Tuesday, October 24, 2006

A fine review of Dawkins

I've got to say that while he's selling a good few books, Dawkins isn't making many friends. We saw Andrew Brown's opinion a while back in the Guardian and Prospect. Now Terry Eagleton has shredded the God Delusion in the London Review of Books. My thanks to Elliot of Claw of the Conciliator for pointing this out. The first paragraph is a classic:

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 donÂ?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.

Eagleton is an atheist and a Marxist, but most famous for being one of the primary vents through which literary theory has oozed into the UK. As such, despite being something of a post-modernist historian (a conservative post-modernist who likes to turn its insights on its creators), I find little to agree with in Eagleton's thought. What's remarkable about The God Delusion is that almost everyone, except Dawkins's precise clones, hates the book. I suppose that means that he is critic-proof, but if I was a professor and all my colleagues accused me of writing drivel, I won't be too happy.

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