As the place of religion in society once again hits the headlines in the UK, literary critic Professor Terry Eagleton, Distinguished Professor of English Literature at Lancaster University, is giving the 2012 Firth Lectures on the theme ‘Culture and the Death of God’.
The lectures promoted by the Centre of Theology and Philosophy at the University of Nottingham will be streamed on the internet from 5.30pm on 14 and 15 February 2012. An edited version of the live stream will be available later on the Centre's website.
Professor Eagleton has a longstanding interest in theology and religion, especially Christianity. He was involved in the radical Catholic 'Slant manifesto' and one of his earlier writings was on The New Left Church.
He is a world-renowned critical scholar in the humanist Marxian tradition. His more than forty books include Literary Theory: An Introduction (1983), The Ideology of the Aesthetic (1990), and The Illusions of Postmodernism (1996).
Professor Eagleton gave a Gifford Lecture in March 2010 entitled 'The God Debate'. He also delivered the 2010 Richard Price Memorial Lecture at the radical Newington Green Unitarian Church, speaking on 'The New Atheism and the War on Terror'.
Eagleton has been a trenchant critic of what he sees as the often simplistic and jaundiced views on religion espoused by scientific educator turned atheist campaigner Dr Richard Dawkins. he delivered Yale University's Terry Lectures on 'Faith and Fundamentalism: Is belief in Richard Dawkins necessary for salvation?' These were later published as Reason, Faith, and Revolution (2009). The book was reviewed by my colleague Jonathan Bartley in The Guardian (http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/jul/04/john-micklethwait-adrian-woo... ).
"Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds, and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology," Professor Eagleton wrote in a famous essay for the London Review of Books.
These latest lectures are being promoted by the Centre headed up by John Milbank, whose 'Radical Orthodoxy' school of thought has become increasingly conservative in recent years, turning on Christian theological opponents of the coalition government in Britain and sanctioning the Red Tory and Blue Labour political projects. Professor Eagleton is likely to take a more radical approach to his subject.
Professor Tom O’Loughlin, of the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Nottingham, commented: “For several decades Terry Eagleton has been at the forefront of critical theory in literature and culture, and has also address the intersection of culture and religion in our society. These lifelong interests are reflected in the title Prof. Eagleton has given to his Firth Lectures: culture and the death of God. At a time when the government is calling for a greater involvement of faith groups in the Big Society, these lectures are both timely and significant.”
The Firth Memorial Lectureship was founded by the Rev John d’ewe Evelyn Firth in memory of his father, John Benjamin Firth, Historian of Nottingham, and his mother Helena Gertrude Firth. The lecturer is appointed biennially by the Council of the University on the recommendation of the Senate of the University, and under the terms of the Trust he delivers a public lecture or lectures on some aspect of the Christian Faith in relation to contemporary problems.
The first person to hold the Lectureship was the renowned theologian Paul Tillich and there has been a series of eminent theologians and philosophers who have included, among others, secular ethicist Baroness Warnock and political German theologian Professor Jurgen Moltmann.
the second Eagleton lecture Wednesday 15 February takes place at 5.30pm in Studio 7, Kings Meadow Campus, University of Nottingham.
* Centre of Philosophy and Theology: http://theologyphilosophycentre.co.uk/ 
Simon Barrow is co-director of Ekklesia. He is author of 'What difference does God make today?' (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/4921 ) and 'The God elusion' (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/6962 ).