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Reason, Faith, and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate (The Terry Lectures Series) [Kindle Edition]

Terry Eagleton
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)

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Book Description

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 offers in its place a revolutionary account of the Christian Gospel. On the other hand, he launches a stinging assault on the betrayal of this revolution by institutional Christianity.

There is little joy here, then, either for the anti-God brigade—Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens in particular—nor for many conventional believers. Instead, Eagleton offers his own vibrant account of religion and politics in a book that ranges from the Holy Spirit to the recent history of the Middle East, from Thomas Aquinas to the Twin Towers.

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Takes one to know one, they say, and Eagleton knows one of the new atheism’s dynamic duo, Christopher Hitchens, rather well, for in Hitchens’ socialist days, Eagleton was a comrade. Still a Marxist and, hence, an atheist, Eagleton scores Hitchens along with his biologist sidekick, Richard Dawkins (sometimes as the composite new atheist “Ditchkins”), for unconscionably misrepresenting theology generally and Christianity, in particular, and for adhering to the shallow liberal belief in progress. He does so from a perspective he says is Marxist but that resembles the classical Greek tragic view that human actions inevitably have both good and bad effects. Thus the Enlightenment, seedbed of modern atheism, the liberal state, and economic individualism—virtually all that is progressive—“has always been its own worst enemy.” Far better the communitarian, sometimes communal ethic, which Eagleton sees as the orthodox kernel of Christianity and says Ditchkins ignores, than the surveillance state, wars for corporate profit, degenerate entertainment, and managed news that “progress” has brought us. Eagleton is that rarity, a non-ideological Marxist with a keen understanding of and sympathy for the human condition, not to mention an informed as well as sharp sense of humor. Serious Christians may be his most appreciative readers. --Ray Olson


"'Terry Eagleton's intervention into the debate sparked by Richard Dawkins's The God Delusion is, by turns, thought-provoking, infuriating, inspiring and very, very funny.' London Review of Books 'a gloriously rumbustious counter-blast to Dawkinsite atheism... paradoxes sparkle throughout this coruscatingly brilliant polemic... This is, then, a demolition job which is both logically devastating and a magnificently whirling philippic... Much of what it says is too true.' Paul Vallely, The Independent 'Eagleton's book began as a series of lectures delivered at Yale University. They must have been a riot... He's fantastically rude all round, about 'Ditchkins', about religion itself... It's terrific polemic.' Melanie McDonagh, Evening Standard"

Product Details

  • File Size: 1434 KB
  • Print Length: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (April 21, 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0023B1O40
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #489,458 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
194 of 218 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ditchkins? March 29, 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
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.
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54 of 60 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
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.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars dissing the "ditchkins" July 1, 2009
The atheists Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens have suffered their share of critical reviews, but perhaps none have been as categorical or vociferous as this one from their fellow Brit Terry Eagleton. By some accounts, Eagleton is the most influential literary critic in Britain; by all accounts he is an unreformed intellectual bad boy, and not only for his Marxist socialism. In the present volume he combines his rapier wit, encyclopedic knowledge, and spirited prose to dismiss the "Ditchkins" as pitiful pikers whose ramblings deserve our disdain.

True, the "Ditchkins" make some good points. But their sloppy thinking, strident language, and dogmatic condescension are warning signs of an atheism bought "on the cheap." Their stock in trade includes vulgar caricatures of religion, an "abysmally crude [and] infantile version of what theology has traditionally maintained," ignorance, cultural supremacism, an "eminently suburban" love affair with the Enlightenment myth of liberal progress, the refusal to acknowledge that religion has done any good anywhere or that science has done any harm, and an either/or mentality that ignores ambiguity. They are defenders of the political status quo, and hardly the revolutionaries they purport to be.

Eagleton was raised as an Irish Roman Catholic in working-class England, and although he has been ambiguous about his own personal faith, he says that one reason he wrote this polemic was to defend the faith of his forbears as something worthy of a defense. Christendom has betrayed the truly revolutionary nature of original Christianity, he says, and so in addition to attacking the secular left he undertakes the Kierkegaardian task of distinguishing between the genuine article and its many counterfeits.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Eagleton straw-targets atheist position but offers virtue
Eagleton is an amazing combination of Catholic believer and Marxist. He derides much of what Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens write, disrespectfully calling them... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Geoff Crocker
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice gift for someone
Came in great condition and should make a nice gift.
Published 10 months ago by Rachel Farley
5.0 out of 5 stars A Interesting Polemic Against Shoddy Thought, Fundamentalisms, and...
In this short work, originally given as lectures at Yale University, Eagelton, hardly a believer, turns his gimlet gaze upon three of the Four Horsemen (Richard Dawkins,... Read more
Published 12 months ago by John R. Robison
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed
I was expecting a whole lot more substance. It was mostly smoke with little fire. I guess "reflections" in the title should have warned me that it was off the cuff and... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Michael D. Bogar
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant rant
I love the topics covered but prepare yourself for a form of ranting that is more like a dialogue with a brilliant intellectual over four cups of espresso. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Paul Gordon Renigar Jr
5.0 out of 5 stars Clear, powerful
I highlighted passages in this book that I have reread dozens of times. I have a much more profound understanding of Christianity and faith than I did before I began.
Published 17 months ago by Jeffry Gonzalez
3.0 out of 5 stars A Rebuttal to Atheist Who Question The Existence of God
Terry Eagleton is a sharp witted and well read author who has engaged in the God debate with fellow Oxford alums Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. Read more
Published 21 months ago by Amazon Customer
2.0 out of 5 stars Wait... what?
I receive the recommendation to read this book from an academic friend who saw it as a good short read on the "God debate" in its modern form. Read more
Published 21 months ago by MJ
5.0 out of 5 stars A devastating criticism of different sorts of fundamentalism
The Booklist description in the Editorial Reviews for this book is very accurate. This book is a brilliant and telling put-down of fundamentalism in various forms: the... Read more
Published on December 1, 2012 by Illyrialady
4.0 out of 5 stars A Marxist Rant Againt Atheism
If the New Atheists leave you cold, and if Fundementalism disturbs you; if Capitalism, postmodernism, and multiculturalism seem lacking, and if you enjoy reading witty tirades --... Read more
Published on August 28, 2012 by A. F. Davis
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More About the Author

Terry Eagleton is John Edward Taylor Professor of English Literature at the University of Manchester. His numerous books include The Meaning of Life, How to Read a Poem, and After Theory.

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