Home > Uncategorized > A Secular Age: The Calvin Seminar: The Age of Authenticity (ch. 13)

A Secular Age: The Calvin Seminar: The Age of Authenticity (ch. 13)

“The [Social Imaginary] of [the Age of Authenticity] is crystallized in terms of authenticity, the understanding that “each one of us has his/her own way of realizing our humanity, and that it is important to find and live out one’s own, as against surrendering conformity with a model imposed on us from outside” (475). So the primary—yea, only—value in such a world is choice: “bare choice as a prime value, irrespective of what is a choice between, or in what domain” (478). And tolerance is the last remaining virtue (484).”…

Indeed, this construction of a consumer identity—which has to feel like its chosen (483—the illusion of nonconformity, the suburban skater kid whose mom bought him the $150 board blazoned with “anarchy” symbols)—trumps other identities, especially collective identities like citizenship or religious affiliation…

Here is where Taylor locates the most significant shift in the post-60s West: while ideals of tolerance have always been present in the modern social imaginary, in earlier forms (Locke, the early American Republic, etc.) this value was contained and surrounded by other values which were a scaffolding of formation (e.g., the citizen ethic, 484). What erodes in the last half century is precisely these limits on individual fulfillment (485)…

now in the post-Durkheimian context with its expressivist outlook we have a qualitative shift: “The religious life or practice that I become part of must not only be my choice, but it must speak to me, it must make sense in terms of my spiritual development as I understand this” (486). The expressivist forges her own religion (“spirituality”), her own, personal Jesus. But what’s most significant is that the sacred is uncoupled from political allegiance (487). This begins to loosen up things more generally, in accord with expressivist individualism, such that it becomes less and less “rational” to accept any external contraints. So whereas Methodists and Pietists unleashed an emphasis on emotional encounters with God but kept this tethered to orthodoxy, it was only a matter of time “before the emphasis will shift more and more towards the strength and the genuineness of the feelings, rather than the nature of their object” (488). And so a new spiritual injunction arises: “let everyone follow his/her own path of spiritual inspiration. Don’t’ be led off yours by the allegation that it doesn’t fit with some orthodoxy” (489).

What draws people away from traditional, institutional religion is largely just the success of consumer culture—the “stronger form of magic” found in the ever-new glow of consumer products (490).

via A Secular Age: The Calvin Seminar: The Age of Authenticity (ch. 13).

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