Stanley Fish gives more attention to Terry Eagleton’s War on Straw. I don’t know who these neo-Victorians are who believe in untrammeled human progress in all departments at the same time; I thought the Second World War, just to name one obvious event, had made it too difficult for most people to subscribe to such a thing. I guess you could find a few somewhere if you care to look hard enough.
But anyway, dig this! The column ends with the predictable attempt to dismiss the intellectual opponents as third-rate, inferior, etc. (in this case, “school-yard” atheism.) Yet Fishleton deploys the age-old schoolyard rebuttal of “I’m rubber, you’re glue, whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you” in trying to pretend that the word “faith” means the same thing whether applied to belief in mythological savior-gods or in shared human values that can be discussed, reasoned about, and altered to suit the circumstances.
Agreement is the key: you can either agree on shared values and agree to participate in a system that promotes those values while discouraging others (and yes, you lazy, whiny bastards, this is an ongoing project that requires constant attention and fine-tuning), or you can agree on what the Voice in the Sky commands you to do and save yourselves all that thinking; assuming, of course, you don’t fight to the death over which Voice you’re talking about to begin with.
Claiming that the latter type is somehow more grounded (in what?) and stable is just as absurd as the more familiar attempts to posit “God” as the author of the Big Bang (which, to the Fishletons of the world, cannot be allowed to stand on its own), while claiming that “God” doesn’t need to be created or explained. Why, I bet even some “school-yard” atheist could explain the concept of an infinite regress to them.
The misology is palpable here. These are the same people who insist that acknowledging the nonexistence of a personal, loving god commands us to live in a perpetual state of war against all, that acknowledging the truth of Darwinian evolution commands us to live for nothing more than the grunting, hedonistic pleasures of fighting, feasting and fucking. Either way, they’re always waiting impatiently to be commanded. A loud noise and a bright flash of light are all it takes to make these twits start genuflecting and groveling in supplication.