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Is Death Our Destiny?

Frank Jamerson

   The above title is the last chapter in the book “The Question of God,” by Dr. Armand M. Nicholi, Jr. This book contrasts the teachings of Sigmund Freud and C.S. Lewis.

   The author first discussed Freud’s attitude toward death. He quoted “Thoughts for the Times on War and Death” in which Freud said “death does not exist in our unconscious mind. Our minds appear to be so constructed that we expect permanence...Our unconscious then does not believe in its own death; it believes as if it were immortal.”  Freud became obsessed with death  and was certain that “he would die at forty-one; then at fifty-one, then at sixty-one and sixty-two, and when he was seventy he was certain he would die at eighty.” He died at 83, an unbeliever, having taught that men invented God because they were afraid of death, but  did not attend his own mother’s funeral  when  she    died  at  ninety-five years of age. The author asked “What could possibly have been the reason he missed the funeral? Was he so terrified of death he could not bring himself to attend?”

   C.S. Lewis, at one time said that atheism was an attraction to him “because it gratified my wishes.” He said that he had a strong “need to be free of any Authority interfering with his life” but this became intolerable. “Unlike Freud, who hated growing old and who referred to the process continually in negative, pessimistic terms, Lewis appeared to enjoy the process. Writing to a friend a month before his death, he exclaims, ‘Yes, autumn is the best of the seasons; and I’m not sure that old age isn’t the best part of life.’” 

   The author asked “how could Lewis or anyone else be prepared for death, to face this ‘penal obscenity’ with not only cheerfulness, calmness, and inner peace, but with actual anticipation? Did his worldview provide him with the resources that made this possible? Perhaps, again, we find the answer in his own words: ‘If we really believe what we say we believe—if we really think that home is elsewhere and that this life is a ‘wandering to find home,’ why should we not look forward to the arrival?”`

   “What accounts for the profound impact the writings of C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud continue to have on our culture a half century after their deaths? One reason for their impact may be that, whether we realize it or not, we all embrace some form of either the materialist worldview advocated by Freud or the spiritual worldview advocated by Lewis. But there may be more subtle reasons. Perhaps Freud and Lewis represent conflicting parts of ourselves. One part raises its voice in defiance of authority, and says with Freud, ‘I will not surrender’; another part, like Lewis, recognizes within ourselves a deep-seated yearning for a relationship with the Creator.”

            The author concluded: “Our tendency to distort and create our own God, sometimes a God not of love but of hate, may explain why, over the centuries, people have committed, and continue to commit, ungodly acts—even acts of terrorism—in the name of God. This tendency to create our own God gives us insight into why the first commandment is: ‘You shall have no other gods before me.’”


                       Copyright Midway Church of Christ 2014    This page last modified July 03, 2014