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20 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eagleton on great form, 31 Oct. 2009
This review is from: Reason, Faith, and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate (Terry Lectures) (The Terry Lectures) (Hardcover)
If I were going to throw a dinner party where I could be reasonably sure the conversation would turn, sooner or later, to God, I'd want Terry Eagleton to be a guest. On the evidence of this book, he'd be insightful about the true nature of faith-commitments - whether of the Christian or liberal humanist/rationalist variety; even-handed - sparing no-one from waspish, bitingly accurate criticism, whilst generous in praise where due; and, above all, very, very funny.

As a contribution to the God (so-called) debate, 'Reason, Faith and Revolution' is as thoughtful and learned as it is bracing and uncomfortable. While Eagleton's occasional forays into the labyrinthine infighting that leftwing politics seems to specialise in can be self-indulgent, the philosophically- and culturally-referenced breadth and depth of his critique of Dawkins and Hitchens is both impressive and iconoclastic. He writes beautifully, with a feel for the arresting metaphor and the pithy aphorism: as a summary of the radical demands of Christianity, his almost throwaway line `If you don't love, you're dead, and if you do, they'll kill you' (22) can scarcely be bettered. He is insightful about faith as gift rather than as voluntaristic act of will, and there's a refreshing honesty to his thinking about how knowing necessitates pre-rational commitments from even the most supposedly `rational' among us.

He's realistic, too, about human fallibility, and therefore the need for a humanism that acknowledges our race's tragic side, its capacity for dark deeds and ignoble behaviour. He explores well the limitations to `capital-p Progress' as ideology that Dawkins/Hitchens (`Ditchkins') either blithely or blindly ignore. He unpicks, too, the fundamentalism of the marketplace that - anti-intellectually and artificially - sets up faith and reason as mutually opposed and allows no debate with theologies (Christian, Islamic or otherwise) that `might contribute to some of the answers' (168). In its call for something like repentance on the part of actually existing liberal humanism and Christianity equally, and its vision of a more modest hope in `small-p progress' as a precondition to some sort of redemption, it's as honest as it is profound. Superb.
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Jeremy Bevan
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   

Location: West Midlands, UK

Top Reviewer Ranking: 527