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Charles Taylor and Political Religion: Overlapping Concerns and Points of Tension


Correspondence address: Stefan Fisher-Høyrem, Oxford Brookes University, Department of History, Philosophy and Religion, Oxford, UK. E-mail:


This article introduces some key aspects of the secularization thesis put forward in Charles Taylor's A Secular Age (2007), with a particular view to how these might illuminate and/or complicate the study of political religion. Particularly helpful are Taylor's attention to nuance Western theological controversies and his emphasis on how ideas and ultimate concerns are not only expressed in obviously ritualistic or ‘religious’ mass events, but are also embodied on the level of ordinary and habitual collective practices. However, the encounter between Taylor's work and the field of political religion also accentuates points of seemingly irresolvable tension. Taylor insists that the notions of an ‘ordinary’ world and autonomous individuals with an innate urge to transcend it—both notions underpinning most studies of political religion—cannot be accepted as a priori but must be historicized and explained. Ultimately, the article encourages scholars of political religion to consider the critiques implicit in Taylor's thesis in the hope that this might generate new and better ways of studying ‘ultimate concerns’ and their place in modernity.