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The Question of God

Program Synopses

All over the world, people are asking the same questions: Why is there so much pain and suffering in the world? What does it mean to be happy? Is there such a thing as evil? Does God really exist? This September, through the brilliant minds and personal struggles of two of the most influential thinkers of the 20th century, PBS presents an emotional and intellectual journey into the meaning of life.

Program 1 — Synopsis

The Question of God Program 1 presents the early stories of C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud, two men with very different ideas of human existence. In childhood, each embraced the religion of his family. But the early death of Lewis's mother, and the horrors he witnessed in the First World War tested his faith. In middle age, Lewis found his once-passionate atheism troubling, and began searching for faith again. Freud, studying medicine in the age of Darwin, found he had no use for a creator. As he developed his theory of psychoanalysis, he came to see belief in God as just another human fantasy.

To grapple with the questions raised by the lives and ideas of Freud and Lewis, Dr. Armand Nicholi leads a panel of seven thoughtful men and women in a wide-ranging discussion of some of the fundamental questions. What influences us to embrace or reject religious belief? Is the scientific method, as Freud wrote, the only path to the truth? Does the human longing for God, as Lewis wrote, actually prove that God exists? Do miracles actually happen?

Program 2 — Synopsis

As Freud and Lewis entered middle age, their divergent beliefs about the existence of God were fixed. But tragedy would test each man's convictions. For Freud, it was the terror of the Third Reich and the death of a beloved daughter. For Lewis, in his fifties, the brief happiness of new romance was turned to ashes with the untimely death of his wife, igniting the greatest spiritual crisis of his life. Yet in the end, each man confronted his own death with his beliefs intact.

Dr. Armand Nicholi and his panel continue their debate, exploring the implications of choosing a spiritual or secular worldview for the primary questions of life — of love, morality, suffering and death: From where do we get our concept of right and wrong — from the Creator or from human experience? How do we square the existence of an omnipotent, all-loving God with all of the evidence of evil and suffering in the world? How do these starkly different worldviews help us resolve the riddle of death?