A Secular Age, Introduction, Section 4

Secular Age

4: A summation of the introduction and a peek ahead at chapter 1

[numbers indicate paras in the section]

  1. Taylor restates that his focus in this book is secularism 3, the change in conditions of belief that made it possible to imagine a world without reference to a transcendent person or power.
  2. This change in the conditions of belief make it so now no on may naively believe in God, it must be in a context of their being alternatives to faith.
  3. This is the context of s society in which there are many options, and the presence of options cannot be dismissed as “exotic error.” Alternatives to faith are part of the landscape in Western society.
  4. Exclusive humanism is what brought into being this kind of society that has alternatives to faith.
  5. Many people say that the cause of exclusive humanism is really simple, and they appeal to ‘secularization theory’ that says as the world becomes more modern it necessarily becomes less religious.
  6. Taylor rejects this theory, and will in Chapter 1 provide his own counter-explanation of how exclusive humanism became a reality.
  7. Taylor prefaces his account of the development of exclusive humanism with two points: First, he is only described the West and not other parts of the world (though modernity has left its mark on Eastern and Southern societies too).
  8. Second, Taylor rejection all “subtraction stories.” Subtraction stories say that modernity was just people sloughing off and shedding religion, and becoming liberated from cumbersome belief systems.

    “Against this kind of [subtraction] story, I will steadily be arguing that Western modernity, including its secularity, is the fruit of new inventions, newly constructed self-understandings and related practices, and can’t be explained in terms of perennial feature of human life.” (pg. 22)

  9. The discussion in chapter 1 aims to unpacks these points.


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