Oct 3, 2011

Secularism, secularization, secularity

It's easy to find critics of secularism. Criticizing secularism (and secularists) is a regular move for certain sets of evangelicals and conservative Christians, for example.

Though there's very little clarity on what secularism is, or who holds this ideology and how, there's at least a consideration of it on some level, misconsiderations with which to start.

Academically, there's little analysis of secularism, per se. There's lots, though, LOTS, on secularization. The question is "how did this happen?" and the answer's a bunch of history.

Peter Berger does a lot of this, for example. He looks at the process. The Sacred Canopy is (to over simplify) divided into one part on how it happens in theory and the theoretical structure of the process, and one part on how it happened in history. Almost all of Charles Taylor's A Secular Age is about the historical process, with him going deep into the past and the library stacks to try to answer how this happened.

What I want to know is, rather than "how did this happen," what is the "this"?

What is secularity? How does it function? What is it as a condition, and what are the consequences of that condition? How does it, as an environment, shape and influence those who exist or that which exists within it?

Berger and Taylor both do define it -- and have both been very useful to me in thinking through my project. They're both countering the "subtraction thesis," where the secular is the remainder after the religious is taken away, which is useful and good. But I need to spend more time looking at how it (secularity) works itself out. There are maybe a total of 7 pages in Taylor's 851-page book where he says, "so, secularity is this, and that means, practically, this, this & this."

Which is what I'm trying to ask.