Posts Tagged ‘seculars’

March 29th, 2010

The rise of the seculars

posted by

Kosmin and Keysar and others are already analyzing who has given up worship, belief, and other modes of religiosity. I am more interested in what is happening as a result to the societal and social functions of religion. Thus, I would hypothesize that an increasing number of people are finding religion irrelevant in and to their everyday lives, and to the social, cultural, and other roles they play in society. They are not only “religious nones,” but they are no longer thinking about religious matters. Consequently, I think of them as seculars.

March 12th, 2009

The fanatical counterpublic

posted by

<br />How are we to understand Taylor’s own position between disengagement and “fanaticism”? Of course, he doesn’t want to side with those who provide closure to the immanent frame by rejecting religion on account of its fanatical excesses. In fact, his emphasis on the need for transformation—the last chapter of A Secular Age is called “Conversions” for a reason—might suggest a certain proximity to fanaticism. The fanatic, always an iconoclast that scorns the representation and asserts the need for authenticity, appears to play an important implicit role in Taylor’s story.

February 22nd, 2009

Nicholas Wolterstorff’s fear of the secular

posted by

<p></p>The truly dynamic discussion in America today about religion and politics is not between “wall of separation” secularists and Christian political theologians attempting to turn American into a theocracy. Instead, the promising but fledgling discussion is between religious and non-religious democrats who are acutely aware of the two horns of this essential American dilemma. First, one has a right to express one’s convictions in whatever terms one holds them, including religious terms; second, one cannot assume that one’s fellow citizens’ convictions are shaped by the same terms.

February 9th, 2009

Embedded religion in Asia

posted by

<br />The secularity of modern Asian states has by no means led to widespread social secularity, Taylor’s second secularity, a decline of religious belief and practice among ordinary people. The degree of religious practice varies from country to country, but almost everywhere temples, mosques, churches, and shrines are ubiquitous and full of people, especially during festival seasons. Even in China, where the government actively propagates an atheist ideology and has severely restricted open religious activities, it has been estimated that as much as ninety-five percent of the population engages from time to time in some form of religious practice.  Moreover, throughout Asia there have been impressive revivals and reformations of Buddhist, Muslim, and Christian religious beliefs and practices—Asia is religiously dynamic.

February 5th, 2009

Discerning the religious spirit of secular states in Asia

posted by

<br />In his monumental book, A Secular Age, Charles Taylor distinguishes three meanings of secularism, as it refers to the “North Atlantic societies” of Western Europe and North America. Can this analytic framework be applied outside of the North Atlantic world, particularly to Asian societies?  Taylor himself would not claim to have created a framework for a universal theory of comparative religion. But this framework, grounded in a particular cultural and historical experience, may nonetheless be useful for cross cultural comparisons.

December 23rd, 2008

Akbar Ganji in conversation with Charles Taylor

posted by

<br />Charles Taylor: If the human relation to religion and to God is not as shallow as the mainstream theory thinks, then what would happen in many cases is religion would be recomposed in new forms that meet the new situation. And that is in fact what I would argue has happened in the West. So this is a much more adequate theory to understand this historical and sociological reality, but what it required is a deep understanding of the place of religion in human life. So I would claim that there’s a single discourse and it’s made up of elements that look as though they are drawn from three disciplines, but in fact they cohere together as a single discourse. The three discourses would be philosophy, history and sociology. You can’t do sociology without history, history without sociology, and you can’t do either without a proper philosophical understanding of human motivation. So the whole thing hangs together from those three sources. […]

December 20th, 2008

Naive and reflective faiths

posted by

<br />It was difficult all along to conceive of religion (its ritual practices, mystical unions, or attractions and immersions of any other kind) without at the same time postulating or affirming a distancing—reflective or speculative, in case hypothetico-skeptical—stance vis-à-vis the world and life-world in all its worldly aspects. Religion, throughout the text of Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age, meant “engagement” and “disengagement” in theoretical, practical, and, more broadly, existential matters at once. To the very heart of religious belief there belongs not only an affirmation, but also a suspension of belief in the cosmic, social, or subjective matrices and fabrics of which we are made up. Our being-in-the world, qua believers, is, after all, if not exactly other-worldly, not-quite-of-or-out-of-this-world. […]

September 11th, 2008

The politics of secularism in international relations

posted by

From an interview with Elizabeth Shakman Hurd on her book, The Politics of Secularism in International Relations.

September 11th, 2008

Among the unbelievers

posted by

Gregor McLennan reviews Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age, in the New Left Review (subscription required).

