The glorious transfigured future

Let’s see Fish and Eagleton – or should I adopt the latter’s sophisticated witticism and call them Eaglefish? – sneer at progress, liberalism and enlightenment in the context of Delara Derabi’s last minutes, and her parents’ experience of her last minutes. First some Eaglefish sneering –

Progress, liberalism and enlightenment — these are the watchwords of those, like Hitchens, who believe that in a modern world, religion has nothing to offer us…[W]e are where we always were, confronted with a choice between a flawed but aspiring religious faith or a spectacularly hubristic faith in the power of unaided reason and a progress that has no content but, like the capitalism it reflects and extends, just makes its valueless way into every nook and cranny.

And then a few minutes in a world where contempt for progress, liberalism and enlightenment is not just a selfish smug I’m all right Jack trope among male literary critics in Florida and Lancashire but the real thing. Let’s see how funny the joke seems in Tehran.

It was 7am when Delara Darabi phoned home. “Oh mother, I see the hangman’s noose in front of me,” she garbled. “They are going to execute me. Please save me.” Moments later a prison official snatched the handset away. “We will easily execute your daughter and there’s nothing you can do about it,” he barked at the parents. Then, with a chilling click, the line went dead. The desperate couple rushed to the Central Prison in Rasht, Iran, wailing at the guards to let them see their 22-year-old. As they prostrated themselves, an ambulance emerged, most probably with Delara’s corpse inside.

There you are – will that do? Is that sufficiently without progress, liberalism and enlightenment? Is that what Feagleton wants? Is that their idea of an excitingly post-enlightenment world rich with ‘flawed but aspiring religious faith’? Is it part of their bill of indictment against atheism that there’s not enough of that kind of thing?

Yes, pretty much. Eagleton at least is pretty explicit about it.

For Eagleton the choice is obvious, although he does not have complete faith in the faith he prefers. “There are no guarantees,” he concedes that a “transfigured future will ever be born.” But we can be sure that it will never be born, he says in his last sentence, “if liberal dogmatists, doctrinaire flag-wavers for Progress, and Islamophobic intellectuals . . . continue to stand in its way.”

But Tel, your transfigured future has already been born; it’s in Tehran, it’s in Kandahar, it’s in Mingora. All those pesky liberal dogmatists, doctrinaire flag-wavers for Progress, and Islamophobic intellectuals haven’t been able to stop it. What are you complaining about?

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