TCC Reads: Reason, Faith, and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate

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In 2009 the British literary theorist and polemicist, Terry Eagleton, published a collection of essays Reason, Faith, and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate.

Though not himself a Christian (Eagleton describes himself as a “tragic humanist”) he takes aim at the New Atheists, such as Richard Dawkins, who tear down rhetorical straw men of their own devising rather than make serious claims regarding orthodox Christian belief (as atheist philosophers like Nietzsche once did).

Eagleton writes, “It is always easier to buy one’s rejection of a belief system on the cheap, by (for example) triumphantly dismissing out of hand a version of Christianity that only seriously weird types, some of them lurking in caves . . . would espouse in the first place.”

This is a thought provoking, provocative, and at times very funny book. Eagleton writes, “Such is Richard Dawkins’ unruffled impartiality that in a book of almost 400 pages he can scarcely bring himself to concede that a single human benefit has ever flowed from religious faith, a view which is as a priori improbable as it is empirically false.”

Eagleton criticizes the “bloodless scientism” of the New Atheists, who proceed, in their argumentation as if anything that cannot be understood via the scientific method does not exist, but he’s equally critical of mainstream Christianity, which, he argues, has forgotten the radical nature of its Christ. Jesus is a God who is on the side of the dispossessed, a God for whom salvation is a question of feeding the hungry, welcoming the immigrants, visiting the sick, and protecting the poor, orphaned and widowed.

We highly recommend this provocative book, which would work well for a  book group, or for individual reading.

– Anna Keating