DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

To Be, or Not to Be is the Question

Written by: on February 16, 2017

      TO BE… by

Charles Taylor, A Secular Age


Does God really exist or is it just a mere childish belief in a supernatural existence? If there truly is a God who controls nature, why do many negative things happen while he keeps watch and does nothing? The answers to these questions and others regarding the works and the sole existence of God will depend on who you ask. With the advance of science, modernity, and democracy, dealings with God and the spiritual have taken a new form towards the edges of life. This new age where there is a distinction in social, political, and economic life is what Taylor describes as the secular age. He reports that in this age, whether a person is religious or not it is a private matter.[i] He argues that people have left the consciousness of God and they rely heavily on their personal decisions. In his opinion, Taylor believes that God gives meaning to the life of every individual, and He is still present if people know where to look.


Taylor is a philosophy professor at McGill University and the author of Sources of the Self (1989), Hegel (1975), and A Secular Age (2007). He is a Christian who believes that life has no meaning without God, and he tries to prove this in his 874-page book, A Secular Age. He argues that God is working now more than never before rather than disappearing; He is sanctifying people everywhere.[ii] In every aspect of life from work to marriage and ordinary existence, God is very actively involved despite the rise of secularism.

Many factors have led to the popularity of secularism according to Taylor citing different works on humanity’s various beliefs. Descartes believed that humans are rational beings who need reasons and the will to undertake anything. He argued that humans like to be governed by their will and ruled by their reasoning.[iii] In Varieties of Religious Experience, William James gives the notion of how people crave for a belief propelled by will.[iv] As Taylor cites, Freud viewed religion as an illusion brought about in an attempt to deny the reality of death.[v] All this among others have been active stimulants for the growth of secularism.

Taylor does not agree on the assumptions made by such atheists as Daniel Dennett and Richard Dawkins of evolution and natural science. He supports his belief in the existence of God with anecdotes of human nature in the social setting. Both Dennett and Dawkins believe that there is no supreme being.[vi] Taylor says that belief is not what science finds; rather, it is what faith hopes for.

In his book, Taylor talks about three kinds of secularism in detail. In the first stage of secularism, he finds a withdrawal from religious ways to scientific means of viewing issues. To do this, he uses Max Weber’s theory of disenchantment where people shift from a religious to a scientific world view.[vii] He explains that before this, there was only a single view of religion and science. The second form of secularism is a decline in an individual’s commitment in religious matters. In this case, people rely more on their personal choices. The last form is the latest of secularism: Belief in God is a personal matter where one can choose to believe or not.

        How (NOT) To Be…by

 James K. A. Smith, How (not) to be Secular


James K. A. Smith is a philosopher trained in modern-day French thought. He works as a professor in Philosophy at Calvin College. He is currently the holder of Gary and Henrietta Byker Chair in Applied Reformed Theology and Worldview. Smith has developed that academic stage to be distinctly connected with an open and scholarly socialism. He is also an author with award-winning skills and creativity and a recognized speaker across the globe.[i]

The most renown of his works is the summary of A Secular Age, by Charles Taylor. The way Smith has compressed a thousand-page book into 150 pages is marvelous. One more thing that should be noted from the book is that not a single idea from Taylor’s book is missing, and he has used his ideas to show his talent for thinking and writing. It is evident that Smith is a great admirer of Taylor’s work, as anyone would be who also studies it with a proper understanding.


The title of the book How (Not) to be Secular is in itself the summary of Taylor’s work: The ideas of the book are clearly defined and analyzed. Smith asks and analyses the how in the book and gives a basic idea that living in a secular age has little or no consequences for scholarly submission to the natural cases, which are real. Instead, the aftereffect of occupying a world where otherworldly solutions to the inquiries in one’s life no longer bode well and are no longer required.[ii] Accordingly, it is evident that Taylor seems very concerned not only with secularism’s definition, but with the feelings that secularism brings with it.

Taylor criticizes the defenders of secularism in his works and Smith summarizes his criticisms thus:

What pretends to be a discovery of the way things are, the obvious unveiling of reality once we remove (subtract) myth and enchantment, is in fact a construction, a creation: in short, this wasn’t just a subtraction project.[iii] I will  leave you here..until next week.

  The  conclusion of the Secular Question on next week



[i]. James K A. Smith, The Fall of Interpretation: Philosophical Foundations for a Creational Hermeneutic (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2012).

[ii]. Geoffrey C. Layman and Christopher L. Weaver. “Religion and Secularism among American Party Activists,” Politics and Religion, 9, no. 2 (2016): 271–95. doi:10.1017/S1755048316000079.

[iii]. James K. A. Smith, How (not) to be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2014), 99.


[i]. Charles Taylor, A Secular Age (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2007).

[ii]. Ibid., pp. 5–22.

[iii]. René Descartes, Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting the Reason, and Seeking Truth in the Sciences (Raleigh, NC: Alex Catalogue, 1990).

[iv]. C. C. H. Cook, “William James’ Varieties of Religious Experience and Jungian Varieties of Human Nature: The Nature of the Relationship between Religious Experience, Belief and Psychological Type,” Journal of Beliefs & Values 24, no. 2 (2003): 139–154.

[v]. Sigmund Freud and James Strachey, The Future of an Illusion (New York: Norton, 1975).

[vi]. Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (New York: Mariner Books, 2006); D. C Dennett, Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon (New York: Viking, 2006).

[vii]. Nicholas Gane, Max Weber and Postmodern Theory: Rationalization versus Re-Enchantment (Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave, 2002).

