Sunday, February 8, 2009

Pointed Critique of "The God Delusion"

Terence Francis Eagleton is a British literary theorist and critic, regarded by many as Britain's most influential living literary critic. Formerly Eagleton was Thomas Wharton Professor of English Literature at the University of Oxford and John Edward Taylor Professor of English Literature at the University of Manchester until 2008. In October 2008, Terry Eagleton was appointed to a Chair in English Literature at the Department of English & Creative Writing at Lancaster University. He also holds a visiting professorship at National University of Ireland, Galway. (Full wiki).

To the point, Eagleton reviews books for the London Review of Books and proceeds to blast 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. These days, theology is the queen of the sciences in a rather less august sense of the word than in its medieval heyday." Full critique here.

The point here isn't to ambush the book or Dawkins, but it is to show that the books by Sam Harris and Dawkins aren't exactly withstanding the acid tests amongst anyone other than the biblically illiterate. A large part of the criticism coming from both Christian and non-Christian circles with respect to the new Atheism books is that the authors don't have a particularly strong foundation with which to criticize Christianity or theists in general. Why is this so saddening? Many people who aren't exactly well-read in theology, apologetics, or any philosophy whatsoever are easily shifted, swayed, and driven mad because they find these people so influential. I'm going to try and find the link but I recently heard a story that a Christian college student committed suicide after a college professor recommended he read "The God Delusion."

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