In relation to the fortunes of the Christian Religion in Western society there is often talk of 'secularization', 'demythologization', 'desacralisation', 'laicization'. Sometimes one refers with these terms to phenomena like dechristianization or the grow of unbelief, sometimes to the disentanglement of public institutions and religious organisations or to the growing autonomy of the diverse spheres of life (differentiation). In descriptions of this kind one regular comes across the claim that there is in our age a (fruitful of antithetic) tension between christian religion and modern culture.
In his book A Secular Age (2007) Charles Taylor develops a new conception of secularity. According to him, to live in a 'secular age', means to be a part of a secular Context of Understanding, as a believier or as an unbeliever. In this Context of Understanding, christian religion is a option or a possibility surrounded by other possibilities; it is a possible response to basis questions like the following: what makes life worth the while?; what is a fullfilled life?; what or who dereves our admiration? But also: what do we experience as the opposite of a fullfilled life, as meaninglessness, emptiness, boredom, exile? Typical for the religious answer seems to be that the answer is rather revieved than (successfully) achieved or gained; a certain openness, receptibility and (self)transcendence is asked for. What characterizes the modern condition is perhaps that a religious answer is no longer evident and can no longer be lived in a 'naive' way.
We will give special attention to the development in terms of the philosophy of nature, the birth of a autonomous realm named 'nature' (and laws of nature, natural causes, natural law) in the philosophy of nature. To this very day, this development leads to the claim that religious belief and science exclude each other.
Finally, we give attention to Taylors own answer to possible tensions between religious belief and modern culture, the dilemmata of a multireligious society, and the peculiar contribution of the catholic faith in de secular age.
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- Charles Taylor, A Secular Age, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, England, 2007.
- Jocelyn Maclure & Charles Taylor, Secularism and Freedom of Conscience, Harvard University Press, 2011, ISBN 9780674058651.
- Hans Joas & Klaus Wiegandt, Säkularisierung und die Weltreligionen, Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, 2007, ISBN 9783596176472.
- Hans Joas, De macht van het heilige, Leminiscaat, 2018.