“As far as theology goes, Ditchkens [Eagleton's hilariously sardonic name for Dawkins-and-Hitchens] has an enormous amount in common with Ian Paisley and American TV evangelists. Both parties agree pretty much on what religion consists in; it is just that Ditchkens rejects it while Pat Robertson and his unctuous crew grow fat on it. There are always topics on which otherwise scrupulous minds will cave in to the grossest prejudice with hardly a struggle…
“It is, in fact, entirely logical that those who see religion as nothing but false consciousness should so often get it wrong, since what profit is to be reaped from the meticulous study of a belief system you hold to be as pernicious as it is foolish? … So it is that those who polemicize most ferociously against religion regularly turn out to be the least qualified to do so, rather as many of those who polemicize against literary theory do not hate it because they have read it, but rather do not read it because they hate it. It is as though when it comes to religion … any old travesty will do….
“God Is Not Great is also a fine illustration of how atheistic fundamentalists are in some ways the inverted mirror image of Christian ones. And not just in their intemperate zeal and tedious obsessiveness. Hitchens argues earnestly that the Book of Genesis doesn’t mention marsupials; that the Old Testament Jews couldn’t have wandered for forty years in the desert; that the capture of the huge bedstead of the giant Og, king of Bashan, might never have occurred at all, and so on. This is rather like someone vehemently trying to convince you, with fastidious attention to architectural and zoological detail, that King Kong could not possibly have scaled the Empire State Building because it would have collapsed under his weight. This is not to relegate the Bible as a whole to the realm of myth, poetry, and fiction, thus shielding it conveniently from rational and historical investigation. It is simply to indicate that the relations between these domains and historical fact in Scripture are exceedingly complex, and that on this score as on many another, Hitchens is hair-raisingly ignorant of generations of modern biblical scholarship….
“Yet it is most certainly Christianity itself which is primarily responsible for the intellectual sloppiness of its critics. Apart from the signal instance of Stalinism, it is hard to think of a historical movement that has more squalidly betrayed its own intellectual origins. Christianity long ago shifted from the side of the poor and dispossessed to that of the rich and aggressive. The liberal establishment has little to fear from it and everything to gain. For the most part, it has become the creed of the suburban well-to-do, not the astonishing promise offered to the riffraff and undercover anti-colonial militants with whom Jesus himself hung out. The suburbanite response to the anawim, a term which can be roughtly translated into American English as ‘loser,’ is for the most part to flush them off the streets.
“This brand of piety is horrified by the sight of a female breast, but considerably less appalled by the obscene inequalities between rich and poor. It laments the death of a fetus, but is apparently undisturbed by the burning to death of children in Iraq or Afghanistan in the name of U.S. global dominion. By and large, it worships a God fashioned blasphemously in its own image - a clean-shaven, short-haired, gun-toting, sexually obsessive God with a special regard for that ontologically privileged piece of the globe just south of Canada and north of Mexico, rather than the Yahweh who is homeless, faceless, stateless, and imageless, who prods his people out of their comfortable settlement into the trackless terrors of the desert, and who brusquely informs them that their burnt offerings stink in his nostrils….
“Far from refusing to conform to the powers of this world, Christianity has become the nauseating cant of lying politicians, corrupt bankers, and fanatical neocons, as well as an immensely profitable industry in its own right… Probably no nation on earth has plucked such a farrago of superstitious nonsense from the New Testament as the United States, with its incurable talent for going over the top.”
Terry Eagleton, Reason, Faith, and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate (New Haven and London: Yale Unioversity Press, 2009), pp. 51-57.