Charles Taylor is Very Wise

The Other Journal continues its long-running series engaging atheism, the latest of which is the first of three parts of an interview with Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor. Taylor recently wrote a massive book called A Secular Age (which I plan to read very soon) which has basically redefined the subject of secularism in the West. In the interview, Taylor discusses a bit of what his book covers—that the theory of secularization as the passing-away of religion is no longer credible—and also has a few scorching remarks about the current spate of “new” atheism.

But discrediting the new atheists, as fun as it might be in a very limited sense, is mostly pointless and often counter-productive. Much like fundamentalist Christians, they see any criticism of their views as confirmation that they are correct. In this case, their thesis that all religious people are violent and ignorant is simply confirmed by any criticism coming from religious people. Again, while there is a very valid place for this criticism, there’s a larger question to be asked, one which Taylor gets exactly right:

But then what we need to do, and this is something many religious people fail to do, is to consider why this phenomena of the new atheism is happening at this time. Atheists are reacting in the same way that religious fundamentalists reacted in the past. They are people who have been very comfortable with a sense that their particular position is what makes sense of everything and so on, and then when they are confronted by something else they just go bananas and throw up the most incredibly bad arguments in a tone of indignation and anger. And that’s the problem with that whole master narrative of secularization, what’s called the secularization thesis, that people got lulled into—you know, that religion is a thing of the past, that it’s disappearing, that it did all these terrible things but it’s going to go away and so on—because when it comes back people are just undone.

If you missed the link up top, here it is again. I’m looking forward to parts two and three.

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