I finally got around to reading my way through Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age. At 800+ pages of fairly dense academic writing it is no mean feat. It is a truly remarkable book. In it Taylor tracks the history of faith in what he calls ‘North Atlantic societies’ (meaning the USA and Western Europe).
I found the development of his argument both compelling and fascinating. Perhaps though, the one thing which remains with me is a profound sense of gratitude for my own education. And I mean this in the broadest sense. His argument is strewn with illustrations from across the spectrum from Isaac Newton to William Blake; from Bach to Derrida.
I was acutely aware of how much more difficult it would have been to engage in reading this book if I was not culturally embedded in the world he was illustrating. So many of the references were all the more powerful because I already had the frameworks he was drawing on in my head.
I think back to one of my MTh students last year, who really struggled with the reading. At the time, I don’t think I really appreciated what her struggle was beyond the discipline of actually sitting down and focusing on words on the page. Having engaged with Charles Taylor, I am so much more aware of the deep associations I can draw on almost unconsciously. It must be a deeply disorienting experience if one cannot make those connections.
I think I can get a small glimpse of the alienation that some must suffer when they come to university.