I just read Terry Eagleton‘s Reason, Faith, and Revolution. It is largely an attack on the atheism books by Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion) and Christopher Hitchens (God is Not Great). In his typically sardonic manner, Eagleton refers to the two authors as a single entity he calls Ditchkins. The book is, like all of his “popular” writing, funny and insightful; but one would expect this regardless of his past work because almost no one would think Eagleton’s views about religion have anything to do with religion. Indeed, the book is mostly about politics. He seems to be fascinated with the Gospels because of the implicit and explicit political messages of Christ’s teachings. I must admit it is nearly enough to turn me into a Christian—albeit one that few would recognize.
Eagleton largely agrees with Ditchkins about religion. His complaint is that they do not argue against the best case that can be made for faith. In other words, they are committing the straw-man fallacy. However, it is hard to think too badly about Ditchkins when the vast majority of believers are nothing but fideists.
Reason, Faith, and Revolution comes down to an attack on liberal humanism, and as such, was helpful to me in seeing some of my own blind spots. I do tend to believe in the march of human progress without seeing that it is largely a matter of faith. (In my defense, there is a good rational argument in favor of it.) But I think Eagleton overstates how strictly rational liberal humanists are. I, for one, am well aware of the great amount of faith there is in my life; I have never wished for—or thought possible—a culture that was strictly rational. I’m afraid that he is at least as guilty of overstating the rationality of non-believers as Ditchkins is of overstating the irrationality of believers.
In the end, Reason, Faith, and Revolution leaves me where The Meaning of Life did: more committed to living a good life and working toward a culture that is just, forgiving, and above all, humane. Although I may quibble with Eagleton about some details, his book is a welcome reminder that my belief in the existence of this more perfect self and society is a matter of rational faith. This might be something that Eagleton, Ditchkins, and I could all agree upon.