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Reason, Faith, and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate (The Terry Lectures Series) Hardcover – April 21, 2009


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Reason, Faith, and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate (The Terry Lectures Series) + Culture and the Death of God
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Product Details

  • Series: The Terry Lectures Series
  • Hardcover: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (April 21, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300151799
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300151794
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #566,780 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

Review

“Brisk, funny, and challenging . . . . One of the most fascinating, most original and prickliest works of philosophy to emerge from the post-9/11 era.”—Andrew O’Hehir, Salon

(Andrew O'Hehir Salon 2009-04-01)

"There are plenty of things in this book to anger all sorts of people, and few will not find something in it with which to disagree strongly. And that's just fine. This is an exceptional contribution to recent debates around faith, religion, and atheism."—Dale B. Martin, Yale University
(Dale B. Martin)

"This is sure to ruffle feathers on both sides of the God debate. Eagleton offers his own polemical chronicle of religion and politics from the Holy Spirit to the Twin Towers. Many will, simply, have to read this." — The Bookseller
(The Bookseller 2009-01-23)

"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."—Booklist (starred review)
(Booklist 2009-02-01)

"The book is superb. Provocative. And, it's easy to overlook this particular new book among the heaps of mystery novels and other best sellers at bookstores, so grab a copy now."—Readthespirit.com
(Readthespirit.com 2009-04-20)

“[B]etter than any previous book of its kind.”—James Wood, The New Yorker
(James Wood The New Yorker 2009-08-31)

"Eagleton's book is a brisk and welcome contribution to the ongoing discussion about the place of religion in the world today. Readers will find plenty to challenge them in this brief snapshot of today's 'God Debate.'"-- Blair Dee Hodges, Association for Mormon Letters
(Blair Dee Hodges Association for Mormon Letters)

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.

Customer Reviews

It was mostly smoke with little fire.
Michael D. Bogar
This collection of essays is written in Eagleton's incomparably beautiful style that is funny and incisive at the same time.
Amazon Customer
I highlighted passages in this book that I have reread dozens of times.
Jeffry Gonzalez

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

191 of 214 people found the following review helpful By Santi Tafarella on 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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52 of 58 people found the following review helpful By Tommy M. on June 5, 2009
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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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Daniel B. Clendenin on July 1, 2009
Format: Hardcover
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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