1 sept. 2010

"Those who don’t see this dreadful image of a mutilated innocent as the truth of history are likely to be devotees of that bright-eyed superstition known as infinite human progress, for which Dawkins is a full-blooded apologist. Or they might be well-intentioned reformers or social democrats, which from a Christian standpoint simply isn’t radical enough."

--Terry Eagleton

That's a startlingly stupid non-sequitur. It's hard to believe that Eagleton is a respected person in my own discipline. His attempt to demolish Dawkins is full of those false dichotomies, like the inquisition vs. chemical warfare (as though chemical warfare were not a product of the Christian West). If you aren't Christian, you must be some caricature of a 19th century believer in progress. Or you may be a social democrat!

But what interests me here is that Eagleton, like Girard in Violence and the Sacred, sees the way out of violence as receiving violence passively or sublimating it in religious ritual sacrifice. (I remember the Catholic Girard, when I was at Stanford, justifying nuclear war against the communists, by the way, arguing that the Christian West had to be protected.) I'm kind of interested in how Christianity inverts violence, proposing the nobility of receiving it, but then immediately turns around and perpetuates violence once again. So the exaltation of not fighting back, of receiving violence ("turning the other cheek"), and even reveling in martyrdom, doesn't have the practical effect of reducing violence in the real world. In fact, it is just a back-handed way of encouraging violence while seeming to take the high moral ground. By Girard's logic, the sacrificial solution provided by the passion of Christ should have put an end to the scape-goat mechanism, but this didn't actually happen.