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Reason, Faith, and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate (The Terry Lectures Series) Paperback

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Product Details

  • Series: The Terry Lectures Series
  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (March 16, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 030016453X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300164534
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.5 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #246,134 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 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


“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)

“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.” - Bookseller
(Bookseller 2009-01-23)

"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."—
( 2009-04-20)

"His is a radical contribution to what is becoming one of the most important issues of our age."—Good Book Guide
(Good Book Guide 2009-07-01)

"…[a] gloriously rumbustious counter-blast to Dawkinsite atheism…paradoxes sparkle throughout this coruscatingly brilliant polemic…. Eagleton is stronger on reason than Ditchkins, for he thinks carefully about what his opponents say…. This is, then, a demolition job which is both logically devastating and a magnificently whirling philippic.… It is easy to see why a lot of people will not be happy with this book. Much of what it says is too true.”—Paul Vallely, The Independent
(Paul Vallely The Independent 2009-07-17)

"Eagleton…is a powerful and engaging writer, perhaps no more so than when, with bursts of comic vituperation which recall Kenneth Tynan at his best, he is seeing off those he regards as second-rate opponents. But probably more relevant is the sense among many readers and critics that Eagleton is providing a welcome antidote to the rather simple-minded conception of religion that Dawkins and Hitchens selected for their demolition jobs. He is rather like a wise old schoolmaster explaining to two eager young students that the significance of Hamlet is hardly exhausted by describing it as ‘a revenge drama’.”—Laurie Taylor, New Humanist Magazine
(Laurie Taylor New Humanist Magazine 2009-07-01)

"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, which 'has wrought untold misery in human affairs'…. It’s terrific polemic."—Melanie McDonagh, Evening Standard
(Melanie McDonagh Evening Standard 2009-07-16)

"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
(London Review of Books 2009-07-23)

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

"Terry Eagleton is at his best as a critic, and much of the book, which is really a series of lectures delivered at Yale University, is devoted to incisive and angry analyses of what is wrong with our world in the twenty-first century."—Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi, Metapsychology Online Reviews
(Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi Metapsychology 2009-12-01)

‘A boisterous polemic … Eagleton yields to none in his denunciation of institutional Christianity and a punitive, vengeful God as a betrayal of Jesus’s championing of the poor and rejected.’
(Jonathan Benthall Times Literary Supplement 2009-12-11)

“Eagleton writes with lucidity, wit and panache and, though an atheist himself, successfully shreds what the conflated Ditchkins say in their books.”
(Piers Paul Read Spectator 2009-11-14)

Eagleton's book "meets the challenge of the New Atheists with a sense of playfulness (for example, he melds the two leading lights of the movement, Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, into one signifier, "Ditchkins"), and a dogged refusal to let Oxbridge-trained rhetoric stand in for actual reason. The result is a work bathed in wit and punctuated with soaring prose that, while sympathetic to religious truth-claims, ends with a flourish on his Marxist hopes for an embrace of "tragic humanism.""—Lyndon Shakespeare, Anglican Theological Review
(Lyndon Shakespeare Anglican Theological Review)

"Eagleton is an unconventional and entertaining thinker.  His book is as much about capitalism, politics, and literary criticism as it is about religion." —Kurt Kleiner, The Globe and Mail
(Kurt Kleiner The Globe and Mail)

"[Eagleton's] gleeful, often satirical, piercing of the chinks in the armor of modern atheist apologetics is beneficial to any reader interested in the 'God Debate.'" —James Heiser,
(James Heiser

"Erudite, but often entertaining volume." —Rich Barlow, Boston Globe
(Rich Barlow Boston Globe)

"Terry Eagleton's wonderfully accessible critique . . . is written with his characteristic wit and erudition. . . . Eagleton writes very much from the Catholic Left, but his arguments will both enrich and challenge neocalvinist thought in politics, theology, and international relations." —Comment Magazine
(Comment Magazine)

"Reason, Faith, and Revolution is a challenging, feisty contribution to the current public debate about God and religion.  It is poetic, wise,and clear.  Eagleton proves he is more than a literary critic; he's also an exceptional preacher." —Kurt Armstrong, Christian Week
(Kurt Armstrong Christian Week)

"This is a good and stimulating reading for theologians, and invites in a provocative way to think about theology's identity and mission in times of deep changes and challenges." —Lluis Oviedo, Religion & Theology
(Lluis Oviedo Religion & Theology)

'Eagleton is one of Britain's leading literary critics and writes with verve and humour.' — Paul Goodliff, Baptist Times
(Paul Goodliff Baptist Times 2010-06-18)

"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)

"A fascinating series of essays."—Financial Times
(Financial Times 2010-11-27)

“There is a great deal here that readers from different backgrounds will find informative. It is a polemical book, but the deeper sense of the polemic is the subtle and multi-formed argument that what is at stake here, in the distinction between religious and secularist values, is actually a way of being alive. As Eagleton powerfully states, faith is never about the superficial use of reason.”—Oliver Davies, Scottish Bulletin on Evangelical Theory
(Oliver Davies Scottish Bulletin on Evangelical Theory 2011-05-01)

“Terry Eagleton has a deserved reputation as one of the most influential of British literary critics and cultural commentators who has developed over his many publications a highly effective communicative style. This book is no exception.”—Oliver Davies, Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theory
(Oliver Davies Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theory)

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.
Olga Bezhanova
I highlighted passages in this book that I have reread dozens of times.
Jeffry Gonzalez

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

188 of 211 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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49 of 55 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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26 of 28 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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