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The Question of God

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Those of you interested in the question of the existence of God, the role of morality and religion in society, or the intellectual history of these questions will want to tune into PBS tonight. Running tonight from 9-11 PM (with the second part on the 22nd) on most stations will be The Question of God:

a four-hour series on PBS, explores in accessible and dramatic style issues that preoccupy all thinking people today: What is happiness? How do we find meaning and purpose in our lives? How do we reconcile conflicting claims of love and sexuality? How do we cope with the problem of suffering and the inevitability of death? Based on a popular Harvard course taught by Dr. Armand Nicholi, author of The Question of God, the series illustrates the lives and insights of Sigmund Freud, a life-long critic of religious belief, and C.S. Lewis, a celebrated Oxford don, literary critic, and perhaps this century’s most influential and popular proponent of faith based on reason.

The series, directed by Catherine Tatge, is outgrowth of Dr. Nicholi’s book The Question of God: C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Sex, and the Meaning of Life but the documentary program is a multimedia presentation:

Through dramatic storytelling and compelling visual re-creations, as well as interviews with biographers and historians, and lively discussion, Freud and Lewis are brought together in a great debate. The important moments and emotional turning points in the lives of Freud and Lewis — which gave rise to such starkly different ideas — fuel an intelligent and moving contemporary examination of the ultimate question of human existence: Does God really exist?

I haven’t read the book but have heard great things about it. The advance screening copy of the program I watched last night was thought provoking and entertaining. No matter what side of the debate you see yourself on, I think you will find the program stimulating and educational. I plan on tuning in tonight and next week.

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  • Eric Olsen

    thanks Kevin, preview info like this is always very helpful – sounds like a compellign topic

  • Vic

    Thanks for the heads-up on this, I wouldn’t have known about it otherwise. I haven’t read the book, but the reviews are split between saying the book is balanced or saying that it leans towards supporting Lewis.

    It’ll be interesting to see how PBS approaches this.


  • Shark

    Couple of thoughts on last night’s program:

    * I couldn’t believe the moderator never pointed out that Lewis’ kinda screwed up childhood (mommy died, daddy/God didn’t answer his prayers, etc) pretty much supported Freud’s take on the formation of neurosis through early events!

    * The first 3/4s of the show, they danced around a nice tolerant discussion of Theism and ‘god’ as some highly generalized concept of ‘intelligence’ or ‘order’ in the universe, but I’ll be damned if the whole thing wasn’t a slick cover for their descent into a discussion/(implicit) defense of Christianity. Man, It’s a long way from “I’m spiritual and believe in a creative force behind the universe” — and “I think Jesus was God incarnate and was killed and rose up after three days of rigor mortis and cellular degeneration.”

    (One is sorta cute, snuggly, defendable, and non-threatening — while the other should get one thrown into a nuthouse wearing an aluminum foil hat…)

    Oy. (Of course, thanks to the name C.S. Lewis in the title, I knew it was coming from the get-go, but I sorta felt short-changed by the first 3/4s of the program’s polite exchange about the nature of some impersonal, non-specific theistic concept.)

    * That panel thing was almost too painful to watch. PLEASE STOP! Please don’t ask these people what they think! (You have a right to an informed opinion!) Those two women (can’t remember their names) sounded like confused morons next to Michael Shermer. And the one with the short peppered gray hair? God gawd, the underlying HOSTILITY! If ever there were the perfect example of a passive-agressive psycho, she would fit the bill!

    Just an aside, along those same line s — on the panel, it seemed that the only two people who appeared to be relatively centered and comfortable with their own views were Shermer and the atheist lawyer. The rest seemed uncomfortable with their religious confusions, I mean — conclusions.

    I can’t remember who said it, but there’s a famous quote: “Why is it the atheists are always the nicest, most interesting people?”

  • Shark

    Oh, and did I mention that I found “C.S. Lewis” (as portrayed) to be a confused, obnoxious, arrogant prick?

    And Freud (as portrayed) seemed to be the kinda guy you wouldn’t mind spending some time with (possibly on a couch?).

    PS: Also seems like Lewis ‘accepted’ Christianity so he could hang around Tolkien and his intellectual Sunday School gang.


  • Shark

    Also might add: having researched world religions, a historical jesus, and the various philosophical underpinnings of a cosmic world view for over thirty years, I don’t know if I can take another episode of “God vs Atheism For Dummies.”

  • Well gee, Divine Master of Wisdom, I don’t know if I can take another post written in italics.

  • Shark

    Sorry ’bout those italics. If I could fix ’em I would.

    re: “Divine Master of Wisdom” — okay. And what’s your opinion? I’m all ears.

  • So, the program is a shallow shield for promoting Christianity? I was skeptical when I saw the names associated with it. And, that it was being pushed by a far Right Christian. Disclosing such a bias in the blog entry would be a good idea.

  • Your ability to see through any far right propoganda has saved you again Mac Diva. Yup, PBS is running a “shallow shield for promoting Christianity” you know how PBS can be -always kissing up to the Right.

    Sorry I failed to disclose my bias in letting people know what they could find on public television these days. Good thing we have your unbiased eye around here otherwise people like Eric, Vic, and Shark might accidentally become “far Right Christians.”

  • This review was chosen for Advance.net. You will be able to find it on newspaper sites including Cleveland.com.

  • Vic


    I guess I’ll take the nuthouse over Hell.


  • BB

    Everybody’s a critic these days. As a student of religion and the faith all that I can say is I’m thankful I didn’t see the show or Shark would eat me alive.


  • BB

    Furthermore, discussing topics about religion and politics is the same as trying to make fine brandy out of piss and vinegar. It is a losing battle because all of us come from a position of bias and are a product of life’s experiences.

