• In total there are 0 users online :: 0 registered, 0 hidden and 0 guests (based on users active over the past 60 minutes)
    Most users ever online was 616 on Thu Jan 18, 2024 7:47 pm

Review of "The God Delusion" - LRB

#35: Jan. - Mar. 2007 (Non-Fiction)
User avatar
Chris OConnor

1A - OWNER
BookTalk.org Hall of Fame
Posts: 17000
Joined: Sun May 05, 2002 2:43 pm
21
Location: Florida
Has thanked: 3500 times
Been thanked: 1307 times
Gender:
Contact:
United States of America

Review of "The God Delusion" - LRB

Unread post

Lunging, Flailing, MispunchingTerry Eagleton The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins · Bantam, 406 pp,
User avatar
Chris OConnor

1A - OWNER
BookTalk.org Hall of Fame
Posts: 17000
Joined: Sun May 05, 2002 2:43 pm
21
Location: Florida
Has thanked: 3500 times
Been thanked: 1307 times
Gender:
Contact:
United States of America

Re: Review of "The God Delusion" - London Review o

Unread post

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.This, not some super-manufacturing, is what is traditionally meant by the claim that God is Creator. He is what sustains all things in being by his love; and this would still be the case even if the universe had no beginning. To say that he brought it into being ex nihilo is not a measure of how very clever he is, but to suggest that he did it out of love rather than need. The world was not the consequence of an inexorable chain of cause and effect. Like a Modernist work of art, there is no necessity about it at all, and God might well have come to regret his handiwork some aeons ago. The Creation is the original acte gratuit. God is an artist who did it for the sheer love or hell of it, not a scientist at work on a magnificently rational design that will impress his research grant body no end.Because the universe is God's, it shares in his life, which is the life of freedom. This is why it works all by itself, and why science and Richard Dawkins are therefore both possible. The same is true of human beings: God is not an obstacle to our autonomy and enjoyment but, as Aquinas argues, the power that allows us to be ourselves. Like the unconscious, he is closer to us than we are to ourselves. He is the source of our self-determination, not the erasure of it. To be dependent on him, as to be dependent on our friends, is a matter of freedom and fulfilment. Indeed, friendship is the word Aquinas uses to characterise the relation between God and humanity.Dawkins, who is as obsessed with the mechanics of Creation as his Creationist opponents, understands nothing of these traditional doctrines. Nor does he understand that because God is transcendent of us (which is another way of saying that he did not have to bring us about), he is free of any neurotic need for us and wants simply to be allowed to love us. Dawkins's God, by contrast, is Satanic. Satan ('accuser' in Hebrew) is the misrecognition of God as Big Daddy and punitive judge, and Dawkins's God is precisely such a repulsive superego. This false consciousness is overthrown in the person of Jesus, who reveals the Father as friend and lover rather than judge. Dawkins's Supreme Being is the God of those who seek to avert divine wrath by sacrificing animals, being choosy in their diet and being impeccably well behaved. They cannot accept the scandal that God loves them just as they are, in all their moral shabbiness. This is one reason St Paul remarks that the law is cursed. Dawkins sees Christianity in terms of a narrowly legalistic notion of atonement
User avatar
Chris OConnor

1A - OWNER
BookTalk.org Hall of Fame
Posts: 17000
Joined: Sun May 05, 2002 2:43 pm
21
Location: Florida
Has thanked: 3500 times
Been thanked: 1307 times
Gender:
Contact:
United States of America

