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Thursday, 14 January 2010

Atheism, Christianity and Marxism and what are the issues at stake?

Stumbled today across some reviews of the book by the Marxist literary critic Terry Eagleton Reason, Faith and Revolution in some locations that do not normally give theology much of a run. For example in Salon Andrew O'Hehrir begins his review thusly:

Here is how British literary critic Terry Eagleton begins his brisk, funny and challenging new book: "Religion has wrought untold misery in human affairs. For the most part, it has been a squalid tale of bigotry, superstition, wishful thinking, and oppressive ideology." That's quite a start, especially when you consider that the point of Eagleton's "Reason, Faith, and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate" -- adapted from a series of lectures he delivered at Yale in April 2008 -- is to defend the theory and practice of religion against its most ardent contemporary critics. ...

It's only a slight simplification to say that in this compact little tome, which runs less than 200 pages and is largely conversational in tone, Eagleton hopes to save Christianity from the Christians and Marxism from the Marxists. Yet the book's easy-breezy, wisecracking character is deceptive; I had to read it through twice before concluding that it's one of the most fascinating, most original and prickliest works of philosophy to emerge from the post-9/11 era.

Stanley Fish weighs in a similar vein in a blog in the New York Times:

Reviews in the Independent
The Guardian The Times a little less free swinging in their coverage but capture the sense of a full blown intellectual barney in which an exploration of serous issues has apparently not prevented Eagleton from engaging in some entertaining and in places coruscating prose.

Eagleton has had Dawkins in his sights for a while his review of the God Delusion
gives some idea of what has apparently now surfaced in his attack on the composite figure of Ditchkins (Dawkins and Hitchens).

Looks like there are some serious theological and political issues laid on the table by Eagleton in a way that suggests that atheism of a certain character and politically engaged Christian orthodoxy that takes the call of Jesus seriously might not be that far apart. After all Christians in the Roman empire were regarded as atheists.

Andrew O'Hehir points us in that direction when he observes alate in his review:
You can almost hear the steel chairs creaking as the last secular liberals rise to depart when Eagleton declares where his true disagreement with Richard Dawkins lies, which does not directly concern the existence of God or the role of science. "The difference between Ditchkins and radicals like myself," he writes, "hinges on whether it is true that the ultimate signifier of the human condition is the tortured and murdered body of a political criminal, and what the implications of this are for living."

Some more reviews:


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