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on October 23, 2014
Eagleton is an amazing combination of Catholic believer and Marxist. He derides much of what Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens write, disrespectfully calling them `Ditchkins'. He is contemptuous of their Oxford/Washington/neocon etc scene, adding in Martin Amis, Salman Rushdie and Ian McEwan for good measure. His main critique is that whilst Dawkins and Hitchens critique religion, they do not apply the same critique to science or the enlightened modernity they promote, summed up in their castigation of the Inquisition but not of Hiroshima. Eagleton however commits the same errors he accuses Dawkins and Hitchens of. They attack a straw man of extremist religion rather than more credible expressions and interpretations - `this straw targeting of Christianity is now drearily commonplace he complains' - whilst Eagleton himself attacks Dawkins and Hitchens rather than the more credible atheist arguments of Simon Blackburn, Andre Comte-Sponville, Julian Baggini etc. He challenges that Dawkins and Hitchens should know more about religion before critiquing it but then himself freely lambasts multinational corporations about which he is equally uninformed. Eagleton deploys streams of similes to support his points - `it is rather like saying that thanks to the electric toaster we can forget about Chekhov' - which start as amusing but soon become irritating. He is clearly annoyed with Hitchens for leaving the Marxist camp where they were former fellow travellers. He doesn't like modernity's belief in its inevitable progress to a finer world, but he fails to say that belief in the kingdom of God offers the same hope. We are told of `the social devastation wreaked by economic liberalism' p145!

Eagleton simply assumes God. By page 7 he is writing in detail about the nature of God without any supporting argument - God is just as Eagleton says he is. He says on page 34 that he has given a theological account which he clearly hasn't. He has simply speculated on some ideal fabrication of an imagined God. And Jesus is Eagleton's revolutionary, a Che Guevara figure who stands for the poor, critiques the establishment, and himself suffers ignominy and bears injustice.

He does offer allegory as a useful interpretation of religion and this deserves further development. He says p48 `there has been no human culture to date in which virtue has been predominant' which is a succinct moral challenge to human society which should cause reflection and correction? For Aquinas p122 `all virtues have their source in love' so here is Eagleton's key virtue which compares to Iaian King's twin virtues of empathy and obligation and Comte-Sponville's 18 virtues in his 'A Short Treatise on the Great Virtues'.

Geoff Crocker Editor Atheist Spirituality web site
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on July 18, 2014
Came in great condition and should make a nice gift.
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on May 5, 2014
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, Christopher Hitchens, and Daniel Dennit, called "Ditchkens" for short) of the New Atheist Movement. Far from a standard "Science doesn't touch on the topic of God" rhetoric, although that is present, Eagelton instead attacks along a few interesting lines: intellectual dishonesty, bourgeois banality, and narrow dogmatism. On an interesting side note, he leaves the fourth Horseman, Sam Harris, alone. This is despite Harris' record for supporting the torture and death of those who would refuse to go along with his Brave New World. Perhaps Eagelton found him beneath his notice.

On the First point, Eagelton points out that "Ditchkens" tends to blame all of the evils of the world, unreservedly, on religion. Eagelton points out that the sanctified science of Ditchkens has played as much a role in the destruction of lives and the furtherance of suffering, typically under the banner of the Enlightenment, as the hated religion. He also points out, through a scathing bit of satire, that behind the cheap theatrics and overblown arguments, Ditchkens arguments are, at best, category errors. For example, Hitchens' argument that religion is a failed attempt at explaining the Universe is the same as saying that " ... ballet is a failed attempt at running for a bus." He also attacks this as a form of Straw Man Arguments, not worthy of much more than scorn.He also assaults the Pollyanna like belief in "progress" that studs the prose of Ditchkens works. His distaste for what he calls Liberal Humanism, as expressed in this one sided, shallow humanism is as palpable as his disdain for the rest of the naive simplicity of any fundamentalism.

On the second point Eagelton blasts the bourgeois betrayal of social justice by Ditchkens. Chiefly he lampoons the "North Oxford" character of Dawkins, the failed revolutionary pretensions of Hitchens, and the obdurately clueless ponderings of Dennit. To be specific, he points out that these men are all cheerleaders for the neo-conservative war on terror, as well as any other number of self aggrandizement that they find. They have turned there back upon those who have suffered, generally at the hand of the much vaunted Enlightenment. He traces the hand that the Industrialized West has helped bring about the current rise of Islamism, and the role that science and "progress" have played in that. He particularly lifts up Hitchens, a former Marxist/Trotskite, up to scorn for not only betraying the Revolution (Eagelton is after all a Marxist) but for becoming the enemy.

The third point touches on the first, but is separate in that it is a special species of intellectual arrogance. To be exact, Eagelton points to the narrow, dogmatic, and almost silly extremes that Ditchkins will go in order to indite religion. Nothing is allowed to cloud the view that religion is not only wrong, but evil, and that Ditchkins is the enlighten bringer of good news. He holds up the hypocrisy of making their metaphysical and philosophical arguments into "science" while pointing out that they are actually harming the thing they seek to defend.

In parallel to his critique of Ditchkens, Eagelton also attacks the failure of Christianity to live up to what he sees as it's revolutionary potential. It, too, has cast its lot with power, and has betrayed what he sees as it's first commitment to truth and to the human race. When not excoriating the New Atheists, he is whipping the Church for it's weakness.

