Grow Up or Wake Up

  Did God create the heavens and the earth? Or is the universe nothing more than an accident that "just happened?" In his book The Question of God, Harvard psychiatrist Dr. Armand Nicholi sets up a debate over this question between two deeply influential men: a famous psychiatrist and a famous professor of medieval literature. Their positions were unequivocal -- and mutually exclusive. Today, Dr. Nicholi writes, we need to ask ourselves: How much of their views were based on evidence and how much on emotion that caused them to distort reality? To the question, "Is there a God?" psychiatrist Sigmund Freud answered "No!" Belief in what he labeled "an idealized Superman" is "patently infantile" and "foreign to reality." Freud "strongly advised us to face the harsh reality that we are alone in the universe," Nicholi writes. "In short, Freud shouted, 'Grow up!'" Nicholi goes on to say that Oxford professor C. S. Lewis answered the question of God with a resounding "Yes!" Lewis pointed to the fact that the universe is filled with "signposts" like the "starry heavens above and the moral law within," "all pointing with unmistakable clarity to that Intelligence." Lewis shouted, "Wake up!" Freud attacked the Scriptures as being "full of contradictions, revisions, and falsifications." Religion, Freud wrote, is "the universal obsessional neurosis of humanity," and the teachings of Jesus are "psychologically impossible and useless for our lives." Freud was convinced, Nicholi writes, that psychoanalysis "has shown us that a personal god is, psychologically, nothing more than an exalted father," a "projection of powerful wishes and inner needs." In rebuttal, Lewis offered evidence that God does exist. He wrote, "He left us conscience, the sense of right and wrong: And all through history there have been people trying . . . to obey it." Nicholi notes also that Lewis countered Freud's wish-fulfillment argument by pointing out that the "biblical worldview involves a great deal of despair and pain and is certainly not anything one would wish for." I have always argued that no one would invent a religion like Christianity with its demands that we help the poor and that we love our enemies. Neuroscientists have recently found evidence that the brain is genetically programmed for belief. This confirms what Christians have always believed about the imago Dei -- the image of God being implanted in us. And it may explain why Freud was preoccupied with God to the end of his days despite his determination to prove that He doesn't exist. Intriguingly, Freud's arguments against belief exhibit "an intense, emotional, argumentative, and, at times, desperate and pleading tone," writes Nicholi. "Why couldn't he put the question to rest? Perhaps Lewis would say we can never explain away God, nor can we find rest until that deep-seated desire (experienced by both Freud and Lewis) is satisfied." Both Lewis and Freud still influence millions. Read Nicholi's book The Question of God, based on the course he taught at Harvard for years, and you will learn more about how two brilliant men resolved questions of faith. Their answers will help any skeptic determine whether belief in God is really "patently infantile" or the Way, the Truth, and the Life. For further reading: Armand M. Nicholi, Jr., The Question of God: C. S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Sex, and the Meaning of Life (Free Press, 2002). C. S. Lewis, God in the Dock (Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1994) and Mere Christianity (Harper, 2001). David C. Downing, The Most Reluctant Convert: C. S. Lewis's Journey to Faith (InterVarsity, 2002). Armand M. Nicholi, Jr., "C. S. Lewis vs. Sigmund Freud on good and evil," American Enterprise, March 2002. Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo, "Freud and belief in the Creator," Jewish World Review, June 29, 2001. D. Trull, "The God Spot,", 1997.


Chuck Colson


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