I met a fellow benchrest shooter a few days ago and we took the opportunity to have a conversation. He was quite talkative and needed no prodding to begin a long discourse on his reloading process and benchrest shooting style. For the unbaptized, benchrest shooting is an exacting discipline that requires precise and consistent load preparation and a predictable and steady shooting style. This man, however, gave analysis a new definition. His treatise was exhausting! It would have been tolerable if he had good scores to match his dialogue. I finally had to break into his diatribe and beg for leave. The existence of God and benchrest shooting do have some commonality. If mishandled it could mean the end of one’s life. As I read Eagleton’s book, Culture and The Death of God, I felt as though Eagleton knew all the details of religion and philosophy but did not know God! He also wore me out with his philosophical name dropping and sweeping statements about the status of various philosophies in the current Western culture.
I did appreciate one very powerful observation he made on page 43, “The inner tension of orthodox Christianity – that the kingdom of God is both present and absent, immanent in human history yet a form of transcendence still to come – is fatally relaxed.” I do believe he is on to something. He made this statement in a chapter on the Enlightenment and I found it thought provoking. The promotion of rationalism is difficult to balance with reality not yet present.
Eagleton made another comment I found astute, “The contemporary version of religion is sport. It is sport, with its sacred icons, revered traditions, symbolic solidarities, liturgical assemblies and pantheon of heroes, which is the opium of the people. It is also the culture of the people, in both major senses of the word: a communal form of life, but also a chance to display or appreciate the kind of artistry from which the mass of citizens are otherwise largely excluded.” (Pg. 45-46). I read this statement on Sunday afternoon. Earlier in the day I attended a worship service and visited with some people after. Eighty percent of the conversations were about various sports. The World Cup was a big focus and then Wimbledon came in second. Some comments about baseball rounded out the talk.
The comment rang in my mind as I contemplated how many people I knew that made schedule adjustments and weekend plans (at great financial cost), to pursue their worship of sport. What was particularly disheartening was that many of these people do not take advantage of various opportunities to expand and deepen their faith and use time and money as reasons for not engaging.
I thought this statement by Eagleton’s was good, “What Nietzsche recognizes is that you can get rid of God only if you also do away with innate meaning. The Almighty can survive tragedy, but not absurdity.” (Pg. 155). I do wonder if Eagleton is correct in asserting that, “with the emergence of postmodernism, human history arrives for the first time at an authentic atheism.” (Pg. 190). I believe his thesis is that the primary philosophies and various forms of those philosophies have run their course and produced “an opportunity” to express atheism without rebuff. It is not that atheism is now refined, instead atheism is not questioned! I believe this idea comes through in his comment about post-modern thought: “One reason why postmodern thought is atheistic is its suspicion of faith. Not just religious faith, but faith as such. It makes the mistake of supposing that all passionate conviction is incipiently dogmatic.” (Pg. 192).
I did appreciate his closing comments, “The New Testament has little or nothing to say of responsible citizenship. It is not a ‘civilised’ document at all. It shows no enthusiasm for social consensus. Since it holds that such values are imminently to pass away, it is not greatly taken with standards of civic excellence or codes of good conduct. What it adds to common-or-garden morality is not some supernatural support, but the grossly inconvenient news that our forms of life must undergo radical dissolution if they are to be reborn as just and compassionate communities.” (Pg. 207-208). It is a sweeping statement and opens the door for some argument. But I believe Eagleton has it right concerning the radical nature of transformation that life must undergo if it is to become truly Christian.
A agree that the idea of God is not dead. However, many ideas are being expressed that are not congruous with Biblical revelation.
Eagleton, Terry. Culture and The Death of God. New Haven, CT and London: Yale University Press, 2014.