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Culture and the Death of God

Culture and the Death of God

Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    Culture and the Death of God
    Book Description:

    How to live in a supposedly faithless world threatened by religious fundamentalism? Terry Eagleton, formidable thinker and renowned cultural critic, investigates in this thought-provoking book the contradictions, difficulties, and significance of the modern search for a replacement for God. Engaging with a phenomenally wide range of ideas, issues, and thinkers from the Enlightenment to today, Eagleton discusses the state of religion before and after 9/11, the ironies surrounding Western capitalism's part in spawning not only secularism but also fundamentalism, and the unsatisfactory surrogates for the Almighty invented in the post-Enlightenment era.The author reflects on the unique capacities of religion, the possibilities of culture and art as modern paths to salvation, the so-called war on terror's impact on atheism, and a host of other topics of concern to those who envision a future in which just and compassionate communities thrive. Lucid, stylish, and entertaining in his usual manner, Eagleton presents a brilliant survey of modern thought that also serves as a timely, urgently needed intervention into our perilous political present.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-20654-8
    Subjects: Philosophy, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. viii-x)
  4. CHAPTER 1 The Limits of Enlightenment
    (pp. 1-43)

    Societies become secular not when they dispense with religion altogether, but when they are no longer especially agitated by it.¹ In a British survey of 2011, 61 per cent of the respondents claimed to have a religion, but only 29 per cent of them claimed to be religious. Presumably they meant that they belonged to a religious group but were not especially zealous about the fact. As the wit remarked, it is when religion starts to interfere with your everyday life that it is time to give it up. In this, it has a certain affinity with alcohol. Another index...

  5. CHAPTER 2 Idealists
    (pp. 44-94)

    The history of the modern age is among other things the search for a viceroy for God. Reason, Nature,Geist, culture, art, the sublime, the nation, the state, science, humanity, Being, Society, the Other, desire, the life force and personal relations: all of these have acted from time to time as forms of displaced divinity.¹ ‘It is certain that in our time,’ writes Fredric Jameson, ‘religion is so vague and tenuous a discursive field that its vocabulary can itself be appropriated by other causes.’² If the religious spirit of modernity can indeed be vague, it is among other things because...

  6. CHAPTER 3 Romantics
    (pp. 95-118)

    If Romanticism turns for the most part from system to Spirit, it would seem more a question of religion than theology, more a matter of faith than knowledge.¹ Concepts can no longer contain the human subject, which is testimony to its energy and exuberance, but which also suggests that it is drifting free of any knowable foundation. In order to be valid, any system of ideas must contain its own antithesis. As Friedrich Schlegel wryly observes, ‘it is equally fatal for the mind to have a system and to have none. It will simply have to decide to combine the...

  7. CHAPTER 4 The Crisis of Culture
    (pp. 119-150)

    It is remarkable how long it took modernity to achieve an authentic atheism. Even when it did so, it was by no means by disproving or dispelling religious faith. Not believing in God is a far more arduous affair than is generally imagined. Whenever the Almighty seems safely despatched, he is always liable to stage a reappearance in one disguise or another. As Bruce Robbins writes, one needs to present the history of secularisation ‘as real and significant, even if God-terms [i.e. God-substitutes] always invite further suspicion and further secularisation’.¹ Secular concepts, Robbins points out, themselves ‘contain so much religious...

  8. CHAPTER 5 The Death of God
    (pp. 151-173)

    For some Enlightenment savants, religion is an error, if an occasionally fruitful one; for Romanticism, there is some profound truth to be extracted from its mystical shell; for Marx, Nietzsche and Freud, it is a syndrome which demands vigilant interpretation. Perhaps it is with Nietzsche that the decisive break comes. He has a strong claim to being the first real atheist. Of course there had been unbelievers in abundance before him, but it is Nietzsche above all who confronts the terrifying, exhilarating consequences of the death of God. As long as God’s shoes have been filled by Reason, art, culture,...

  9. CHAPTER 6 Modernism and After
    (pp. 174-208)

    As the power of religion begins to fail, its various functions are redistributed like a precious legacy to those aspiring to become its heirs. Scientific rationalism takes over its doctrinal certainties, while radical politics inherits its mission to transform the face of the earth. Culture in the aesthetic sense safeguards something of its spiritual depth. Indeed, most aesthetic ideas (creation, inspiration, unity, autonomy, symbol, epiphany and so on) are really displaced fragments of theology. Signs which accomplish what they signify are known as poetry to aesthetics and as sacraments to theology. Meanwhile, culture in the wider sense of the word...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 209-223)
  11. Index
    (pp. 224-234)