[The religions I know are about nothing but doubt and dissent, and the struggles of faith, the dark night of the soul, feelings of unworthiness, serial backsliding, the abyss of despair. Whether it is the book of Job, the Confessions of St. Augustine, Calvin’s Institutes, Bunyan’s “Grace Abounding to The Chief of Sinners,” Kierkegaard’s “Fear and Trembling” and a thousand other texts, the religious life is depicted as one of aspiration within the conviction of frailty. The heart of that life, as Eagleton reminds us, is not a set of propositions about the world (although there is some of that), but an orientation toward perfection by a being that is radically imperfect.
The key event in that life is not the fashioning of some proof of God’s existence but a conversion, like St. Paul’s on the road to Damascus, in which the scales fall from one’s eyes, everything visible becomes a sign of God’s love, and a new man (or woman), eager to tell and live out the good news, is born. “To experience personal transformation that in turn can truly move and shake this world, we must believe in something outside of ourselves” (Judith Quinton).” The kind of religion that moves me,” says Shannon . . . is the story of hope and love . . . not the idea that any particular story describes concrete historical ‘truth.’” “It isn’t about moral superiority,” says Richard. “It’s about humbly living an examined life held up to the mirror of a higher truth. It certainly does not seem to be about comfort.”
So to sum up, the epistemological critique of religion — it is an inferior way of knowing — is the flip side of a naïve and untenable positivism. And the critique of religion’s content — it’s cotton-candy fluff — is the product of incredible ignorance.
One more thing. A number of readers chided Eagleton and me for daring to enter the lists against the superior intellects of Hitchens and Richard Dawkins. E.R. Wood predicts that “if Fish debated Dawkins, Fish would lose by KO in every round.”
Opinion Today NYT May 18, 2009 Think Again: Stanley Fish - Stanley Fish is a law professor and author - God Talk, Part 2]
Fish errs in that the "conversion" or the "personal transformation" need not be Christian. An attitudinal overhaul through the study of The Life Divine is a more enduring self-renewal. [TNM]