At the end Eagelton bids us to look to what he calls "Tragic Humanism" as a remedy for the failed Liberalism of Ditchkens and the rest of the New Atheist crowd.

In all, this is an excellent book, one that should be read, not just for it's assaults, but for it's call to something better.
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on March 17, 2014
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 would be more ideologically driven opinion than well thought out and balanced essays.
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on February 24, 2014
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. Actually, it's rather refreshing to see someone challenge the typical 'book' format.
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on December 27, 2013
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.
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on September 2, 2013
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. Dawkins and Hitchens have called into question the existence of God and the intellectual capabilities of those who continue to believe. In the God Delusion referenced by Eagleton (I have not read the Hitchens book he references), Dawkins theorizes that belief in God and religion is a relic of a by gone era, an era that we as humans started moving away from during the Enlightenment, when science began to lead the way to understanding the world around us. As convincing as Dawkins was, it is just as clear that Eagleton is on the right track when he says that religion, for lack of a better word still is very much in play in the lives of many humans and should not be dismissed so lightly. While science can explain what we see and to some extent how the world works, it does not have the ability to explain how we feel about the world around us, how we determine what is right and wrong, good and bad, beautiful and ugly. The framework that Eagleton uses to discuss these differences is religion but it just as easily be called something else. Dawkins points out that religion is responsible for much of the world's misery and that once we accept science and the provable we as humans will be mcuh better off rather than relying on the myth making structure of religion. Science allows for discussion of what is and invites others to question our assertions. Religion on the other hand hinders inquiry, evidenced by the fact that at least in American society one simply does not question another's religious beliefs. Thus, those beliefs continue to fester in the human psyche generation after generation. Eagleton acknowledges that relgion has been responsible for a good deal of what has gone wrong in human history. However, he cleverly points out that science has its share of catastrophes as well. Eagleton glibly retorts that he will see religion's holocaust and call science's nuclear and chemical warfare. Thus, even if one is inclined toward atheism, Eagleton makes it clear that there is still a lot to answer for as far as how humans feel about the world. This is something that science simply can not answer. It leaves open the possibility of the necessity of a partnership between science and religion if we are really to get things right. As usual, one is left with more questions than answers after reading this book. However, thanks to the discussion in my book group, I have better appreciation of Eagleton's positon.
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on August 12, 2013
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. That it "wittily" deprecated Hitchens and Dawkins seemed an added bonus for me. I'd surely enjoy it.

That this is a work of colossal idiocy and failed wit was apparent within only a few pages. In being approachable and clever, Eagleton seems to have cast aside any semblance of logical argumentation, assured that his status and readability will leave his reader with at least a sense of accomplishment by the last page ("How clever I must be for deriving amusement from the work of this well-stationed pseudo-academic!").

So if you would like to impress your self-assured atheist friends with a rebuttal to their praise of "Ditchkins," look somewhere else. Or better yet, look for other friends. Don't waste your time with this book.
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on December 1, 2012
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 fundamentalist version of Christianity of, say, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, the fundamentalist version of Islam of the suicide bombers, the fundamentalist version of the Enlightenment of Dawkins and Hitchens. This book also captures the essence of the New Testament gospels. It is ironic that today the most likely place to find such an exposition is in a book by a Marxist atheist, Terry Eagleton. This book is also a devastating put-down of the political, social, and economic policies of the United States of America, where Terry Eagleton occasionally (and justifiably) sounds like an Old Testament prophet. Thank you, Terry Eagleton, for this book.

I would like to add that the section on faith and reason contains a short discussion on the idea of an unexpected "event" which breaks through and is a pointer to a truth which hitherto was hidden from us. Eagleton writes about the importance of this idea to the left-wing, atheist, French philosopher Alain Badiou. "Badiou grasps the point that the kind of truth involved in acts of faith is neither independent of propositional truth nor reducible to it. Faith for him consists in a tenacious loyalty to what he calls an 'event' -- an utterly original happening which is out of joint with the smooth flow of history, and which is unnameable and ungraspable within the context within which it occurs. Truth is what cuts against the grain of the world, breaking with an older dispensation and founding a radically new reality. Such momentous 'truth events' come in various shapes and sizes, all the way from the resurrection of Jesus (in which Badiou does not believe for a moment) to the French Revolution, the moment of Cubism, Cantor's set theory, Schoenberg's atonal composition, the Chinese cultural revolution, and the militant politics of 1968."

One can easily make a short list of these truth events for the United States: the utterly appalling realization that our leaders entertained that notion that it was not the height of evil to instantaneously kill 100,000 inhabitants of Hiroshima (and another 100,000 who died a lingering death), the non-violent protests of the civil rights struggle led by Martin Luther King, Jr., the coming within an inch of destroying the world in the Cuban Missile Crisis, the massive protests in the streets against the Vietnam War, the disastrous Crusader-like reaction or our leaders to 9/11 and our blindness to anything that we did that just might have motivated the destruction of the Twin Towers, the spontaneous outbreak of the Occupy Movement, the climate change crisis, the natural resources crisis, the population crisis.
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on August 28, 2012
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 -- then this book is for you! I enjoyed it immensely.
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