Monday, December 24, 2007

Quote of the Day: The Rational Credentials of Western Civilization

(((Terry Eagleton's rediscovered Christianity/Catholicism; you can take the communist out of Catholic Ireland, but you can't take the Catholic Ireland out of the commie; the rational credentials of western liberals established in the blood of innocent Iraqis -- talk about someone else dying for your redemption . . .)))

In an interview with the Times about his recent Verso essay on the Gospels, noted Marxist literary-cultural critic Terry Eagleton is kind of forced to say something about his thinking about religion in general, and Jesus in particular. But I'm not going to quote that stuff. I'm more interested in a distinct, albeit closely related, set of comments on Amis and Hitchens, but in a way about Dawkins, as well.

There is an element of panic and even hysteria in the way that people are waving their rational credentials. What Amis is really talking about is a war between barbarism and civilisation. This is an old theme. It takes different forms, and now it's taking this one. If by civilisation you mean a West that's at present killing hundreds and thousands of innocent people in Iraq, then the smugness of that is extraordinary.

I wanted to stop with just that first sentence, in part because it speaks so clearly to the anti-religious attitude of so much secular progressivism, these days, but the importance of it isn't really evident until you get to the rest of the quote. "Smugness" isn't really what he wants, there, I think; maybe, "hypocrisy," or just "inconsistency." Do you have to be barbaric to protect civilization? The same people who I suspect would assent to this would have none of Lenin. Which seems odd to me. Lenin's bad because he was a communist. But, you know, it's ok for us because we're for democracy? Extremism in the defense of liberty is, as they say, no vice.

For myself, if we're going to claim we're civilized, that means being civilized regardless of whom we're dealing with. Otherwise, get off it and admit you're essentially being clannish and xenophobic.

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