Eagleton on Religion

by Anna Blanch on July 14, 2009

I heard that Terry Eagleton had made some comments about the value of exploring the religious aspects of texts recently. I was intrigued to see what he had to say and consequently share with you links to the relevant interview and article:

A couple of the most striking quotes include:

Where do you advise us to look for fulfillment?

There’s a famous phrase from Karl Marx, in which he says that he wants a society in which the full development of each is the condition of the full development of all. What would it be like to find our fulfillment through each other rather than against each other?

Unlike most left-wingers, you have been a champion of religion. [Goannatree: I am somewhat amused that this was posed as a statement rather than a question]

I did attack Richard Dawkins’s book on God because I think he is theologically illiterate. I value my Catholic background very much. It taught me not to be afraid of rigorous thought, for one thing.

Where do you think all these neo-atheists like Dawkins are coming from?
I suppose it is a reaction to various ugly types of fundamentalism. I’m entirely with Dawkins in condemning redneck fascists from Texas to the Taliban. But the trouble with Dawkins is that he thinks that’s what religion is.

Eagleton’s introduction:
Why are the most unlikely people, including myself, suddenly talking about God?
Who would have expected theology to rear its head once more in the technocratic twenty-first century, almost as surprisingly as some mass revival of Zoroastrianism? Why is it that my local bookshop has suddenly sprouted a section labeled “Atheism,” hosting anti-God manifestos by Christopher Hitchens, Richard
Dawkins, and others, and might even now be contemplating another marked “Congenital Skeptic with Mild Baptist Leanings”? Why, just as we were confidently moving into a posttheological, postmetaphysical, even posthistorical era, has the God question broken out anew?

Good question, Mr Eagleton!
As civilization, religion is doctrine, institution, authority, metaphysical speculation, transcendent truth, choirs, and cathedrals. As culture, it is myth, ritual, savage irrationalism, spontaneous feeling, and the dark gods. Religion in the United States is by and large a civilizational matter, whereas in England it is largely a traditional way of life-more akin to high tea or clog dancing than to socialism or Darwinism-which it would be bad form to take too seriously (the highly English Dawkins is in this respect egregiously un-English). One couldn’t imagine the Queen’s chaplain asking you if you have been washed in the blood of the Lamb. As the Englishman remarked, it’s when religion starts to interfere with your everyday life that it’s time to give it up. Polls reveal that most of the English believe that religion has done more harm than good, an eminently reasonable opinion unlikely to be endorsed in Dallas.

Food for thought….

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