For the past two weeks, I have pondered on what it means to be secular in America. In America, I have found that it is not a matter of if someone believes in God or has a spiritual belief system but a matter of what exactly they profess to believe in. I live in a country where many profess to be “Christians” while some would say they believe in God reject all things religion. Others would affirm that they believe in a spiritual being known as the universe. This is an age where people do not consider themselves antireligious but they will not be confined to “one way” of believing. Fundamentalists Christians would assert that Jesus is the only way to God. In these times, there are many voices who would challenge that assertion and say there are many ways in which one can connect and believe in God. For many Christians in America, they see those who do not hold the belief system the exact way in which they believe or anti-God and even secular. In our society, there are so many ways in which people understand and define what it means to be secular. It makes me consider these questions : is someone secular because they choose to work in Corporate America and not serve in a traditional ministry position within my local church (public piety expressed in vocation)? Is someone secular because they do not believe in God in the same way majority in in our American culture choose to believe? Is someone secular because they believe that there are many options and choose not to be confined to one way?
These questions and many others were topics that were discussed in Charles Taylors book A Secular Age. Within over 700 pages he explores western secularization from a historical, philosophical and theological context. This book would not make it on my summer book list. It is one that must be read and digested over time—maybe even a lifetime… LOL. Graciously, last week we were assigned How (not) to Be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor by James A. Smith. His book provides an overview of the key points and questions posed by Taylor in his book. Despite being able to read Smith’s book, I still find it challenging to absorb Taylor’s book. There is so much to think about and consider. Maybe it is because of the depth to which he chooses to go in his discussion? or maybe it is because I wrestle with understanding secularism within my own western postmodern American context?
In my observation of the American context, there seems to be this blurred line between spirituality and life. The historical view of what it meant to be sacred and secular as James A. Smith notes Secular1 and Secular2  are no more according to Taylor. It is this way of life that chooses spirituality guided by the auspices of oneself. A spirituality that is not solely defined by the traditional religious liturgical contructs but one that says I can be spiritual in my own way outside of the church. It is nurtured from within their own circles and not from the outside. The outside meaning society, religion, politics, cultural constructs and norms. Taylor made a similar observation/connection when he discussed Epstein’s “Minimal Religion” in Russia as it related to the western way of being spiritual but not religious. ““Minimal religion” is a spirituality lived in one’s immediate circle, with family and friends, rather than in churches, one especially aware of the particular, both in individual human beings, and in the places and things which surround us.”  He goes on in his discussion to say that there is a freedom that remains within these inviduals who choose this “universalist” approach to spirituality even if they choose to become apart of a church. Their freedom they experienced now feels restricted within those religious boundaries and so they seek to expand beyond those restrictions. In doing so, its effect will bring unforseen shifts in religion as we know it today. He concluded by stating that “we are just at the beginning of a new age of religious searching, whose outcome no one can foresee.” 
Does you agree with Taylors conclusion? Are the outcomes truly unforseen?
 James K. A. Smith, How (not) to be secular: reading Charles Taylor (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2015), 142.
 Charles Taylor, A secular age (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2007), 534.