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Paperback Reason, Faith, and Revolution : Reflections on the God Debate Book

ISBN: 030016453X

ISBN13: 9780300164534

Reason, Faith, and Revolution : Reflections on the God Debate

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Book Overview

One of our most influential literary critics challenges those who too easily dismiss religion and faith Terry Eagleton's witty and polemical Reason, Faith, and Revolution is bound to cause a stir among scientists, theologians, people of faith and people of no faith, as well as general readers eager to understand the God Debate. On the one hand, Eagleton demolishes what he calls the "superstitious" view of God held by most atheists and agnostics and...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Who suspected the "God Debate" could become so substantive?

I greatly admire this book, even though I don't readily identify with Marxism. Instead of revolving around the usual, tired, increasingly uncompelling talking points about "facts" and dogmatism, it approaches fundamentalism (including much "new atheism") in terms of its condition of possibility: economic and social liberalism. In the process Eagleton draws on an unusually rich diversity of theoretical perspectives--not just Marxism. At the same time, it is anything but a self-indulgent exercise in theoretical nit-picking. Eagleton is, after all, a British Marxist, and he never loses sight of the material. In some ways it seemed condescending of him to even take up this topic (which is usually dealt with in an unnuanced, uncharitable, and paranoid fashion) and demonstrate how much can be drawn from it. For anyone who hasn't fused their brain shut, there is a lot challenging stuff to think about here, whatever side of the issue you identify with.

Dismantling 'pop' atheism from one who is not religious...

As a non-Christian, Eagleton understands theology in a way that completely eludes the average believer. He has clearly surrounded himself by a number of Christian thinkers who are actually familiar with their tradition, and thereby easily dismantles much of the criticisms leveled by Dawkins & Co. Not that the latter are without merit, it is just that they criticize that which most of historical Christianity would criticize too. I really liked this book, however, David Hart's 'The Atheist Delusions' is probably the best on the subject. If you are a Christian, read both of these, as they are the best help you can find (most apologists play into the hands of their 'enemies'), and if you are an atheist, it is best to know your best 'enemies.' Just read it charitably.

Eagleton's well aimed blast

This is a good book. It's cheerful, straightforward, well argued and iconoclastic. It shatters the idols that atheists such as Dawkins and Hitchens have made for themselves. It shows up the shallowness and inadequacy of many atheist positions. The fact that Eagleton is himself an atheist increases the depth of his critique of much contemporary atheism. He is also good at pointing out some of the flaws in Christianity and in other belief systems such as multiculturalism. The following quotes are particularly memorable, "Multiculturalism at its least impressive blandly embraces difference as such, without looking too closely into what one is differing over. It tends to imagine that there is something inherently positive about having a host of different views on the same subject.....Such facile pluralism therefore tends to numb the habit of vigorously contesting other people's beliefs..." and "Any preaching of the Gospel which fails to constitute a scandal and affront to the political state is in my view effectively worthless." This book is challenging to all participants in the debate over God, and what he means both here on Earth and in Heaven and Hell. Read it, enjoy it, disagree with it...but go prepared to enjoy a lively conversation...and to learn some new ideas from it.

A fascinating read if something has been troubling you about Dawkins and Hitchens

It's astonishing how many people have reviewed this book thinking that's it's a defense of religion, when Eagleton himself is atheist, or agnostic at best. It indicates that not all of us are reading this book as closely as perhaps we should be. Clearly, quite a few of us are predisposed to take offense on behalf of Dawkins and Hitchens, every time Eagleton flourishes his dry British wit. But this is how the British debate: witheringly and dramatically. I'm glad someone is pointing out that Dawkins leaps gleefully into a chasm of hypocrisy by attacking religion's crimes (which are many) while obtusely dismissing how science has enabled us to wreak havoc on one another. Eagleton romps from one end of the book to the other, slaughtering sacred cows, and is clearly enjoying himself. Again, I don't claim to be an expert on textual analysis, but I'm seeing a lot of misfires in the reviews section here. It's a very nuanced style, and sometimes you have to slow down quite a bit to grasp what he's saying. For example, there is not, in fact, any indication that Eagleton thinks Hitchens is a closet Marxist. If anything, Eagleton repeatedly confirms the man's strident and misbegotten *fascism*. Which dovetails into his argument about how Enlightenment values can end up producing the opposite of the intended effect. Then there's the matter of taking seriously such cast-off, joking comments such as the one he makes about the phases of the moon. For some reason, people are latching on to this as a confirmation of some character flaw. They are elevating it beyond the confines of the statement; erasing the ambiguous humor from the page because a certain interpretation allows them to dismiss more serious statements elsewhere. That's intellectually dissonant. Basically, the message of the book is this: Dawkins and Hitchens see the debate on religion and secularism in overly broad terms, and their underlying worldview has an inherently *mystical* bias (such as blind faith in the Path of Progress). You may not agree with it, but I don't see many people on these pages disagreeing with what Eagleton is actually saying. Many of them don't even seem to understand his personal religious disposition. In essence, they're proving his point about obtuse cognitive tunnel vision.


Literary critic Terry Eagleton, who is, insofar as I can tell, an atheist himself, nevertheless engages in a nuanced take-down of some of the pretenses associated with contemporary atheism. And he focuses in particular on the two most articulate writers within the neo-atheist movement---Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. For purposes of convenience (since Dawkins and Hitchens, in numerous instances, offer similar arguments) Eagleton amusingly conflates their names into a singular entity that he calls "Ditchkins." Eagleton sees the neo-atheist movement as a reaction to the resurgence of Islamic and Christian fundamentalism after 9-11, and he sees that reaction as largely obtuse, both intellectually and psychologically. Eagleton, for example, sees real value in the Bible, and in the story of Jesus in particular, and what it can teach us about life and social change. Eagleton's readings of the Ten Commandments and the story of Jesus were especially dazzling, and illustrated his point that one needn't throw the religious/mythic babies out with the fundamentalist bathwater. Eagleton is also an unreconstructed Marxist, which I think is a rather dubious intellectual position itself. Nevertheless, it gives him a vantage for making sharp and astute critiques of Ditchkins's complacency with regard to the role that capitalism and Modernism have played in creating a world of religious fundamentalist reactionaries. Eagleton sees fundamentalism as the West's psychological shadow---and points us to Euripides's Bakkhai as a play we would do well to study. In that play, King Pentheus treats Dionysus, who inhabits the borders of his realm, with enormous arrogance and without self-critical awareness, and the result is his own destruction. In this part of the book, Eagleton is rehashing material that he dealt with in more detail in a previous book ("Holy Terror"). Eagleton's book is strongest in its first half. The first chapter was especially thought provoking, for in it Eagleton offered a brilliant aesthetic defense of God's existence that could (almost) make me a believer. Eagleton's argument is a reversal of Liebnitz-like utility, in which God must do everything perfectly---and this must be "the best of all possible worlds." To the contrary, Eagleton suggests that God may have made the universe for a very different purpose. The universe may be (if we are to attribute it to God) a contingent art project, utterly inefficient and without utility---an act of freedom, not necessity. This, of course, has its own problems, but Eagleton has offered a clever retort to traditional theodicy. Why did Eagleton write this book? If I may engage in a bit of armchair psychoanalysis, I think it is because Eagleton perceives the universal acid of reductionist rationalism heading his way. It's coming after religion now, but it's coming after poetry, literature, and Marxism later. In other words, Eagleton's book is, at one level at least, a battle against an obtuse utilit
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