On Secularization…

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August 11, 2016 by jmw

“The ‘secular’ is not just the neutral, rational, areligious world that is left once we throw off superstition, ritual, and belief in the gods. This is because the secular is not just unbelief, or lack of specifically religious belief. What characterizes the secular age is not merely privative. The emergence of the secular is also bound up with the production of a new option – the possibility of exclusive humanism as a viable social imaginary – a way of constructing meaning and significance without any reference to the divine or transcendence. So it wasn’t enough for us to stop believing in the gods; we also had to be able to imagine significance within an immanent frame, to imagine modes of meaning that did not depend on transcendence. This is why ‘subtraction stories’ of the story offered by secularization theory will always fall short. The secular is not simply a remainder; it is a sum, created by addition, a product of intellectual multiplication.”
– James K.A. Smith in How (Not) To Be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor 


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