“Why was it virtually impossible not to believe in God in 1500 in our Western society, while in 2000 many of us find this not only easy, but even inescapable?”
This is the question Charles Taylor posits and (brilliantly) attempts to answer in the following 776 pages. Taylor rejects the notion that secularism came about by gradually displacing faith. Rather, the situation is more complex and multi-faceted than this, and involves the constant apparition of new aspects, new options, new solutions, recombined in new dynamics which eventually worked to create what we may call a secular society. All these drives to create a new society are central to Taylor’s thesis, and can be collectively taken as ‘Reform.’
Briefly summed up, Reform demanded that everyone be a real, 100 percent Christian. Reform not only disenchants, but disciplines and re-orders life society. Along with civility, this makes for a notion of moral order which gives a new sense to Christianity and the demands of the faith. This collapses the distance of the faith from Christendom. It induces an anthropocentric shift, and hence a break-out from the monopoly of Christian faith.
The only thing I would like to say is that such secularism and what goes with it are peculiar to, and have developped within, the Western world, and in this respect, they cannot be universal; secularist values are global only so far as Western countries have the hegemony in world politics. But as the situation in other countries show, and even if these are touched by its products and values, secularity is far from being uncontested and unchallenged.
The book is at times a difficult read, but it will delight those interested in the fate of Western Christendom and who want to understand better our modern world.