While we're at it

Citation metadata

Date: Mar. 2007
Publisher: Institute on Religion and Public Life
Document Type: Article
Length: 11,238 words
Lexile Measure: 1410L

Document controls

Main content

Article Preview :

* Terry Eagleton, the leftist British literary critic and philosopher, reviews Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion: "Imagine 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. Card-carrying rationalists like Dawkins, who is the nearest thing to a professional atheist we have had since Bertrand Russell, are in one sense the least well-equipped to understand what they castigate, since they don't believe there is anything there to be understood, or at least anything worth understanding. This is why they invariably come up with vulgar caricatures of religious faith that would make a first-year theology student wince. The more they detest religion, the more ill-informed their criticisms of it tend to be. If they were asked to pass judgment on phenomenology or the geopolitics of South Asia, they would no doubt bone up on the question as assiduously as they could. When it comes to theology, however, any shoddy old travesty will pass muster. Dawkins speaks scoffingly of a personal God, as though it were entirely obvious exactly what this might mean. He seems to imagine God, if not exactly with a white beard, then at least as some kind of chap, however supersized. He asks how this chap can speak to billions of people simultaneously, which is rather like wondering why, if Tony Blair is an octopus, he has only two arms. For Judeo-Christianity, God is not a person in the sense that Al Gore arguably is. Nor is he a principle, an entity, or 'existent': in one sense of that word it would be perfectly coherent for religious types to claim that God does not in fact exist. He is, rather, the condition of possibility of any entity whatsoever, including ourselves. He is the answer to why there is something rather than nothing. God and the universe do not add up to two, any more than my envy and my left foot constitute a pair of objects." Eagleton's concluding observation: "He might also have avoided being the second most frequently mentioned individual in his book--if you count God as an individual." And now we'll give Dawkins a rest for a while.

* "These authors know themselves to be righteous; their opponents, therefore, must be unrighteous. These books evince little charity, less contrition, and no sense whatsoever that their authors, too, stand in need of divine forgiveness." That's Christopher Levenick reviewing in the Claremont Review a rash of books--by Jimmy Carter, Michael Lerner, Robin Meyers, Dan Wakefield, and Jim Wallis--attacking conservative Christians in public life. Levenick deplores their partisan indifference to moral ambiguities. "Perhaps such reflection will remind them that we are pilgrims more than prophets, that we pass through this City of Man as strangers in a strange land, longing for and ultimately arriving, we pray, in the City of God. And until we achieve that distant Kingdom, we will do best to recognize each other's good...

Source Citation

Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|A159784963