Review by Dr Pravin Thevathasan
How (Not) To Be Secular
Taylor is unusual in many ways: a respected philosopher who openly professes his Catholic faith. And yet, he appears not to be that comfortable with some of the teachings of the Church: he writes that "the Vatican's present position seems to want to retain the most rigid moralism in the sexual field, relaxing nothing of the rules, with the result that people with "irregular" sexual lives are automatically denied the sacraments..." However, we should commend him, as Smith notes, for his opinion that scientific advances by themselves need not lead to a loss of faith: we remain haunted by the notion that there is"something more" to life than can be explained by science.Taylor is thus an obvious critic of Dawkins.
Still, Taylor believes that it is impossible for us to escape from what he describes as the immanent
frame. We have all become secular to some extent, says Taylor. While Taylor believes that there is no going back
to a previous age, he rejects the notion that secularism automatically leads to non-belief. Secularism promotes
individualism and individuals may choose to become non-believers, or not. The immanent frame is not a gateway to
Having read this superb introduction to Taylor's thoughts, I am not entirely convinced that Taylor
has got it all right. His theory of Excarnation appears to imply that when we treat belief as a series of propositions
or dogma, religious ritual is thereby rejected. And yet, supporters of traditional Catholicism are devoted to both
causes, dogma and ritual believing that they feed each other.