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Catholic Social Science Review

Volume 22, 2017

Kieran Flanagan
Pages 327-344

Another Sociological Mirage?

This review essay reflects on two works that pertain to the postsecular: Josef Bengtson, Explorations in Post-Secular Metaphysics (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016); and Florian Zemmin, Colin Jager, Guido Vanheeswijck, eds., Working with a Secular Age: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Charles Taylor’s Master Narrative (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2016). The profound influence of Charles Taylor's A Secular Age (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2007) is well illustrated in these two works under review. The review essay situates postsecularity in the context of debates on secularization and the sociological expectations this process generates. By treating postsecularism in terms of contextualisation, metaphysics arises as a default position pertaining to transcendence in Bengtson’s work. The efforts in the Zemmin, Jager, and Vanheeswijck work to steer the Taylor work in the direction of Islam are given a critical appraisal. A particular outcome of postsecularity is to render as untenable sociology’s customary detachment of religion from theology. Lastly, for Catholicism, postsecularism draws attention to a long-standing and long-denied crisis in the reproduction of belief in modernity and in a secularized Europe in particular. A singular exception to this crisis occurs in Scandinavian countries, notable for their absence of religion, which are experiencing a small, but significant renaissance of Catholicism. This opens out a positive side to debates on postsecularity which indicates that it is not solely about mirages which give comfort to secularized forms of sociology.

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