For all of you who are interested in issues of law, religion and politics in the Transatlantic world (and beyond)., I can warmly recommend Charles Taylor's new book 'A secular age.'
Taylor distinguished three possible meanings of secular, which I would classify as follows:
1-Political secularity: when religious belief is removed from the public sphere to the private sphere as a result of a political compromise
2- Social secularity: when belief fades away from our daily life and does not provide anymore a benchmark for our behaviour
3-Historico-philosophical secularity: it is interested in the evolution of the intellectual framework within which religious belief is understood.
Taylor focuses on the third meaning and explores in an open way what made us move from 1500, when believing was not an option, to 2000 when believing is but an option.
To explain such a paradigm shift, Taylor engages in a story-telling exercise which attempts to unravel the changing conditions of our own religious practices. Pivotal to his story is the emergence of 'exclusive humanism', a way of conceiving human flourishing as an end in itself. According to exclusive humanism each individual is master of his destiny and is empowered to give full meaning to his own life.
This new understanding of human flourishing replaces the Christian one that understood human flourishing as a consequence of god's love, agape. Each individual would therefore have to abandon himself in the hands of god in order to let his life flourish.
To go back to the central question then: what made the shift from 1500 to 2000 possible? the answer is in the book...