    All of us have had terrible things happen in our life, and we are what we are depending on how we react to it. The bottom line is we will believe what we want to believe regardless of the facts presented (or lack) thereof. And we will passionately defend our opinions to our dying breath. The animal house known as Blogcritics is the proof of that.

    So cheers and peace to all, and to all a good night. See you in eternity wherever that may be.

  • Vic


    Don’t you know that calm, rational points of view are not allowed on this site? 😉


  • Shark

    Vic: “I guess I’ll take the nuthouse over Hell.”

    In many cases, they’re one and the same…

    …aka “The Church.”

    Have a nice day.

  • Vic

    Whatever you say, Shark.

  • Zee

    Who are these panelists? I can’t find any reference to them on the PBS web site for the program.

  • OxBaker

    While I’m not surprised at the closed-mindedness of Shark and other posters, I am rather surprised at the hostility. Talk about a case of the pot calling the kettle black when shark bashes that pepper haired women for her so called “underlying hostility”. I mean I laughed so hard when shark ended his bash session by quoteing “Why is it the atheists are always the nicest, most interesting people?”

    It amazes me that PBS can come up with, in my opinion, a terrific idea for a show about a fresh take on the faith vs. reason debate that is based on Harvard taught course that contrasts the lives and beliefs of two very influential figures and all that some people can focus on are the Christian elements.

    They covered what the course itself is based on. How can they not delve into the Christian elements when one of the two main figures was a promenant Christian thinker?

    But some of these posts do a good job of showing how some people can get so violently dependant on a single line of reasoning that they find anything else to focus on (such as the so called underlying “Christianity” of the show) so that they don’t have to consider what was said.

    I personally thought both sides did a reasonably good job defending their points of view but I felt the atheists on the panel really weren’t as well versed in the typical atheistic lines of reasoning as they could have been and couldn’t reasonably explain why the scientific method was the be all, end all of their world views but overall they did the best they could considering how solid the resoning of the theists on the panel were.

    Actually I would go so far as to say that it almost looked like whoever put together the show intentionally found atheists that weren’t well versed in defending their position so that the theist position would look more attractive. Take the following snipit as an example:

    Margaret Klenck: But I think this is the problem. We keep making this (the scientific method) be the criteria for understanding. If we can understand it, it’s one thing. if we can’t, it’s another. And we keep making these enemies of each other.

    Jeremy Fraiberg: But there’s no other way to understand.

    Margaret Klenck: Yes, there is. There are tons of other ways to understand. It’s not rational, but rational understanding is only one way of understanding, and we have become such slaves in, in the West, and certainly in this country, to [it]. When, you know, when you hold a child, you are understanding things about that creature that you’re not using your cognition for. I think a statistic that people have come up with is that we’re one-quarter conscious and three-quarters unconscious at all times. And that both are functioning together in tandem with — with self-knowledge, without self-knowledge —

    I mean even Freud understood the concept that how we think we reason things out is greatly peppered by our subconsious or soul or whatever you want to call it.

    At least that Frederik Lee understood the natural progression of thought processes when he said “I think for someone like me, a scientist, it’s important that one do all the research, gather as much evidence as you can, approach it as a scientific question, evaluate the intellectual arguments. But then, as you said, it takes you all the way up, and what you find yourself standing at is a precipice, uh, extending infinitely down, with infinite implications. And whether you cross it or not, that is not an intellectual decision.” Exactly! We were never designed to limit our reasoning to mere intellectual assent and it so limits our lives when we do… At least thats my two cents on it 😉

  • Lou

    Lou Andreas-Salom�
    Date de publication : 15/9/2005
    Date de premi�re publication : 1922
    �diteur : �ditions Rue d’Ulm
    Pages : 85
    Prix du livre : 17 Euros
    Traduction et essai de Pascale Hummel

    Le diable s’ennuie en enfer. Une �me en peine rescap�e du cloaque infernal vient lui tenir compagnie. � partir de l� s’encha�ne une s�rie de dialogues fantaisistes, qui, de course poursuite en m�ditation pseudo-philosophique, finissent par ramener le diable dans le giron de Dieu et de sa grand-m�re. Dans cette oeuvre inclassable parue en 1922 et jamais traduite en fran�ais, Lou Andreas-Salom� s’amuse avec malice et ironie. M�lant th��tre et cin�ma, po�sie et th�ologie, elle donne libre cours � son imagination et laisse s’exprimer ses id�es les plus secr�tes sur Dieu et le diable, ce qui les s�pare et les unit, sur la cr�ation et la r�incarnation, et sur le retour attendu du Fils. Le contenu et le ton sont si subtilement elliptiques que personne encore ne s’�tait vraiment int�ress� � ce texte, que la traduction de Pascale Hummel rend aujourd’hui � sa vraie signification.

    Femme des lettres cosmopolite, Lou Andreas-Salom� (1861-1937) laisse une oeuvre inclassable et singuli�re. Litt�rature et philosophie, psychanalyse et th�ologie, histoires pour enfants et po�mes dramatiques, correspondance et journaux : autant de formes multiples et souvent atypiques d’un art qui dans les premi�res d�cennies du XXe si�cle compose une modernit� au f�minin. Celle que la post�rit� appelle famili�rement Lou gagne avant tout � �tre connue par son oeuvre, qui appelle encore un patient et solide travail d’analyse.

    Philologue et historienne de la philologie, auteur d’une quinzaine de livres, Pascale Hummel associe ici pour la premi�re fois son nom � Lou Andreas-Salom�. L’int�r�t qu’elle lui porte d�passe le cadre de l’�rudition, comme le montre l’essai qui accompagne sa traduction.

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