Of Evil & God

Eagleton has spent his life inside two mental boxes, Catholicism and Marxism, of both of which he is a severe internal critic—that is, he frequently kicks and scratches at the inside of the boxes, but does not leave them. Neither are ideologies that loosen their grip easily, and people who need the security of adherence to a big dominating ideology, however much they kick and scratch but without daring to leave go, hold on to it every bit as tightly as it holds onto them. The result is of course strangulation, but alas not mutual strangulation: the ideology always wins.

The notion that evil is non-rational is a more significant claim for Eagleton than at first appears, because he is (in this book [On Evil] as in others of his recent 'late period' prolific burst) anxious to rewrite theology: God (whom he elsewhere tells us is nonexistent, but this is no barrier to his being lots of other things for Eagleton too, among them Important) is not to be regarded as rational: with reference to the Book of Job Eagleton says, 'To ask after God's reasons for allowing evil, so [some theologians] claim, is to imagine him as some kind of rational or moral being, which is the last thing he is.' This is priceless: with one bound God is free of responsibility for 'natural evil'—childhood cancers, tsunamis that kill tens of thousands—and for moral evil also even though 'he' is CEO of the company that purposely manufactured its perpetrators; and 'he' is incidentally exculpated from blame for the hideous treatment meted out to Job.