Saturday, February 5, 2011

Taylor's Question

One of the biggest challenges in reading a big book like A Secular Age is keeping track of the argument through the thickets and rabbit trails of such a sprawling account. One way to keep in task, then, is to keep in mind Taylor's quarry--his concern and project. The project is to answer a question that is formulated in a couple of different ways early in the book:

How did we move from a condition where, in Christendom, people lived naively within a theistic construal, to one in which we all shunt between two stances, in which everyone’s construal shows up as such; and in which moreover, unbelief has become for many the major default option?” (p. 14)

Why was it virtually impossible not to believe in God in, say, 1500 in our Western society, while in 2000 many of us find this not only easy, but even inescapable?” (p. 25)

1 comment:

  1. Regarding Taylor's "third sense" of secularity, conditions of belief no longer go staunchly unchallenged, but are rather one expression of belief among many other lifestyles; lifestyles which do not necessarily ascribe to faith or belief (3). This re-mapping of the old theistic world creates a new difficulty because nowadays one must begin to understand the larger context of things, or what Taylor calls a "context of understanding," an this is a place which is not able to delineate everything and anything in explicit terms (3).

    It seems Taylor is underscoring this "third sense" of secularity in order to get at the question regarding the impetus behind the current default option into secular unbelief. In other words, perhaps our expressions of belief have been challenged and overtaken by a secular world because they have failed to articulate themselves in cogent ways -- they have failed to understand the complexity of things (donning a hegemonic badge of totality instead, quite unimaginatively so). Indeed, we hail from a time not too long ago when a Christian king by the name of Charles II actually attempted to ban coffee houses because they were thought to be staging grounds for conspiracy against the crown and God (the ban only lasted 11 days of course, as the people, naturally, were in an uproar). This expression of sensibility by Charles is somewhat over-the-top, but I think it makes the point.