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

by Dr. Armand M. Nicholi, Jr.


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 first third of his life, and writes “I was very angry with God for not existing. I was also equally angry with Him for creating a world … why should creatures have the burden of existence forced on them without their consent.”

One embraced Christianity, the other did not. One died contented, the other remained forever trapped in misery, powerless to do anything about a world view that offered little hope of happiness, longing for death yet greatly fearful of it. Freud finally chose to end his life by morphine injection.

Lewis’ conversion brought inner quietness and tranquility. The book’s author, Dr. Nicholi, is apparently a Christian; subtle hints throughout the book make clear his approval of Lewis’ conversion to Christianity. Yet, whether Nicholi grasps this or not, his is not a book about choosing belief or unbelief. Freud and Lewis were both well-versed in the Bible. Freud could no more have chosen to believe than Lewis could have chosen unbelief. Experience, disposition, and impeccable logic developed the world view of both men.

As many of you know, I am a “liberal Christian;” I can no longer take the stories and promises of the Bible literally. By the end of Nicholi’s book, I had no idea whether to rail at God for the unfairness of life or sneer at Lewis for succumbing to a fairy tale so as to distract himself from life’s suffering.

One thing is clear: Lewis was happy.


  1. Noel Howard

    You are a “liberal Christian” who can no longer take the stories or promises of the Bible literally? Interesting.

    I too am a Christian, and I believe that God (somehow) wrote the Bible, and that every word therein is true. Is it all literal fact? I don’t know, and I have stopped asking that question. It’s no longer important to me whether or not a serpent actually spoke to Adam and Eve. But I do see the truth that they were motivated by pride (or narcissism, as we call it today) and that they wanted to be their own God, rather than submit to God. As Satan says in Paradise Lost, they “would rather rule in hell than serve in heaven.” And I see the truth that this is the universal sin, or condition, of mankind throughout all human history, including today — like the Israelites: “They have no king. Every man does what is right in his own eyes.” And through this condition (call it original sin) man is separated from God, worse, spiritually dead, incapable of redeeming himself, and therefore needs a savior, who can only be Jesus. These things are true, I see them as I look around and within me. And so, I turn to Christ, or rather he has turned to me, and “drawn” me to him. And, besides this, I see the beauty of the Bible– as knowable and mysterious as the stars above — I am drawn to this beauty, and I am comforted.

    I have read, and am re-reading “The Question of God.” A very good book, I agree. One thing I can’t find on line is the source of Dr. Nicholi’s assertion that Freud considered Paul one of the world’s “great thinkers.” This fascinates me, and tells me that Freud, on some level at least, was familiar with the New Testament. Have you looked into this question, of Paul and Freud, and the source of Nicholi’s statement?

    Thanks for your article, and may God richly bless you.

    Noel Howard

    • Lee Harmon

      Hi Noel, glad to meet you and thanks for contributing! No, I haven’t looked into Freud’s comment about Paul, but I do tend to agree!

    • Please look into the historical study of the Bible. What you described by God “somehow writing the bible” is what most people would call magic. I would start with Bert Erhman

  2. I love your review. Mostly because it hits me right where I am. Liberal free thinking person. Wouldn’t call myself Christian though. I think I am a “true Christian”, but lets not get into the historical study of Jesus here… Thanks for the review. Made me feel sane.

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