June 22nd, 2008

Secular brooding, literary brooding

posted by

What’s so bad about heteronomous thinking, anyway? Stathis Gourgouris has used the term in several posts here on The Immanent Frame. He says that Charles Taylor’s book A Secular Age is an example of heteronomous thinking, and he also thinks that Saba Mahmood’s post on secularism and critique exemplifies it. Though Gourgouris doesn’t define “heteronomous thinking,” he seems to mean something like “thinking that depends at some crucial point on something outside itself.” He thinks this kind of thinking is pretty bad—though it’s less clear exactly why he thinks so. […]

May 7th, 2008

Secular imperatives?

posted by

Calls for the embrace (or for that matter rejection) of secularism are premised on a putative opposition between secular and religious worldviews wherein each is defined as a necessary and stable essence that is superior to the other. It is argued that there is an essential kernel to secularism that must be preserved and defended from religious extremism and backwardness. For some this is secularism’s scientific rationality, for others it is secularism’s incipient objectivity, and for yet others it is secularism’s strict separation between state and religion. The idea that the “good” elements in secularism can be distinguished from its “bad” sides, the latter discarded and the former refined, only serves to further reinforce the blackmail that one is either for or against secularism.

April 30th, 2008

Varieties of anti-religious imagination

posted by

The publication of Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age has fostered an exceptionally vibrant intellectual debate on secularism and on the conditions of belief under modernity, as the readers of this blog very well know. For the social sciences at least, this fundamental rethinking on secularism inspired by Taylor’s work could not be any timelier: the stand-off between classical secularization theorists and the proponents of the religious economies model, which has continued for about two decades is only recently giving way to new paths of investigation. Precisely because this debate offers such a crucial opportunity, I want to point out what I see as two important points of neglect in this burgeoning discussion.

March 10th, 2008

The politics of secularism in international relations

posted by

A survey of leading contemporary international relations (IR) journals published between 1980 and 1996 revealed that 6 out of 1,600 articles featured religion as an important influence. But things have changed this past decade. It is now impossible to maintain the notion that religion is irrelevant to international politics, for at least three reasons. […]

March 8th, 2008

Varieties of secularism in a secular age

posted by

On April 4-5, the SSRC will co-sponsor a conference at Yale University on Varieties of Secularism in a Secular Age. The conference aims to enrich the debate fostered by the publication of Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age, and will bring together prominent philosophers, political theorists, historians, social scientists, theologians and literary scholars who will from a variety of perspectives reflect on the question: what does it mean to live in a secular age? […]

January 30th, 2008

The burden of the great divide

posted by

secular_age.jpgWith the prevalence of voices casting doubts and aspersions on the so-called secularization thesis, we might imagine that the familiar story of the progress of Western modernity qua secularity is on its last legs, and that the notion of secularity itself is near bankruptcy. Upon closer inspection, however—and Charles Taylor’s latest tome provides an excellent occasion for such inspection—it appears that what is in jeopardy is the valence of “the secular,” and not the story of the long march of Western modernity itself. […]

January 19th, 2008

A case of heteronomous thinking

posted by

As a story, A Secular Age rivals Hans Blumenberg’s The Legitimacy of the Modern Age (which curiously it ignores) and does indeed belong to the largely neglected genre of speculative history. No doubt, it is a work of a lifetime’s worth of erudition – about this there can be no argument – but the easiest thing one can do is to praise it. The best and most profound of what it has to offer is precisely that the domains of thought and history it privileges be interrogated in order to stand as departure points for further thinking. This interrogation and evaluation cannot stay simply at the level of the story, but must extend to what authorizes the story, Charles Taylor’s (conscious or unconscious, explicit or implicit) politics. […]

December 12th, 2007

The missing all

posted by

secular_age.jpgAlthough technology may not possess a logic of its own, one would be hard pressed to deny its formative role in whatever we are talking about, right now, on this blog. To what degree are the blurry contours and devastating effects of secularism bound up with technology? What role has technology played in fueling the nova effect of secularism and how has it both motivated contemporary practices of naming secularism, of typologizing its seemingly endless permutations, and simultaneously rendered it impossible for such practices to deliver on their promises?

November 19th, 2007

The scope and uses of secularity

posted by

secular_age.jpgEarly in Charles Taylor’s study, he remarks that the secular condition, in which belief is an option and religion a distinct domain, is not the case everywhere: in Muslim societies generally, and for people in religious moments in the West: pilgrims at Czestochowa or Guadalupe, for example. We could add: and for people growing up in believing Baptist communities in Nebraska or Mennonite ones in Manitoba or Hindu ones in Gujarat or Bali. […]

November 6th, 2007

Secularization ain’t dead yet

posted by

secular_age.jpgNormally, when one sits down to read a book hailed by a figure such as Robert Bellah as “one of the most important books to be written in [his] lifetime,” one expects a methodical survey of an intellectual terrain. One of the most striking things about Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age is thus its colloquial, almost chatty character. Instead of being forced to sit through a dry lecture, it’s as if one had the good fortune to share drinks at a bar with an exceptionally erudite friend who took the opportunity to tell you what he’s been thinking about lately. We should be so lucky as to have such drinking buddies. […]

November 2nd, 2007

Problems around the secular

posted by

secular_age.jpgOne great problem is that the term “secular” is a western term, and corresponds to a very old distinction within Christendom. Then it goes through a series of changes in order to surface in such neologisms as “secularization,” and “secularism.” But even so, some of the original meanings carry over. These terms are then applied unreflectingly to what are seen as analogous processes and ideas elsewhere, and the result can be great confusion. […]