chapter  19
11 Pages

Siblings under the skin: Charles Taylor on religious believers and non-believers in A Secular Age


It is well known that Taylor’s central ambition in ASA is to shed light on what he calls Secularity 3, or the current conditions of religious belief and experience in Western societies. This is what, in Taylor’s eyes, sets his approach apart from other analyses which see secularity as referring either to the evacuation of religion from the public and other social spheres, which he calls Secularity 1, or to the decline in the number of people expressing allegiance to traditional religious views and engaging in traditional religious practices and institutions, which he dubs Secularity 2. While Taylor cannot ignore either of these developments entirely, his approach is preoccupied with what it is like to be a religious believer or non-believer in contemporary Western societies. At the work’s outset he declares his intention to ‘focus attention on the different kinds of lived experience involved in understanding your life in one way or the other, on what it’s like to live as a believer or an unbeliever’ (Taylor 2007, 5; see also 2-4, 8, 13-14, 423). Immediately we see that his ambition is to speak of, and to, both groups – those who

harbour religious commitments and those who do not. These opening remarks suggest that Taylor’s work could be a very valuable resource for the purposes of this volume which is to promote dialogue between religious believers and atheists.