From Eagleton’s recent review of Dostoevsky’s The Grand Inquisitor:

“The Grand Inquisitor ranks among those who regard God as their adversary. He believes that like a brutal despot, God loads on men and women more than they can bear; the burden he loads on them is known not as tithe or tax but freedom. However, this overlooks God’s own solidarity with human weakness, which is known as Jesus. On Calvary, God proves feeble and fleshly even unto death. His only signifier is the tortured body of one who spoke out for love and justice and was done to death by the state. Only if one can look on this terrible failure and still live can one lay a foundation for anything more edifying. Only by being entombed in the earth can one reach for the sky. It is in the place of excrement, as Yeats reminds us, that love has pitched his mansion. Any moral idealism that refuses this truth is just so much ideology.

…It is the materialistically minded who like their religion to be otherworldly, in compensation for their own this-worldly crassness. It is not surprising that a material girl like Madonna should be attending classes on mysticism at the Kabbalah Center in Los Angeles. How else can she escape for a moment from her agents, minders, managers, hair stylists, and the rest? Surely salvation cannot lie in anything as prosaic as a cup of water and a crust of bread.”

Eagleton also takes the time to note America’s obsession for the positive thinking industry, which seems completely apropos :

“This blasphemous ideology, summarized in the common American lie that you can do anything you set your mind to, fails to acknowledge the frailty and finitude of the human, which is where the Inquisitor knows better. Also unlike the Inquisitor, this boundless optimism fails to acknowledge what one might call the terrorism of the ideal. Ideals are essential, but like the “law” for St. Paul, they can do no more than show you where you went wrong, but they cannot reveal to you how to go right. This is why Paul calls the law cursed. Ideals have the stiff-necked implacability of the Freudian superego, a faculty which encourages us to aspire beyond our powers, fail miserably, and then lapse into self-loathing. Idealism is the accomplice of violence and despair, not an antidote to them. The neoconservative desire to drag a barbaric world into the light of civilization is on display at Guantanamo Bay.”

Advertisements