Friday, May 8, 2009

Another Eagleton Review

Ripper of a read about the new Terry Eagleton book Reason, Faith and Revolution, which tears strips off Dawkins and Hitchens, whom he collectively dubs 'Ditchkens'. He says that their critique of Christianity is like lecturing on the Second World War on the basis of watching re-runs of Hogan's Heroes. He also gets stuck into the 'religious right' whom he says - and I have always thought this - have no understanding and no real faith in any meaningful sense. Their clinging to their comic-book image of Jesus and weeping about being born again usually indicates a deep well of venality, hypocrisy and willful ignorance, which lies behind a lot of mainstream religiosity in the US. Ironic that none of his targets are well-enough educated to understand him.

He depicts Dawkins as a "tweedy, cloistered Oxford don sneering at the credulous nature of the common people" and Hitchens as "a bootlicking neocon propagandist and secular jihadist".

Another columnist in the New York Times reviews this book fairly favourably, and asks whether the tone of exasperation and anger that sometimes permeates Eagleton's writings on the topic is caused by his "having to expend so much mental and emotional energy refuting the shallow arguments of school-yard atheists like Hitchens and Dawkins", concluding, "I know just how he feels."

As for anger, it is a trap. One of the characteristics of modernity is the proliferation, and range, of opinions floating around the cybersphere. I mean, how could they ever think that? There are people with beliefs of all kinds and to be fair, others may think that the things I take for granted are quite outlandish.

So an important spiritual discipline is to restrain one's feelings of anger and annoyance at the various divergent and contradictory opinions that people have. This is not to agree with them, but it is not to get too involved in the feeling of 'righteous umbrage' which certainly informs almost every sentence that the 'new atheists' pen.

To which end I hereby declare that as part of my regular morning meditation, I will henceforth direct a special wish for well-being and happiness to those with whom I disagree, and in particular, those who think all spirituality is meaningless, personified by Messrs Dawkins, Hitchens and Dennett.

May all beings be well, may all beings be happy, may all beings be at peace.


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