Rumours of His Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

The following morsel was gleaned from Jonathan Ree’s review of Terry Eagleton’s forthcoming book Culture and the Death of God a couple weeks ago (ht Mockingbird):

The book takes us on a rapid tour of the intellectual battlefields of Europe over the past 300 years, sites where, according to the received version of history, the brave soldiers of progress and rationality have triumphed time and again over a rabble of reactionary God-botherers. But these victories, according to Eagleton, were at best equivocal, and in due course they would be reversed by the cunning of history. First there were the fabled philosophers of the Enlightenment, leading the charge against priestly infamy and angels-on-a-pin theology; but none of them could envisage a world without God, even if they preferred to worship him in the guise of reason or science. Any damage they may have done to religion was repaired by the German idealists with their woolly notion of spirit, and by their followers the romantics, who reinvented God as either nature or culture. You might think that Marx made a better job of deicide, but on close examination the communist hypothesis turns out to have been a surrogate for the heavenly city. And poor old Nietzsche, for all his bluster and derring-do, ended up resurrecting Christ in the form of the Übermensch. The 20th-century modernists fell into the same trap, vainly appealing to art to plug “the gap where God has once been”, and if a few freaky postmodernists have managed to break away from religion in recent years, it was at the price of a complete denial of hope and meaning, which no one else is willing to pay. “The Almighty,” Eagleton concludes, “has proved remarkably difficult to dispose of.” Rumours of his death have been greatly exaggerated: he has now put himself “back on the agenda”, and “the irony is hard to overrate”.

“Later,” the joke goes, “God said Nietzsche was dead.” The irony that is hard to overrate includes Nietzsche’s white hot hatred of liberal humanism, that tired old hag which most of religion’s modern day “cultured” despisers swoon over. Oh well- Britain’s finest Marxist mind can read the signs: God’s back on the map. And in true LL Cool J style, don’t call it a comeback!


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