Re: Review of "The God Delusion" - London Review o

Unread post

Jesus, who pace Dawkins did indeed 'derive his ethics from the Scriptures' (he was a devout Jew, not the founder of a fancy new set-up), was a joke of a Messiah. He was a carnivalesque parody of a leader who understood, so it would appear, that any regime not founded on solidarity with frailty and failure is bound to collapse under its own hubris. The symbol of that failure was his crucifixion. In this faith, he was true to the source of life he enigmatically called his Father, who in the guise of the Old Testament Yahweh tells the Hebrews that he hates their burnt offerings and that their incense stinks in his nostrils. They will know him for what he is, he reminds them, when they see the hungry being filled with good things and the rich being sent empty away. You are not allowed to make a fetish or graven image of this God, since the only image of him is human flesh and blood. Salvation for Christianity has to do with caring for the sick and welcoming the immigrant, protecting the poor from the violence of the rich. It is not a 'religious' affair at all, and demands no special clothing, ritual behaviour or fussiness about diet. (The Catholic prohibition on meat on Fridays is an unscriptural church regulation.)Jesus hung out with whores and social outcasts, was remarkably casual about sex, disapproved of the family (the suburban Dawkins is a trifle queasy about this), urged us to be laid-back about property and possessions, warned his followers that they too would die violently, and insisted that the truth kills and divides as well as liberates. He also cursed self-righteous prigs and deeply alarmed the ruling class.The Christian faith holds that those who are able to look on the crucifixion and live, to accept that the traumatic truth of human history is a tortured body, might just have a chance of new life
Saint Gasoline

Re: Review of "The God Delusion" - London Review o

Unread post

Everyone who has read this review needs to read my meta-review, coyly titled:Counter-Punching, Missing, and Hitting Himself in the FaceYou'll have to scroll down past the comic to see the blog entry. Basically, I think I've refuted Eagleton in just as smug and smarmy a manner as he thought he had refuted Dawkins. Visit my website at http://www.saintgasoline.com if you like fart jokes, poop jokes, or jokes about other hilarious substances.
Niall001
Stupendously Brilliant
Posts: 706
Joined: Thu Sep 18, 2003 4:00 am
20

Re: Review of "The God Delusion" - London Review o

Unread post

I disagree. And have reviewed your review of his review of the book on my blog. Nice title though. Full of Porn*http://plainofpillars.blogspot.com
FiskeMiles

Re: Review of "The God Delusion" - London Review o

Unread post

Dear Gas:Quote:At any rate, if you want to debate the issue, feel free to do so in the context of my meta-review of Eagleton, which can be found here, and in which I essentially blow his argument out of the water.I started reading your review but couldn't make it past the reference to Eagleton's "post-modern philosophical naivety." Given Eagleton's credentials, the only thing this comment establishes is your own naivety and lack of discernment. And the source of the problem is easy to see. You have convinced yourself there is no God. And you mistake this belief for knowledge. So any time you encounter a position based on a belief in God, whatever the person is saying automatically becomes a "joke" not worthy of consideration or any serious attempt to understand what is being said. What you do instead is reduce the discussion to a pointless and tiresome argument concerning the existence of God.Do you really imagine that a person of Eagleton's erudition, wide-ranging knowledge, and interest in theology is unfamiliar with Plantinga and Swinburne? He doesn't refer to them because he is not arguing the existence of God.Quote:The funny thing is that Eagleton doesn't really seem concerned with the legitimacy of arguments for God's existence.Well that was a hint, wasn't it? You might consider when you encounter such inconsistencies that perhaps you have missed a point, or maybe two.I don't perhaps agree with all that Eagleton believes, but I read and enjoy his writing anyway because of the respect I have for his obvious knowledge, the nuance he brings to critical appraisals, and his impressive command of the language. He was paid a tidy sum, I'm sure, for his article by the London Review of Books. Why do you suppose they would have done that? Do you imagine they would pay for your review?Try to set aside your arguments for a moment and just look at his prose style and wit. It's on display throughout the review but one doesn't have to read past the first paragraph to understand his quality as a writer.Quote: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.He has chosen biology for his allusion because that is Dawkins' field, and then he illustrates the comparable level of theological knowledge by referring to the Book of British Birds, which is immediately familiar to his readers while also being quaint and passe. Not only is this image concrete and arresting, but the title introduces a delightful and hilarious element of consonance, which is hardly surprising coming from a professor of literature.The paragraph provides quite a bit more to admire and enjoy but I'll skip to another highlight -- the last sentence.Quote:These days, theology is the queen of the sciences in a rather less august sense of the word than in its medieval heyday.Think about how he is using the word "queen" here and what he implies by its being used in a "rather less august sense." The sheer audacity of the metaphor, which compares the position of gays in British society with the position of theology in relation to the sciences, is breathtaking. And it is done so adroitly as well. A delicate comparison is handled in such a way that any discerning reader will smile and take the point. And the ambiguity with which the term is applied goes well beyond that, touching as it does on the British monarchy and the historical context of theological studies.I have such limited time for reading that I'm determined to spend the time I do have with the very best on offer. And, thanks to this review, Eagleton is now a writer whose work I look forward to reading.Fiske
Saint Gasoline

