There has been loads of intelligent comment on Terry Eagleton’s piece in the Guardian, in which he tries to portray atheism as an extension of empire. I admit that my first reaction was one of weary disgust. I find that the contributions made by the pro-faith left to contemporary debate have become so poor, repetitive and badly argued that there’s just no point engaging. I did address Eagleton’s basic argument in this post. If he, Bunting, Milne etc ever change the record I will come back into the fray.
Two points in the article stood out for me: that we apparently have to choose between freedom of expression and anti-imperialism, and that the fact that some Islamists are terrorists is the only criticism of Islamism that can be made.
On this last point, Ophelia has the best response.
That’s it – that’s all he admits – ‘terrorism’ – by which he makes sure to let us know at the beginning he means only blowing legs off, he does not mean the terrorism of threatening girls with death if they keep going to school, of butchering girls who refuse a marriage or want to marry someone of their own choosing or get a job or wear jeans or refuse to wear a hijab, of yanking girls out of school and out of the country and marrying them off to a stranger. How dare he keep silent about all that? How dare he rant and rave at Hitchens and Grayling for not keeping silent about that?
Update: And Eve Garrard makes an excellent point in Martin’s comments.
I haven’t read the LRB piece, but critics of Enlightenment values who claim that they’re responsible for racism and imperialism might like to note that racism and imperialism are doing very nicely in parts of the world relatively unaffected by those values; and furthermore those countries which have done most to overcome gender and race discrimination, including the slavery which has been and in some places remains one of its most terrible manifestations, have been those which are most influenced by the values of the Enlightenment.