Review of Reason, Faith, and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate by

Book cover for Reason, Faith, and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate

I read the first 78 pages of this book so you don’t have to.

I was trying to make it to at least 100, but I’m sorry. The body is willing but the mind is weak.

I added this book to my to-read list after reading The God Delusion; it somehow coming up as a counterpoint to Dawkins’ atheistic arguments. I just went back and re-read my review of that book, and I’m pleased to discover it’s less glowing than I thought it was. My atheist leanings have not diminished, but my enchantment with rationalism has, and Dawkins looks even more dogmatic to me now than he did to my 2009 self. In this respect, Terry Eagleton ably critiques the vitrolic nature of Dawkins’ writing. I can’t speak towards “Ditchkins” as a whole, because I haven’t read God Is Not Great. I added it to my to-read list along with this book, but it’s not exactly a priority these days. Because I have better things to do.

It’s not really the content of Reason, Faith, and Revolution that’s the problem here. If that were the case, I’d have hacked it out for all 200 small, wide-margined pages and reported back to you with a 1-star review, stuck it on my “read” shelf, and called it a day. I love demolishing arguments! No, most of the content is pretty sensible—at least, what I can decipher.

See, it’s Eagleton’s style that’s the problem. His writing is somewhere between abstruse academic word vomit and conversational diarrhea. Each individual sentence is comprehensible on its own—some of them are even catchy. Most paragraphs are cogent, albeit often requiring a level of erudition that eludes even me. But each paragraph seems to be disconnected from those that came before and after. One moment Eagleton is talking about the Englightenment, and then suddenly he’s discussing Marx, and then Wittgenstein (Wittgenstein always seems to come up as a parenthetical, for some reason).

And I’m just … wut?

There is just no coherent structure to Eagleton’s argument. And not just from chapter to chapter, which might be bad enough, but as I said above, it’s down to the paragraph level. I waded through the first chapter and a half of this book with very little idea of what Eagleton was saying, other than that everyone else has gotten everything about scientistic and theological thinking wrong, and we should all be ashamed of ourselves and each other. And I’m sure that somewhere in here is an argument worthy of analysis. But I was having to work way too hard to decipher it.

Cannot deal.

I know these derive from lectures, but that is no excuse. Douglas Coupland wrote an entire novel as a series of five hour lectures. Lawrence Hill, Neil Turok … every other author of a CBC Massey Lecture series has managed to create a halfway decent book out of their kick at the intellectual can. But no, you, you screwed it up, Eagleton. Well done.

I am all for reading books critiquing secular humanism, religion, scientism, atheism, rationalism, whatever. But they have to organized, well thought-out, and clear.

This is none of those things. So I’m going to go read another Animorphs novel before going to bed.

Engagement

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