Charles Taylor’s argument is based on the theory of secularisation which assumes three premises. First, there is the ground floor which holds the empirical premise according to which there is a retreat of traditional religion. By traditional religion, Taylor means an enchanted world where there is a clear distinction between the sacred and the profane. The traditional religion is characterised by an ontic, hierarchical community who believes in a greater order where everything has its own place. Thus, the individual knows where he belongs within the community and his actions are crucial for the well-being of the community and the natural order. Second, the basement deals with the consequences of the phenomenon of the retreat of traditional religion. Third, the first floor represents the consequences of this retreat on our society. Secularisation theorists agree on the premise that there is a retreat of traditional religion, however, they differ on the causes of such a retreat which implies a difference on the first floor as well.
Before discussing Taylor’s account of the secularisation theory, from traditional religious communities to the age of mobilisation, we will first take a look at his critique of traditional secularisation theorist. Finally, we will attempt to assess the place of religion today and the consequences of the first period of secularisation in the modern world.
Taylor criticises the belief that secularisation was a linear phenomenon caused by scientific progress and the industrialisation age. He attributes this fallacy to the non-consideration of Foucault’s «unthought». According to Taylor, secularisation theorists fail to take into account their natural predisposition to make such a judgement. First, one should not identify secularisation with disenchantment as scientific progress does not encourage the retreat of belief. Indeed, one must make the difference between belief and practice. Scientific progress allows for the retreat of religious practices as it offers better alternatives.
Second, one must not identify religion with dillusion. In the contrary, the enlightenment period is also characterised by the revival of religion. The literature of the period does not show a disbelief but rather a discourse on why should one believe. In other words, it was an adaptation of religion within scientific discoveries, thus, it was not a retreat of religion but a change in the nature of that religion. Indeed, God was an intelligent designer with whom humans cooperate for the wellness of society.
Taylor offers a non-linear explanation for the retreat of traditional religion, that is represented by ontic societies. He first identifies a destabilisation of the Church due to the separation of the elite and the population. Taylor argues that «it is a feature of the whole modern period that social elites become detached from, even hostile to much of popular culture, and attempt to make it over» (440). Therefore, one of the reasons...