Oh, I suppose Stanley Fish’s latest, “God Talk”, can do with its own CT comment thread.
There’s this bit, for example:
You won’t be interested in any such promise [of faith], you won’t see the point of clinging to it, if you think that “apart from the odd, stubbornly lingering spot of barbarism here and there, history on the whole is still steadily on the up,” if you think that “not only is the salvation of the human species possible but that contrary to all we read in the newspapers, it has in principle already taken place.” How, Eagleton asks, can a civilization “which regards itself as pretty well self-sufficient” see any point in or need of “faith or hope”?
So basically Eagleton (and Fish) are arguing against a hyper-panglossian rationalist-atheist liberalism that is, by hypothesis, decisively refuted by ‘all we read in the newspaper’. And from this Eagleton and Fish conclude that the only way to puncture this hubristic bubble of supreme self-sufficiency is with … religion? It doesn’t even occur to them, apparently, to try to get these panglossians to read the newspaper? Which. would. refute. them?
Of course, devastating that lot would still leave all the actual liberal-rationalist-humanist-atheists unaddressed. But I take it Eagleton and Fish have absolutely no idea what to say against any of them except (stamps foot, for extra truthiness) ‘do these liberals not understand the importance of Important Things! Hubris! Harrumphsnort!’
If there is any more cogent anti-liberal-ratonalist-atheist argument in that whole Fish piece, I am very sorry to say that I must have missed it.
I thought the ending was a nice ‘more in sorrow than anger’ touch. Eagleton, writes Fish, “is angry, I think, at having to expend so much mental and emotional energy refuting the shallow arguments of school-yard atheists like Hitchens and Dawkins. I know just how he feels.” Oh, and the bit in the middle where Fish spends a whole paragraph crowing about Eagleton’s cleverness in referring to them both as ‘Ditchkins’.
Don’t they teach irony in the English department any more? I think they should.