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on April 29, 2014
As an avid reader of religion and philosophy, I was intrigued by Terry Eagleton's decision to enter the "God Debate". As someone who wrote 'Why Marx Was Right', his defense of religion is a bit unexpected, but also great evidence of his point that "the Almighty has proved remarkably difficult to dispose of."

'Culture and the Death of God' is a dense academic text that reviews the last three centuries in which one intellectual movement after another has denied the existence of God only to pursue the divine elsewhere. The irony fuels Eagleton in this cunning exploration of Western religious culture, which I enjoyed quite a lot, although it was quite a challenge. From science to art, Eagleton seems pessimistic that we will find a satisfying alternative to God and remains sympathetic to religion as a basically decent expression of core human dilemmas and values, corrupted as institutions may be.

There are many Westerners questioning the merits of secular society right now and the revival in the philosophy of religion has brought a lot of groundbreaking work! Readers of this book would also like the collection of essays found in Reasoned Faith: Essays in Philosophical Theology in Honor of Norman Kretzmann.
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on September 16, 2014
Harrowing ride through the last two centuries of Western thought as Eagleton unpacks the multiple levels of unbelief in religion and skewers so many from the Enlightenment onward with their own bad faith in finding substitutes for God without acknowledging what they were really doing. The uncompromising atheism of Nietzsche stands in contrast to so many others who saw in culture a substitute for religion. Eagleton may not himself be a beliver, but he "gets" the raw and paradoxical call of Christianity which is so unlike the religion rejected in the West. His analysis of the emptiness and pretensions of both postmodernism and contemporary capitalism are withering. A fascinating book.
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on November 24, 2014
This is a most wonderful analysis of the Enlightenment and its consequences and successors. Curiously, Eagleton seems to have omitted feminism and womankind from his list of candidates to fill the god-shaped hole left by the Enlightenment.
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I figured, despite the difficult content, that hearing these lectures on audiobook might ease their delivery. I like Terry Eagleton's work, and I always mean to read more. The Meaning of Life, for instance, is on my Kindle, where I am saving it up still, having already studied its final chapter.

But the subject matter is challenging. Eagleton's wit is subdued, after early on a joke at the expense of Birmingham. He hones in on not the "death of God" so much as his replacement, high European culture. The kind of thinking that George Steiner represents the last generation to have espoused.

This arose earlier than the Enlightenment, but that period, for the French and the Germans, gave it its fullest diffusion. Many Germans crowd these pages, along with the sometimes somewhat more familiar French. Eagleton looks down on the likes of Diderot and Voltaire, for they suffer the hypocrisy of many of their peers. For they speak a 'double-truth': they claim the masses need religion for its calming messages and social utility. The elite, of course, can rise to a higher worship of reason.

Yet, as Eagleton astutely notes, Deism roused no martyrs. He constantly defers to, or better still champions, the Gospel message as liberation theology (even if he steps aside from this phrasing). His Christ comes to afflict the comfortable and to condemn the authorities, taking up the side of the poor.

If one wonders if this is a selective interpretation of biblical verses, one will end this book unenlightened. Eagleton employs these talks to promulgate his own insistent reading of Jesus as a revolutionary. As the modern times impinge, and Nietzsche's own shameful (in Eagleton's view) capitulation to the 'double-think' standard proves that even he is not worthy of acclaim, the book shifts into a rapid look at those such as T.S. Eliot who attempted to make the aesthetic the norm. But, being Christian, that cohort also falls short for Eagleton. He wedges into our own age, divided between a secularized and educated class and many billions (some with degrees and high incomes, surely, a factor he skims past) who continue to integrate, however irrationally to this professor's rigorous if somewhat numinous preferences for his own Christ-figure, faith with achievement.

Eagleton nods to the resurgence of Islam and Christianity in many poorer parts of the world, not so much again as forces calling for the kind of radical overthrow of the power system, but more as a way to live in a complicated world more simply. I reckon more on Marx might have helped his explication, but his promotion of Nietzsche as the central figure in this short study leaves us moderns somewhat imbalanced. After a lively if brief look at earlier Irish dissident (if renegade Protestant convert) thinker John Toland, the reader wants more such figures to energize these dense chapters.

Instead, it's less intoxicating. Eagleton crams a lot into these sections, but he often does not explain who the figures are beyond their dates of birth and death, leaving a reader (and even more a listener) curious or confused. Some transfer of lofty content to a common if smart reader was necessary, but these lectures, transcribed as I suppose they originated, go over the heads of many who could have benefitted from a more streamlined, listener-friendly, version of what remain engaging ideas and an intellectual history on a topic that an audience needs to hear, as believers, skeptics, or seculars.
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on January 25, 2016
Mr. Eagleton outdid himself with this excellent discussion on the place and importance of the concept of a 'God' in our culture and why it will always be a necessary condition of an unequal society. This book is very unfortunate news for atheists and agnostics as he explains why most people will probably never have the luxury of freeing themselves from religious illusion.
I was very moved by the final few pages of the book which contains a compassionate appeal for collective action to mitigate the suffering of the less fortunate. I found the tone of this appeal to be about as disheartening and fatalistic as can be in our current zero sum political situation.
Religion is here to stay under these circumstances in this culture .
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on August 30, 2015
Loved the book could not put it down. Eagleton at his best.

Go buy and read it as soon as possible
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on January 27, 2016
Very good, not so easy reading.
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on September 1, 2014
Satisfying, really. A good take on a fundamental perspective. Culture is rife with deities. It's an art form to organize power.
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on July 11, 2014
I gave up after getting halfway through it. A very difficult read. I read college textbooks that were easier to comprehend. Too much tedious and esoteric verbiage used to get to his point. Mind numbing.
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