Stanley Fish has a new post up extolling the virtues of Terry Eagleton’s new book Reason, Faith, and Revolution. He writes:

In the opening sentence of the last chapter of his new book, “Reason, Faith and Revolution,” the British critic Terry Eagleton asks, “Why are the most unlikely people, including myself, suddenly talking about God?” His answer, elaborated in prose that is alternately witty, scabrous and angry, is that the other candidates for guidance — science, reason, liberalism, capitalism — just don’t deliver what is ultimately needed. “What other symbolic form,” he queries, “has managed to forge such direct links between the most universal and absolute of truths and the everyday practices of countless millions of men and women?”

Eagleton acknowledges that the links forged are not always benign — many terrible things have been done in religion’s name — but at least religion is trying for something more than local satisfactions, for its “subject is nothing less than the nature and destiny of humanity itself, in relation to what it takes to be its transcendent source of life.” And it is only that great subject, and the aspirations it generates, that can lead, Eagleton insists, to “a radical transformation of what we say and do.”

The other projects, he concedes, provide various comforts and pleasures, but they are finally superficial and tend to the perpetuation of the status quo rather than to meaningful change: “A society of packaged fulfillment, administered desire, managerialized politics and consumerist economics is unlikely to cut to the depth where theological questions can ever be properly raised.”

I find this line of argument deeply perplexing. On the one hand, it seems to me that there is something deeply cynical in this approach to religion. It seems to run something like “I don’t really believe these things but my other approach to revolutionary transformation doesn’t work, this seems capable of motivating people, therefore I’ll try this.” On the other hand, and more significantly, I think, this line of argument seems to ignore the fact that the dominant forms of Christianity in the United States have been extremely comfortable bedfellows with neo-liberal capitalism and consummerist forms of life. I am not suggesting that there aren’t, occasionally, revolutionary forms of Christianity. For example, this would be the case with MLK and the way in which Ghandi drew on the teachings of Jesus. But I think these are the exception rather than the rule. All too often Christianity seems to function as a support for reigning ideology rather than something that functions to undermine this ideology. Especially objectionable is the thesis that somehow science and reason are intrinsically linked and equivalent to liberalism and capitalism.