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The Question of God

Frank Jamerson

   A book by the above title was written by Dr. Armand M. Nicholl, Jr., who is an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts General Hospital. The book, written in 2002, presents a contrast between the beliefs of C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud. Chapter two discusses their beliefs about the question, “Is there an intelligence beyond the universe?” Here are some interesting quotes about the two men.

   “As an atheist, Lewis agreed with Freud that the universe is all that exists—simply an accident that just happened. But  eventually Lewis wondered whether its incredible vastness, its precision and order, and its enormous complexity reflected some kind of Intelligence. Is there Someone beyond the universe who created it?” Freud refers to himself as “a materialist, an atheist, a godless  medical  man,  an Infidel and an unbeliever.” He called  his worldview “scientific, because of its premise that knowledge comes only from research. Of course, this basic premise cannot itself be based on scientific research. Rather, it is a philosophical assumption that cannot be proven. One can only assume that all knowledge comes from ‘research,’ and that ‘no knowledge,’ comes ‘from revelation.’ Freud appears to realize that logically one cannot prove a negative—one cannot prove that God does not exist. The only real defense of his worldview is to discredit its alternative.”

   “For the first thirty years of his life, Lewis shared Freud’s atheism. His materialism took definitive form soon after he entered his teens...A decade later, as a faculty member at Oxford, Lewis experienced a radical change—a change from atheism to belief based on the Old and New Testaments. Through a series of discussions with faculty members whose intelligence he greatly respected, and through the reading of certain authors over a period of many years, Lewis came to a firm belief, not only in a Creator of the universe, but also a belief that that Creator stepped into human history.”

      Freud explained man’s faith in God as an illusion. “We possess intense, deep-seated wishes that form the basis for our concept of and belief in God. God does not create us in His image; we created God in our parents’ image—or, more accurately, into the childhood image of our father. God exists only in our minds.” Lewis countered by saying that “the biblical worldview involves a great deal of despair and pain and is certainly not anything one would wish for.” He said “Freud’s argument stems from his clinical observations that a young child’s feelings toward the father are always characterized by a ‘particular ambivalence’ - i.e., strong positive and strong negative feelings. But if Freud’s observations hold true, these ambivalent wishes can work both ways. Would not the negative part of the ambivalence indicate the wish that God not exist would be as strong as the wish for his existence?

   Lewis found this to be true in his own life. He notes in his autobiography that as an atheist his strongest wish was that God not exist. Lewis wanted no one to interfere with his life...Atheism appealed to Lewis because it satisfied his deep-seated wish to be left alone.”

   “Both Freud and Lewis describe strong negative feelings toward their fathers when they were children—feelings that they wrote about often as adults—and, in addition, both associated their fathers with the spiritual worldview they rejected as young men...So perhaps these intense negative childhood feelings in Freud and Lewis toward the first authority in their lives caused resistance to the very notion of an Ultimate Authority.”

   “Freud thought that the human race would someday outgrow the need for belief—especially as the masses became more educated. In fact, according to a recent Gallup poll, though more Americans are more educated today than ever before, more also believe God plays a direct role in their lives than ever before.”

   Lewis said, “when Freud is talking about how to cure neurotics he is speaking as a specialist on his own subject, but when he goes on to talk general philosophy he is speaking as an amateur...I have found that when he is talking off his own subject and on a subject I do know something about...he is very ignorant.”


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