Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A Secular People

4/23/2008--Until today, I had not realized how Charles Taylor got it wrong in his authoritative account of secularism: A Secular Age. Until today, I only knew that he had gotten it wrong. The book had the wrong feel. For example, the book ends with a chapter entitled "Conversions", in which people return to Christian life, as if secularity might be combated. That never felt adequate to the epoch-making change Taylor describes.

Today I realized that Taylor treats secularism as a condition that confronts people as a choice that demands a decision. So the story he wants to tell might better have been called, “Remaining Christian in a Secular Age”.

I now see that I disagree with Taylor about what our story is. I see a secular civilization emerging that does not yet know itself. Not A Secular Age, but A Secular People.

This insight means that my book, Hallowed Secularism, is an offering to this emerging Secular People of a way to be secular. Thus, one flaw in my book is that I did not know this when I was writing it. I skipped the prior question of the peoplehood of this Secular People.

How does a people become a people? Martin Heidegger asks a question like this in Section 15 of Contributions to Philosophy: “Philosophy as ‘Philosophy of a People’”. I shall have to return to Heidegger. But I see already that my main criticism of the apostles of the New Atheism is that they are poor shepherds of this new flock. They do not offer a secular way to be human, out of love.

The Passover epic is another source for the saga of a Secular People. From slavery to Sinai, the Hebrews became a people. So, I shall have to look there too.

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