Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Terry Eagleton on Dogmatism

I'm reading After Theory by Terry Eagleton for my Senior Seminar. It's a difficult but often amusing book about contemperary cultural and philosophical theory. At least I think that's what he's after. Anyway, I accidentally read chapter two which is never assigned instead of reading the things that actually were assigned for today, but it was a really interesting chapter, so at least there's that. Here's one thing he says, in a paragraph about how there must be some specific belief in any system:

It is true that there are some anglican clerics who seem to reject God, Jesus, the virgin birth, miracles, the ressurection, hell, heaven, the real presence and original sin, but this is because, being gentle, infinitely accepting souls, they do not like to offened anybody by believing anything too uncomfortably specific. They just believe that everybody should be nice to each other. But the alternative to dogmatism is not the assumption that anything goes. (37)

Obviously, this is a pretty serious accusation of the Anglican church, but I think it's an interesting truth he's getting at about belief. As soon as you really stand for something, there's going to be somebody who disagrees with you. By believing anything you are going to make for yourself enemies, or at least opponents. How, then, do we try and acheive peace in a world where the very act of belief breeds dissention? Perhaps modern and postmodern relativism is an attempt to remedy the fact that people think different things and it only creates fighting. As Eagleton cleverly points out, though, relativism can quickly lead to the belief in nothing in particular, which leads to apathy. And that's almost as unhelpful as violent disagreement. In some cases, perhaps worse. The ideal, then, is somewhere in between. I'm unsure where exactly to find it though.


Bob K said...

At the risk of sounding preachy - peace doesn't come from getting along with people or from not having disagreements. Peace comes from a knowledge of Jesus Christ. Hence, being "peaceful"and not standing for anything will actually have the opposite of the intended effect if the person to whom you are being "nice" never meets the LORD.

Or isn't that what you were writing about?

bethany said...

okay Dad, I'll give you the bit about proclaiming the word and leading others to ultimate peace. But that still doesn't do much about the problem that some of the loudest agitators about things that have little to do with leading other people to Christ are christians. And what of all the inter-denominational squabbling? Yelling about infant vs adult baptism and organ vs drums and democrat vs republican... sure, you have to stand for some things, but when are you just being obnoxious?

Jeff said...

Cool--I've just started reading the same book, though not for any class I'm taking. Sounds like it continues to be as interesting as I've found the first chapter! Keep up the good blogging work.

Antoine Thorman said...

I have some great ideas :) Nevermind. Next time.