see no evil


Terry Eagleton has written a book about evil in order to demonstrate that there is no such thing. Evil, he writes, is boring, supremely pointless, lifeless, philistine, kitsch-ridden, and superficial. Lacking any substance, it “is not something we should lose too much sleep over.” People can be wicked, cruel, and indifferent. But the concept of evil, with which theologians and philosophers have wrestled for centuries, can be safely tucked away. When it comes to evil, we must be social and economic realists. “Most violence and injustice are the result of material forces, not of the vicious dispositions of individuals.” On a subject that does not exist, Eagleton nonetheless has found a great deal to say. This should come as no surprise. Widely known for books refuting what he confidently proclaimed in his earlier ones, Eagleton is not one to let a seeming contradiction stand in the way of strongly declared convictions. Perhaps this explains why his Marxist musings seem so obligatory, tacked on to the end of a book that primarily deals with writers pondering the many ways we are disobedient to God and his commands. Eagleton believes as fervently in everything as he does in nothing. On Evil is theology without a supreme being. As much as he wants to hold onto class struggle, Eagleton cannot let go of the catechism.

more from Alan Wolfe at TNR here.