Re: Review of "The God Delusion" - London Review o

Unread post

Quote:I started reading your review but couldn't make it past the reference to Eagleton's "post-modern philosophical naivety." Given Eagleton's credentials, the only thing this comment establishes is your own naivety and lack of discernment.Fiske, I have an English degree and have taken a few literary theory courses, so I know who Eagleton is and I know his credentials. In fact, I have a copy of his book "Literary Theory" sitting on top of my coffee table right now! I know, for instance, that he was a Marxist literary theorist of sorts, so clearly I am not naively ignorant of the man.Quote:So any time you encounter a position based on a belief in God, whatever the person is saying automatically becomes a "joke" not worthy of consideration or any serious attempt to understand what is being said. What you do instead is reduce the discussion to a pointless and tiresome argument concerning the existence of God.Don't be foolish, Fiske. You don't think the criticisms I have offered against theism and belief in God have critically considered the claims of those who have made various arguments? You would do well to actually read some of my posts in this community and in my blog, then, because my refutations of these arguments are not just claims that they are silly and therefore I need not address them. I actually address these arguments in quite a serious manner. But then again, perhaps if you had actually read the entire article, instead of stopping at the point where I call Eagleton naive, you would have realized that.And how is it "reducing" the discussion (which is about belief in God's EXISTENCE) to discuss arguments for and against God's existence? That's what Dawkins' book is ABOUT! Eagleton is the one "reducing" this discussion to something irrelevant, bringing up liberal interpretations of Christianity that are just as baseless, and in fact contextually wrong if we consider the origin and actual meaing of the scriptures.In fact, if anyone is being "reductive" and dismissive here, it is you. What you do is say, "Oh, you called Eagleton naive, I'm not going to continue reading and just assume you are wrong." Meanwhile, I have read Eagleton's entire article and have critiqued the large majority of it (much of it tongue-in-cheek and using Eagleton's own tactics for Dawkins against him), and I'm the one being dismissive and uncritical? Riiiight.Quote:Do you really imagine that a person of Eagleton's erudition, wide-ranging knowledge, and interest in theology is unfamiliar with Plantinga and Swinburne? He doesn't refer to them because he is not arguing the existence of God.I don't really believe he is ignorant of Swinburne and Plantinga, Fiske. The entire point of my meta-review was to show how Eagleton's reasoning, when applied to his own article, would make him out to be little more than a no-nothing hack concerning theological matters. I sarcastically remark, for instance, that it COULDN'T be the case that he does not really go into any theological depths because he is written an online book review intended for lay people, and not a theological dissertation, and I remark that he would agree with me given that he criticizes Dawkins on similar grounds, even though his work, too, is intended for lay people and isn't supposed to be a theological dissertation! Basically, I am insulting Eagleton in the same way he has attempted to insult Dawkins based upon his conception that Dawkins' work is supposed to be a vast theological treatise, and not a popular work.And as for him not arguing about the existence of God, I completely agree--which is why his entire review is not even a criticism of Dawkins' book at all, because his book is about the existence of God, not about theological discussions of hope, subjectivity, or how God's love is capable of logically sustaining things.Eagleton is indeed a very good writer, but good writing does not make his points stand up to critical assessment. Visit my website at http://www.saintgasoline.com if you like fart jokes, poop jokes, or jokes about other hilarious substances.
Saint Gasoline

