How (Not) to Be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor

A practical guide to the secular age

Eerdmans Summary

How (Not) to Be Secular is what Jamie Smith calls “your hitchhiker’s guide to the present”—it is both a reading guide to Charles Taylor’s monumental work, A Secular Age, and philosophical guidance on how we might learn to live in our times.

Taylor’s landmark book, A Secular Age (2007), provides a monumental, incisive analysis of what it means to live in the post-Christian present—a pluralist world of competing beliefs and growing unbelief. Jamie Smith’s book is a compact field guide to Taylor’s insightful study of the secular, making that very significant but daunting work accessible to a wide array of readers.

Even more, though, Smith’s How (Not) to Be Secular is a practical philosophical guidebook, a kind of how-to manual on how to live in our secular age. It ultimately offers us an adventure in self-understanding and maps out a way to get our bearings in today’s secular culture, no matter who “we” are—whether believers or skeptics, devout or doubting, self-assured or puzzled and confused. This is a book for any thinking person to chew on.


©2018 Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. (P) 2018 Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Author: James K. A. Smith | Narrator: Trevor Thompson | Length: 5 hrs, 43 mins | Unabridged | English | $19.95 / 1 Audible Credit

Praise for How (Not) to Be Secular

Tim Keller
— Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New York City
“Charles Taylor’s crucial book on our secular age is inaccessible for most people, including the church leaders who desperately need to learn from its insight. Jamie Smith’s book is the solution to this problem. As a gateway into Taylor’s thought, this volume (if read widely) could have a major impact on the level of theological leadership that our contemporary church is getting. It could also have a great effect on the quality of our communication and preaching. I highly recommend this book.”

T. M. Luhrmann
— Stanford University
“This is a brilliant, beautifully written book on the dilemma of faith in a modern secular age. It introduces the reader to the material in Taylor’s dense book, of course, but it does more. It invites the reader on a journey through the experience of the spirit in different centuries, and how our conceptions of mind and person shape belief in ways far more intimate than we usually imagine. How (Not) to Be Secular is a gem.”

Christian Century
“The importance of A Secular Age is matched by its inaccessibility. It is a great woolly mammoth of a book. . . . Smith’s book does great work in opening Taylor’s tome to a wider readership. His commentary is clear, accurate, and insightful. It is also concise, leading readers deep into Taylor’s ideas in well under 200 pages. Smith’s sure grasp of Taylor’s big picture makes the details of the argument pop with fresh intelligibility.”

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