Wednesday, July 15, 2009
"Tragic Hero: Laurie Taylor Interviews Terry Eagleton." NEW HUMANIST 124.4 (2009).
Reading the first sentence of Terry Eagleton's review of The God Delusion in the October 2006 edition of the London Review of Books was not unlike watching a gunfighter kicking over a table of cards in an otherwise well-ordered saloon. "Imagine," fired Eagleton, "someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology." And that was only the opening volley. Further down the page Eagleton proceeds to shoot up Dawkins's failure to do justice to the complexity of the God he sought to rout ("He seems to imagine God, if not exactly with a white beard, then at least as some kind of chap"), his literality and lack of imagination ("Dawkins occasionally writes as though 'Thou still unravish'd bride of quietness' is a mighty funny way to describe a Grecian urn") and his belief in the progressive nature of history ("We have it from the mouth of Mr Public Science himself that aside from a few local, temporary hiccups like ecological disasters, famine, ethnic wars and nuclear wastelands, History is perpetually on the up"). Entertaining, even exhilarating stuff. But no great surprise to those who've followed Eagleton's career in any detail. He has a reputation for entering other people's rooms and kicking over their cards. He appears equally happy whether outraging conventional students of literature at Oxford with his vigorous espousal of critical theory, confounding his long-time Marxist allies with his periodic dabblings with spirituality, or lambasting Martin Amis for his suggestion that British Muslims "must suffer" for the actions of suicide bombers. (These comments, said Eagleton, were "not unlike the ramblings of a British National Party thug"). Neither does the degree of Eagleton's intellectual aggression seem to be modified by past friendships. In his new book Reason, Faith and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate, he is not content with amplifying his LRB attack upon Dawkins. He widens his target to include a new antagonist he calls Ditchkins, a composite of Dawkins and Eagleton's old International Socialist drinking mate and author of God Is Not Great, Christopher Hitchens. . . . Read the rest here: http://newhumanist.org.uk/2085.