Re: Review of "The God Delusion" - London Review o

Unread post

Quote:Dawkins always writes and talks as though he's proud of having written a book that counters every argument for the existence of God that has been put forward.And the reason he talks in this manner is because he is using a very specific definition of God. In the first few chapters of the book, he explains that he is not addressing barren theological conceptions of God like those attributed to Einstein, pantheists, or people like Spinoza. His book is criticizing gods that are thinking, loving, beings with personhood. Indeed, Eagleton tries to dodge this by saying that his God is not a person, and then in the same breath he says that he is a person (a political criminal). He even attributes characteristics like "loving" to God, and if God were not a person, then it wouldn't be clear what he means by "loving". Simply because theologians can redefine God to mean different things doesn't mean that Dawkins' points are wrong. You have to remember that Dawkins is working with a very specific conception of God.Quote:The Saint is also a little hard on Eaglton. No, Eaglton does not provide a fool-proof justification of his philosophical beliefs, but he was writing a book-review and not a book.I think you missed the point. I was purposely being hard on Eagleton because he was being hard on Dawkins for similar faults. I even acknowledge that he is not to be expected to write a theological dissertation in a book review when I sarcastically remark that the lacking depth couldn't be because he is writing an online book review. Basically, my point is that it is silly to demand such depth of an online book review written for the general public--just as it is silly for Eagleton to expect the same depth from a work of popular nonfiction written for lay people. Does he really expect such a book to address the epistemological differences between Aquinas and Duns Scotus? Then why doesn't he produce such depth in his own review? You see, the point of my being "hard" on Eagleton is to use his own foolish rhetorical techniques against him. Eagleton wants to play a smug, ivory tower philosopher without walking the walk, and I'm calling him on it using his own types of arguments against Dawkins.That is essentially the entire point of my meta-review. It is remarkably easy to wittily perform a hatchet job on pieces that are written for lay audiences and the general public, provided you are willing to dive just a little bit deeper and then play the role of a smug, ivory-tower type who is somehow above it all. I have applied the same types of smug criticism to Eagleton himself, and the obvious response is that I am being hard on him, because this isn't supposed to be something of encyclopedic depth, but a book review--and in issuing this defense of Eagleton, his review instantly collapses under the weight of this defense, because he makes the same sorts of criticisms in his expectation that Dawkins' book about the nonexistence of deities with attributes of personhood also be a book of deep theological depth that addresses irrelevant theological tangents on hope, subjectivity, and comparisons between Aquinas and Duns Scotus based upon their epistemic standards. Visit my website at http://www.saintgasoline.com if you like fart jokes, poop jokes, or jokes about other hilarious substances.
irishrosem

1E - BANNED
Kindle Fanatic
Posts: 528
Joined: Thu Oct 19, 2006 11:38 am
17

Re: Review of "The God Delusion" - London Review o

Unread post

Fiske, that's not really fair. St. Gas wasn't trying to compare his experience with Eagleton's. He was pointing out that in English classes, especially in lit theory classes, there is a lot of reading/discussing Eagleton's work. He was only noting that he is familiar with his expertise. Why don't you boys (girls) stop swinging those things around (retract those claws) a bit. *Edited to add a smiley so you know I was teasing there. Edited by: irishrosem at: 1/20/07 3:38 pm
FiskeMiles

Re: Review of "The God Delusion" - London Review o

Unread post

Quote:I have an English degree and have taken a few literary theory coursesGee-whiz, Gas, that is impressive. Especially compared with Eagleton's meager accomplishments. No wonder his review seems like a joke to you.Fiske
Post Reply

Return to “The God Delusion - by Richard Dawkins”