Thursday, January 3, 2008

Charles Taylor: A Secular Age

1/3/2008--Will anyone actually read these 776 pages? Unfortunately, Professor Taylor’s book demonstrates that you can get to be too important for an editor to have any effect. One reviewer called the book repetitive, which it is. (Taylor even uses phrases such as “As I said before… .”)

Nevertheless, the book is monumental and students of religion and secularism really will have to plow through it. This will be the first posting of several to come as I finally finish the book. I did not have it during the period I wrote the manuscript for Hallowed Secularism: A Guide for the Non-Believer. I began to read it in November and posted twice then about the book.

Chapter 14 of the book—Religion Today—is perhaps the most important part of the book for Hallowed Secularism. In this chapter, Taylor tries to describe where we are today. He sees a lot of searching for religious authenticity and he is sympathetic to it. A lot of people, especially young people, are looking for something—something quite religious in many cases. Some of these people are close to Christianity and some are looking elsewhere. Some are looking only within themselves, but many are open to transcendent reality. Taylor writes that we need a new concept to describe all this. (Page 521). Naturally, I think of that concept as “Hallowed Secularism”.

Where Taylor and I differ, I think, is that he does not see the advances in science as actually causing a falling away from biblical religion, specifically Christianity. I agree that there are many factors to these trends. But, science promises that two identical experiments will yield identical results. There is no room for a God who could alter such results. Such a God is ruled out in principle.

This is different from deism, in which God created the universe and then chose to step back. This is a universe without such a God at all. I still think there is room here for “religion” as Taylor defines it—a transcendent reality connected to a transformation that goes beyond ordinary human flourishing—but we have a lot of work to do to understand such a reality without God.

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