Last week, I found complexity in trying to divide my thoughts of two great books, which was a great injustice to the authors. Separating the takeaways of these books coincide with the very nature of this book as we discuss the idea of secularism. Smith and Taylor both show how secularism is associated with the ‘Age of Entitlement,” which centered on the primary reasons for the source of authority and legitimacy, constitutional government but more importantly, separation of church and state. Secularism plays a significant role in Western Society regarding principles, in oppose to the practices. Hence, secularists never generally object to politicians making secular decisions for any reasons. For e.g., President Trump recently announced that he would create policies that focused on abortion, same-sex marriage and yesterday we learn that the government would also withdraw the idea of having transgender bathrooms in public schools.
Growing up in the 1980s and especially in a third world country, believing in God was a way of life. However, this ideology has changed, and this is expressly the case in the United States. Taylor asked, “why was it virtually impossible not to believe in God in, say, 1500 in our Western society, while in 2000 many of us find this not only easy but even inescapable?” (p. 25). With the evolution of science and even the desire for intellect, the author answers the questions in three ways by suggesting people:
- Natural events are not an act of God
- We “could only be conceived as grounded in something higher than human action in secular time” (p. 25)
- We now evolved into living in a disenchanted world. Smith believes that “we are aware of the possibility of disengagement” (Smith, p. 31) but Taylor believes the disenchantment is a result of the shift in the location of meaning. Taylor believes “significance no longer inheres in things, rather, meaning and significance are a property of minds who perceive meaning internally” (Taylor, p. 29)
One of the interesting thing about this reading is Taylor’s three stages of a nova effect, but I’ll focus on the first one which suggests, “an exclusive alternative alternative to Christian faith” (Taylor, p. 299), which was around the 18th century. We must understand that in a secular society, people are challenged to commit to a supernatural ideology and mankind’s role in the universe. As a result, problem-solving relies on examining facts rationally, which would suggest that science is the ‘Providence’ of man. The reality is “that each one of us has his/her own way of realizing our humanity, and that it is important to find and live out one’s own” (Taylor, p. 475).
As I conclude two years of study at George Fox University, I realize that two cultures are always on display. First, there’s one on the edge of desensitization where “we shouldn’t criticize each other’s ‘values’” (Taylor, p. 484) and the other where we “only accept what rings true to your own inner Self” (Taylor, p. 484). However, in a program that breaths diversification and even more importantly, as Christians, we must be careful not to undermine “the link between Christian faith and civilization order” (Taylor, p. 492). While we live in an immanent frame, there is the possibility of the transcendent, which occurs when we open the frame. “The whole culture experiences cross pressures, between the draw of the narratives of closed immanence on one side, and the sense of their inadequacy on the other” (Taylor, p. 595). Taylor suggests, a ‘maximal demand’ in responding to cross-pressures.
Smith, shows he has a clear understanding of the church so by providing a ‘relief map,’ we gain a greater cultural context in understanding why belief is hard to maintain. Religious belief is a choice and is often contested but should never be assumed.