to Freud’s line (p.93-94). And therein lies the reason for The Question of God taking its place alongside Paul Little’s Know What You Believe and Lewis’ own Mere Christianity; it is a powerful, persuasive rebuttal to the psychological age’s dismissal of Christian belief, built upon the actual experience of the psychological age’s founder, and, perhaps, its greatest opponent. But it is more than rebuttal; it is a powerful invitation to live a life that matters not just to eternity, but to the here and now—and those who live beside us.

Reviewed by Steve Brooks


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Category: Fall 2004, In Depth

About the Author: Steven J. Brooks, MA, MDiv (Bethel Seminary, St. Paul, MN), is the Director of Spiritual Formation at Veritas Academy. He has worked cross-culturally and cross-generationally as a pastor, chaplain and adjunct instructor at several Twin Cities colleges and leads the creation of Veritas Chapel, committed to the belief that a robust faith challenges the soul, the intellect and the emotions through study of the Word to produce fully devoted disciples of Jesus Christ.

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