About the Author


Rose Anding

Rose Maria “Simmons McCarthy” Anding, a Visionary, Teacher,Evangelist, Biblical Counselor/ Chaplain and Author, of High Heels, Honey Lips, and White Powder. She is a widower, mother, stepmother, grandmother, great grandmother of Denver James, the greater joy of her life. She has lived in Chicago, Washington, DC, and North Carolina, and is now back on the forgiving soil of Mississippi.

11 responses to “To Be, or Not to Be is the Question”

  1. mm Marc Andresen says:

    Rose Maria,

    I love how you have used pictures in a book-blog that really points to radical differences in world view.

    What do you think of the idea that “exclusive humanism” and the attempt to find meaning without the transcendent has failed, and that this failure contributes to drug use?

    Or, to phrase it a different way, is there a loss of hope with a loss of the transcendent, and therefore people seek escape from this hopelessness in substance abuse (and pleasure)?

    • mm Rose Anding says:

      Thanks Marc,
      The book was interesting, but to begin to understand , we first need to get a proper handle on what exactly Taylor is doing in this book. It can be said that the entire argument of A Secular Age essentially develops as a response to the following questions: Why was it virtually impossible not to believe in God during certain eras of Western society (e.g., during the Middle Ages), whereas today, belief is not only no longer the default option, but also highly contestable in itself?

      In sum, the purpose of A Secular Age is to examine the precise ways in which our society is secular, and to describe the transition from an era where belief was the default to an era where unbelief has by and large become the default option .In other words, he doesn’t give enough consideration to whether or not certain beliefs or concepts (or even practices) deserve to be thoroughly reimagined in light of what we are continuing to learn about the world and our relationship to it.

      Taylor’s central goals. Acknowledging that religion can be defined in a variety of ways, his interest in it is defined by this – or rather by the relationship between ‘‘immanence’’ and ‘‘transcendence’’. And as importance as transcendence is, most of his book is devoted to trying to understand immanence. Taylor sees the modern West as shaped deeply by the idea of a natural order understandable without reference to anything outside itself (unless perhaps human consciousness is understood this way, though as Taylor notes, it is often understood as one more natural phenomenon). Indeed, he suggests that this is ‘‘the great invention of the West’’ (p. 15). It is constitutive for an ‘‘immanent frame’’ within which one can set aside questions of divine creation,marking off a sharp boundary with the transcendent. The orderliness of the world is now impersonal, perhaps set in motion by a watchmaker-God,but working of itself.

      On the other hand we as Christians knows that our hope is in Christ Jesus, the hope of glory. Therefore Christ came to set us all free.
      Thanks for sharing! Rose Maria

  2. Do these books help you with working with people in rehabilitation?
    Has religion become an opiate of the people?

  3. mm Rose Anding says:

    Thanks Aaron P for sharing, what a great question,
    “Has religion become an opiate of the people?”

    In reference to the people in rehabilitation, the answer is “No”
    It was Karl Marx, of course, famously disparaged religion as “the opium of the people”. Religion is the opium of the people’” based upon Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.”

    Our purpose is to reconnect the people to the creator, in finding their real purpose. Because Jesus didn’t come to start a new religion. It is clearly defined in John 10:10…”The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Jesus preached the Kingdom message not religious.
    The reading this semester has a great impact on my assignment…it requires deep thoughts and analysis to bring it forth.
    Thanks Rose Maria

  4. Claire Appiah says:

    Hello Rose,
    Thanks for tackling both Taylor’s and Smith’s works in this one blog; that will facilitate my understanding and writing of Taylor for next week’s blog. Love your descriptive graphics! Only you and perhaps Garfield would find something so telling.
    I find it interesting that many people want God to leave them alone and allow them the privilege of believing on Him or not as a private matter….until they get in trouble or are in a crisis mode. Then they want God to be very much in their lives and as an authoritative figure to intercede and fix their personal problems or the various crises/hardships humans are enduring collectively. Then they will accuse Him of being powerless, negligent, or unconcerned if they feel like He isn’t doing anything. I think secularists want it both ways—to share the blessings of the Kingdom of God without obedience to Him and acknowledgement of His sovereignty and His laws/ways. Thanks for your ease in writing about this very erudite work of Taylor and Smith.

    • mm Rose Anding says:

      Thanks Claire for sharing !
      Yes this is a true statement, “I think secularists want it both ways—to share the blessings of the Kingdom of God without obedience to Him and acknowledgement of His sovereignty and His laws/ways.” We can see…God, Taylor tells us, is always breaking in, stepping through the immanent frame of secularism. But when God makes his appearance, Taylor finds, he sounds just like Peggy Lee, singing “Is That All There Is?”. It’s an interesting read but we know, the ultimate authority is God.
      Thanks Rose Maria

  5. Pablo Morales says:

    Rose, thank you for the summaries of both books. The pictures in your blog were very creative! I was left wondering in which way did the reading impacted you. What are some of the main reflections that you got from reading these dense books?

    • mm Rose Anding says:

      Thanks Pablo for sharing ,but on my next week blog i will share my reflections.

      Just to give you a tid bit of reflections of Taylor;’s book is an excellent explanation of how and where people fail in the belief of the existence of God and His involvement in Christians’ lives.However Smith shares, that our secular age is messier than many would lead us to believe; that transcendence and immanence bleed into one another; that faith is pretty much unthinkable, but abandonment to the abyss is even more so.
      Give you more next week Rose Maria

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