Terry Eagleton is an agnostic defender of religion against today's bestselling atheist authors and anyone who would do away with it in the name of what he sees as a too-often ruthless rationalism. His book Reason, Faith and Revolution isn't a whitewash of religion, however. A long chapter explains that Christianity, in particular, has hurt its cause by so often selling out to power and failing at what Eagleton takes to be Jesus's mandate to be compassionate to the poor above all other priorities. He thinks that the monotheist religions, at least, provide a useful critique of an ego-driven individualistic materialism, buying into the canard that people who reject God believe in no restraints on their own power. He never goes so far as to say that there can be no morality (however he might define it) without religion, but he seems to fear that morality might have a much smaller constituency without it.
Of course, Eagleton tries to tell us that his idealized form of religion is the true faith. That would be a humility-inducing, compassion-encouraging sense of our dependence on some higher power, even if that awareness extends only to the knowledge that we didn't exactly make ourselves. That's an important point to our author, since he blames much of American arrogance on our sense that we are "self-made men." He seems to think that if we understood our existence as contingent, we'll be more humble, which means less greedy, less power-hungry, etc. Religion may be fine to him as long as it delivers the goods, but religion has a lot more to offer that Eagleton simply ignores because it doesn't fit his feelgood vision. He dismisses the notion that people embrace religion as an account of creation and doesn't even discuss the concept of religion as a form of bargaining for divine intervention that untold millions believe is genuinely effective.
The notion of Hell has little or no place in the rarefied theology he admires. When he deigns to mention the place, he tries to pass it off as a "living death" suffered by "those who are stuck fast in their masochistic delight in the Law, and spit in the face of those who offer to relieve them of this torture. (21)" In other words, Hell is a state of mind in the here-and-now rather than the destination of sinners after the Last Judgment. This is a fundamental misrepresentation of the common understanding of Hell, and Eagleton has no justification for preferring his notion apart from the alleged fact that a lot of intellectual believers think this way about it. This sort of willful omission forces the question of what, exactly, Eagleton thinks he's defending so chivalrously. He writes as if the mean old atheists are attacking his nice theologian pals (which I admit they are, to the extent that Sam Harris accuses them of enabling the fundamentalists) rather than the superstitious majority, members of which we have all encountered in everyday life. If he wants to refute the atheists, it would become him to defend the people the atheists have actually attacked, to work up a defense of superstition and the belief in divine intervention. Then his book would be relevant to something more than his own preference for certain personality types and his indifference to how they might be brought into being.
In the end, all we learn from Eagleton's book is what he likes and what he dislikes. To the extent that he dislikes capitalism, poverty and war, hooray! But unless he has proven that belief in a higher power than man is essential to social justice, his book is useless unless he also seriously weighs the trade-offs involved in indulging such belief, and this he does not do.