A Secular Age

by Charles Taylor

Harvard | September 20, 2007 | Hardcover

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What does it mean to say that we live in a secular age? Almost everyone would agree that we--in the West, at least--largely do. And clearly the place of religion in our societies has changed profoundly in the last few centuries. In what will be a defining book for our time, Charles Taylor takes up the question of what these changes mean--of what, precisely, happens when a society in which it is virtually impossible not to believe in God becomes one in which faith, even for the staunchest believer, is only one human possibility among others.

Taylor, long one of our most insightful thinkers on such questions, offers a historical perspective. He examines the development in "Western Christendom" of those aspects of modernity which we call secular. What he describes is in fact not a single, continuous transformation, but a series of new departures, in which earlier forms of religious life have been dissolved or destabilized and new ones have been created. As we see here, today''s secular world is characterized not by an absence of religion--although in some societies religious belief and practice have markedly declined--but rather by the continuing multiplication of new options, religious, spiritual, and anti-religious, which individuals and groups seize on in order to make sense of their lives and give shape to their spiritual aspirations.

What this means for the world--including the new forms of collective religious life it encourages, with their tendency to a mass mobilization that breeds violence--is what Charles Taylor grapples with, in a book as timely as it is timeless.

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 896 pages, 9.25 × 6.38 × 0.07 in

Published: September 20, 2007

Publisher: Harvard

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0674026764

ISBN - 13: 9780674026766

Found in: Religion and Spirituality

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– More About This Product –

A Secular Age

by Charles Taylor

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 896 pages, 9.25 × 6.38 × 0.07 in

Published: September 20, 2007

Publisher: Harvard

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0674026764

ISBN - 13: 9780674026766

About the Book

Taylor takes up the question of what happens when a society in which it is virtually impossible not to believe in God becomes one in which faith, even for the staunchest believer, is only one human possibility among others.

Table of Contents

  • Preface
  • Introduction
  • Part I: The Work of Reform
    • 1. The Bulwarks of Belief
    • 2. The Rise of the Disciplinary Society
    • 3. The Great Disembedding
    • 4. Modern Social Imaginaries
    • 5. The Spectre of Idealism
  • Part II: The Turning Point
    • 6. Providential Deism
    • 7. The Impersonal Order
  • Part III: The Nova Effect
    • 8. The Malaises of Modernity
    • 9. The Dark Abyss of Time
    • 10. The Expanding Universe of Unbelief
    • 11. Nineteenth-Century Trajectories
  • Part IV: Narratives of Secularization
    • 12. The Age of Mobilization
    • 13. The Age of Authenticity
    • 14. Religion Today
  • Part V: Conditions of Belief
    • 15. The Immanent Frame
    • 16. Cross Pressures
    • 17. Dilemmas 1
    • 18. Dilemmas 2
    • 19. Unquiet Frontiers of Modernity
    • 20. Conversions
  • Epilogue: The Many Stories
  • Notes
  • Index

From the Publisher

What does it mean to say that we live in a secular age? Almost everyone would agree that we--in the West, at least--largely do. And clearly the place of religion in our societies has changed profoundly in the last few centuries. In what will be a defining book for our time, Charles Taylor takes up the question of what these changes mean--of what, precisely, happens when a society in which it is virtually impossible not to believe in God becomes one in which faith, even for the staunchest believer, is only one human possibility among others.

Taylor, long one of our most insightful thinkers on such questions, offers a historical perspective. He examines the development in "Western Christendom" of those aspects of modernity which we call secular. What he describes is in fact not a single, continuous transformation, but a series of new departures, in which earlier forms of religious life have been dissolved or destabilized and new ones have been created. As we see here, today''s secular world is characterized not by an absence of religion--although in some societies religious belief and practice have markedly declined--but rather by the continuing multiplication of new options, religious, spiritual, and anti-religious, which individuals and groups seize on in order to make sense of their lives and give shape to their spiritual aspirations.

What this means for the world--including the new forms of collective religious life it encourages, with their tendency to a mass mobilization that breeds violence--is what Charles Taylor grapples with, in a book as timely as it is timeless.

About the Author

Charles Taylor is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at McGill University.

Editorial Reviews

If you are, as I am, often puzzled by the landscape of contemporary religious belief and unbelief, you will regard Charles Taylor''s huge and hugely rewarding intellectual history of the secularization of European and North American culture as a marvelous gift. A Secular Age is a first-class map of the spiritual terrain of Western modernity as well as the road that got us here.
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