It’s a pleasant Friday afternoon, so you’ve got nothing better to do than listen to some tedious apologetic drivel, right? Terry Eagleton is interviewed on Canadian radio, and he repeats the same boring noise he droned out in his book. For all the times the atheists are accused of sneering at the stupidity of their opponents, it’s galling that pretentious defenders of the faith like Eagleton get a free pass: his entire interview consists of smug gibes at the smugness of Dawkins and Hitchens, dismissals of their ideas as ignorant and dishonest.
And of course he doesn’t say one clear thing about religion. Well, he does claim that the idea of god as an entity is something that no theologian believes in — that there has been a long and sophisticated debate about something or other, which he can’t define clearly, but that it sure hasn’t been about whether god exists, and he acts as if the question doesn’t even make sense. Probably because he can’t even begin to answer it. When he’s confronted with a question about whether believing in god is like believing in fairies, he simply insists that those are two very different questions, without explaining how. They just are. Therefore, anyone who asks for some reason to believe is simply stupid, afflicted with crude old Enlightenment values (which he uses as a kind of insult).
The telling point, though, comes at the end. The interviewer asks whether Eagleton prays. It’s a simple question; you can answer yes, or no. If I were asked that, I’d be able to say no without a moment’s hesitation, since it’s a simple question about what a person does, requiring no philosophical maundering. Can you guess what Eagleton’s reply might have been?
No answer at all. He laughs, and claims it’s too long and hard to answer. And mumbles on and on, and the interviewer is clearly getting exasperated at his evasiveness. It’s an astonishing performance, the Courtier’s Reply brought to life in a half-hour teleplay in which the courtier is even more vapid and even more serious than I could have imagined.
(via The Accidental Weblog)