What does it mean to say that we live in a secular age? This simple question, the first sentence of Charles Taylor’s extraordinary book ‘A Secular Age’, is deceptively complex – and a bad place to start. Any approach that begins with a question that presumes so much, and then continues without changing the terms of that question, is bound to reach an impasse. Even when developed with sophistication, such an approach is limited either to homogenising our time or to qualifying its big picture by tortuous (or elegant) intertwined lineages of competing cultural description. Even if that approach unpacks the complex phenomenology and history of the concept of ‘a secular age’, it is bound to remain caught in an assumption that mapping the condition of ‘an age’ can be done by first characterising the social whole in singular and epochal terms, and then addressing the manifold qualifications that do not fit or complicate that whole.
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