Wednesday, October 25

Terry Eagleton on Dawkinsian evangelical atheism

Here's the link from the London Review of Books. Terry Eagleton is a literary critic and philosopher who holds ever-so-slightly more nuanced views on the topic of religion and faith than either Pat Robertson or Richard Dawkins.

I've pontificated before about evangelical atheism; I lean mostly to a Null Interpretation myself (title borrowed from Dirac's commentary on quantum physics). Subtlety and moderation in all things.

[Editor's note: the word "evangelical" in the title and the body of this work has replaced the previous choice, "militant", for reasons put forth extremely clearly by Oz in the comments.]


oz said...

dawkinsian atheism.

very early in his book, dawkins presents a spectrum of probabilities between two poles of certainty, from strong theist to strong atheist. he places himself near strong atheist, in the de facto atheist "very low probability, but short of zero" camp: "i cannot know for certain but i think god is very improbable and i live my life on the assumption that he is not there."


since english is not my native tongue, i take great pains to understand the subtle nuances in phrasing, and to this day, your repeated reference to "militant" atheism puzzles me. atheists do not, so far as i know, operate in a way major religions have operated in their "militant" mode, as the word is largely understood. [i actually have seen both militant christians and muslims close up, so i have good reason for my puzzlement] perhaps some intellectual activity that leads to strong disbelief in god or gods is "militant" in your parlance, but what is your unit of measure? in other words, if you are making a subtle point about the strength, and appropriateness of some line of inquiry, i have to ask you to place that inquiry within a framework of thought so it can be properly compared and understood, and not just leave it as a deliberately misleading and insulting tagword.

Fraxas said...

Point well taken. I admit it was the first adjective that popped into my head to describe a brand of atheism particularly willing to export its beliefs and/or preach loudly to its choir -- a better term would be "evangelical". "Hardcore" would work too (thanks to Pharaoh in out-of-band communication for that one). Militancy is, as you are very right to point out, a word that should not be diluted by metaphoric use lest we lose the potency of the word when dealing with true willingness to use military might to enforce ideology.

I'll edit the article and put in an editor's note.