Of all the critics out there of religion in general, Terry Eagleton is one of the few who is very perceptive, honest, and smart. I don’t agree with everything he says, but in general Christians should listen to him. He gives a very interesting interview here. Here are some interesting quotes:
In reference to some forms of American Christianity:
TE: I think partly that’s because a lot the authentic meanings of the New Testament have become ideologized or mythologized away. Religion has become a very comfortable ideology for a dollar-worshipping culture. The scandal of the New Testament—the fact that it backs what America calls the losers, that it thinks the dispossessed will inherit the kingdom of God before the respectable bourgeois—all of that has been replaced, particularly in the States, by an idolatrous version. I’m presently at a university campus where we proudly proclaim the slogan “God, Country, and Notre Dame.” I think they have to be told, and indeed I have told them, that God actually takes little interest in countries. Yahweh is presented in the Jewish Bible as stateless and nationless. He can’t be used as a totem or fetish in that way. He slips out of your grasp if you try to do so. His concern is with universal humanity, not with one particular section of it. Such ideologies make it very hard to get a traditional version of Christianity across.
In reference to Dawkin’s understanding of Christianity and his reference to himself as a “post-Christian atheist”:
TE: I think, actually, he’s a pre-Christian atheist, because he never understood what Christianity is about in the first place! That would be rather like Madonna calling herself post-Marxist. You’d have to read him first to be post-him. As I’ve said before, I think that Dawkins in particular makes such crass mistakes about the kind of claims that Christianity is making. A lot of the time, he’s either banging at an open door or he’s shooting at a straw target.
In reference to Gould’s understanding of religion and science:
TE: I think that Gould was right in that particular position. What is interesting is why it makes people like Dawkins so nervous. They misinterpret that position to mean that theology doesn’t have to conform to the rules and demands of reason. Then theologians can say anything they like. They don’t have to produce evidence, and they don’t have to engage in reasonable argument. They’re now released from the tenets of science. Traditionally, this is the Christian heresy known as fideism. But all kinds of rationalities, theology included, have been non-scientific for a very long time and yet still have to conform to the procedures of reason. The new atheists think this because they falsely identify the rules of reason with the rules of scientific reason. Therefore if something is outside the purview of science, it follows for them that it is outside the purview of reason itself. But that’s a false way of arguing. Dawkins won’t entertain either the idea that faith must engage reason or that the very idea of what rationality is is to be debated.