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on 27 March 2016
I found this a delightful introduction to Charles Taylor's magnum opus, 'A Secular Age'. It was probably unlikely that I would have picked that 800-page tome up and read it without some sort of help and encouragement, which is what Jamie Smith so admirably supplies here.

That doesn't mean that 'How Not To Be Secular' is a walk in the park: if nothing else, one has to get one's head around Taylor's own lexicon, in order to understand the complexities and power of secularism...in order then to go beyond that and perceive the case for transcendence. Smith's writing is pithy, toothsome. Perhaps because he is firing off Taylor's more ponderous narrative, what we get is something that is an extraordinarily effective introduction - it leaves one wanting to then grapple with the real deal, but actually in the short term it supplies a most helpful distillate of Taylor's reasoning.

I, for one, am glad I encountered this modest little book first. It probably has some attractions for any secular thinker, beginning to come up against the boxing in of immanence, but it is peculiarly valuable for Christian pastors, teachers, leaders, seeking to understand the strengths and weaknesses of secularism, in order to engage effectively with this worldview which has, in such a short space of time, come to dominate almost every aspect of cultural life in the West.

Jamie Smith does not provide us with an uncritical endorsement of all of Taylor's thinking in 'A Secular Age', but highlights questions for serious readers to explore further. He also usefully flags up some key points where Protestant and Catholic thinking will tend to diverge - but that's all to the good in seeing how our transcendent take on reality can pan out. Finally, I did find his discussion of modern (religious) responses to modernity as a kind of 'reconversion' to a premodern worldview, encumbered with the dangers of nostalgia - rather thought-provoking.

This really is a great little book, and you won't regret reading it. Go on, buy it!
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on 17 June 2015
Excellent, easy read. Does what it sets out to do. Makes a very deep theological debate understandable.
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on 14 November 2016
This is a very short book about a very long, dense and complex book that few of us will ever have the time to read. But for all its brevity, it lays out with admirable clarity the main question that Taylor addresses : how did we move, in a few hundred years, from a world in which supernatural explanations were the norm to one in which they are seldom evoked, and indeed seen as unnecessary? This is not, Taylor argues, the "subtraction" of supernatural beliefs in the face of the relentless advance of science and reason, but something much more complex, which began with the Reformation's banishing of the whole magical world of popular religion that the Church had built over a millennium. Towards the end, the book (like its parent) gets into religious apologetics which will not be to everybody's taste, but it remains a fascinating and stimulating work nonetheless.
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on 7 December 2014
If you are interested in the way that our society feels about the eternal and present and how this has developed then this book is very interesting. Not necessarily and easy read - useful to have the dictionary handy and sometimes requiring a paragraph to be read several times to really absorb the meaning but I am sure that this reflects the way that James summarises what must be an even denser tome. Great at painting the picture and challenge and very thought provoking even though the so what do we do about it seems underdeveloped (by Charles Taylor) - but maybe this is for someone else to do.
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on 18 May 2015
Charles Taylor is a key author. His writing is lucid, clear and emotive - Id buy anything Taylor wrote and read it if u want to understand our present culture. No need for an intro beyond his own writing- especially one that is less clear!!
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on 24 June 2014
I had heard Taylor was a demanding read for non specialists like myself but someone with invaluable insights. Decided therefore to read this introduction first.
That was unwise. This book did nothing to elucidate that complexity and I wish I hadn't bought it. Fortunately it has not put be off my quest.

I apologise if thus sounds unfair. It may well be of use to young students. But in old and should have remembered there's no substitute for the real thing.
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on 10 December 2016
Ok by ALL means. thanks.
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on 31 October 2015
deals Directly with how secularism, can damage faith IF WE LET IT!! The causes and curs of how NOT to let faith slide and be overcome with MATERIALISTIC philosophies and lifestyles!!
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