Esoteric Dissertations from a One-Track Mind

May 11, 2009

How Can One Take Terry Eagleton Seriously?

Filed under: books, culture, religion — Tags: — codesmithy @ 10:21 am

Terry Eagleton has a new book called “Reason, Faith, and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate.” Eagleton is a literature professor and Marxist. So, it comes as a little bit of a surprise that he seeks to defend the theory and practice of religion against its contemporary critics. Nevermind that Marx said religion was the “opiate” of the people and Marx’s philosophy is fundamentally atheistic; it was supposed to be scientific and utopian after all.

What Eagleton represents is someone who embraces the communist caricature of Marxism, a political movement which invented its own mysticism in the guise of dialectic materialism and became a secular equivalent to a toxic religion. Eagleton is a person who sees Jesus as some kind of proto-Marxist. In other words, a man who can only see things as he wishes them to be, not as they are.

Hence, we are faced with the Eagleton conundrum: the only way to protect one’s own irrational dogma is to protect them all. Unfortunately, the insanity of such an endeavor quickly manifests itself in obvious ways, as Eagleton does in his book, conflating Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins into the malevolent spirit he christens “Ditchkins.” Any serious discussion of Eagleton ends with the discovery of this delusional fantasy. Eagleton is no longer arguing against real critics of religion, he is arguing against chimeras of his own imagination.

One might complain about the supposed school-yard mentality of Dawkins and Hitchens. Don’t they know God can be the first cause because He (and it is almost invariably a He despite the fact that there seems to be no good reason why God would have genitalia if He was the only God) is eternal? No, because this issue has never been adequately met by theologians or apologists despite their sophistry and centuries to come up with a satisfactory answer. A theistic God, by definition, must be incredibly complex being and capable of observing, recognizing and resolving issues of unimaginable complexity.

Sure, a theistic God could explain the universe, but it falls well short of a good explanation for the following reason: however unlikely we find the possibility that the universe itself just came into existence by itself, we must admit that possibility that a complex God just popped into existence, or more unfathomably is eternal, and then created the universe is more improbable, and by a considerable degree.

From watching a one of Eagleton’s Yale lectures, it is obvious that he is not defending anything similar to Christianity as laymen practice it. Hence, having Eagleton defend religion is like having Michael Ruse defend science, one is never quite sure they get it. I have a hard time telling what distinction Eagleton would make between God and the numinous. It is quite possible he sees them as one in the same, but stripping the superstition out of religion is not a concession most believers are willing to make.

Eagleton makes the claim that God is not a Yeti. Yes, yetis aren’t invisible, aren’t able to read your thoughts, aren’t immortal, aren’t capable of altering natural laws of the universe, won’t convict you of thought crime, won’t punish you even after you die and don’t have a strange fetish about foreskins.

What Eagleton is clearly engaging in here is the time honored tradition of sophistry. He bemoans Dawkins running around in Oxford circles, and Hitchens in Washington, while simultaneously publishing a book based on lectures he gave at Yale. Yale! When Eagleton starts giving lectures at the atheist equivalents of Randolph-Macon Woman’s College, next-door to Liberty University, or the University of Nebraska when resolutions are being drafted against him, then Eagleton will have a leg to stand on. Eagleton’s faux-populist appeal against the supposed elitism of atheists is only effective with a particular brand of unreflective, deluded hypocrites like Eagleton and students at Yale who are well on their way to being crafted in the mould of one of their famous alumni, George W. Bush.

Thus we reach an inescapable conclusion that Eagleton is a coward, a sophist, and a deluded hypocrite. He exists in a fog, with a mind addled by the over-study of pointless subjects. I can only hope he finds the good sense to actually listen and learn, so he might produce something of productive value to our species instead of retarding it by continuing to muddy the intellectual waters.

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3 Comments »

  1. I didn’t get the same read on Eagleton’s lecture as you.
    He wasn’t defending all manifestations of religion. He spoke of Christian theology, he said, because it is the tradition he is most familiar with. Eagleton is arguing for the potential of religion to imbue meaning and connection in life. He’s not arguing for superstition. Some clues to Eagleton’s perspective is in the philosophy of Deleuze.

    Comment by Kate — May 21, 2009 @ 10:15 pm

  2. Hi Kate,

    Eagleton’s lecture? He gave multiple lectures. How did you know we were discussing the same one?

    Nevertheless, the one that I listened to before I posted was this one:

    He wasn’t defending all manifestations of religion.

    I never claimed that he was, in fact I implied the opposite. I said that Eagleton might consider the numinous and God to be the same thing (it is hard to tell.) However, once you drop, say, the truth of resurrection, many Christians will start accusing you of being an atheist.

    He’s not arguing for superstition

    He is arguing for the very definition of superstition. In another lecture (Faith and Reason) he gives his assessment of the Yeti view of faith (about 10:50 in)

    He claims that “God is not even a possible object of cognition.” He then goes on that it is the inherent nature of God that He cannot be seen. If that isn’t woo (to borrow James Randi‘s word), I don’t know what is.

    Superstition is defined as an irrational belief arising from ignorance or fear
    http://wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn?s=superstition

    Eagleton’s admitted his ignorance, and Eagleton already sets up the dichotomy between reason on one side and faith on the other so it can‘t be rational.

    We are then left to conclude that Eagleton just drops the things that would be embarrassing to defend in public and then complains when someone, like Hitchens or Dakwins, have the gall to bring them up. There is no reason to read philosophy to gain insight on what Eagleton is doing, just spend some time critically examining any other sophist shyster.

    Comment by codesmithy — May 22, 2009 @ 7:50 am

  3. Hi, I have to say I listened to the Faith and Reason lecture on iTunes and came to EXACTLY the same conclusions as the author of this article. However, not being as familiar with TE as the author is I wasn’t able to put my criticisms as elegantly.

    Comment by Kristi — October 20, 2009 @ 12:34 pm


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