From the opening pages, my historical antennae quickly began to quiver. Taylor’s book works in a space far removed from what I understand (speaking perhaps parochially) as proper historical argument. I say this with due caution: Taylor has always believed in the importance of a historical setting for his arguments. And from the outset of A Secular Age, he specifically addresses the issue of history. In a sense, then, the secular age as he understands it is defined historically: it is a
It is as an exercise in historical contrast, too, that Taylor sets into relief the characteristics of our immanent frame. Before, “people lived naively within a theistic construal.” Now they are reflective in their belief. Before, the self was “porous,” open to the influences of demonic and angelic forces alike. Now it is buffered. Before, religion was incarnated in bodily practices. Now it has been excarnated, has been removed from the corporeal, the ritual, and the practical. And so on. Disenchantment needs a prior state. It is an essentially contrastive category.
“move from a society where belief in God is unchallenged…to one in which it is understood to be one option among others.”