From Fish’s blog at the NYT:

Eagleton acknowledges that the links forged are not always benign — many terrible things have been done in religion’s name — but at least religion is trying for something more than local satisfactions, for its “subject is nothing less than the nature and destiny of humanity itself, in relation to what it takes to be its transcendent source of life.” And it is only that great subject, and the aspirations it generates, that can lead, Eagleton insists, to “a radical transformation of what we say and do.”

The other projects, he concedes, provide various comforts and pleasures, but they are finally superficial and tend to the perpetuation of the status quo rather than to meaningful change: “A society of packaged fulfillment, administered desire, managerialized politics and consumerist economics is unlikely to cut to the depth where theological questions can ever be properly raised.”

By theological questions, Eagleton means questions like, “Why is there anything in the first place?”, “Why what we do have is actually intelligible to us?” and “Where do our notions of explanation, regularity and intelligibility come from?”

The fact that science, liberal rationalism and economic calculation can not ask — never mind answer — such questions should not be held against them, for that is not what they do.

Okay, I say a lot of the same things. But I also think that the rest of this column reinforces my contention that both the critics of the new atheism and the new atheists themselves are still talking about religion in essentially Protestant terms. (Or, as I would say, the idea of religion itself is a Protestant notion.) Jewish life can’t be broken out this way, and while Jewish thought and ritual are certainly animated by some of the same questions of other traditions, I think it’s really important to avoid the “all religions are essentially the same” trap. They’re not. Each tradition is its own language, with its own ways of understanding the world that are difficult, if not impossible, to translate.

Still, I’m always happy to see thoughtful intellectuals taking on Ditchens.

Advertisements