A lifetime of deep immersion in political philosophy, theory, and science has informed this comprehensive tour of Western cultural and its slow move towards secularization. Charles Taylor contrasts an immanent worldview with a transcendent one, and develops this alongside his idea of fullness, an activity or condition of personal richness where each person finds himself complete. He discusses what 'secular' means to individuals caught in the system of a secular society, and how to survive in that society.
Part 1 of A Secular Age delves into religious belief, the disciplines inherent in those beliefs, and the resultant idealism they engender. Part 2 defines the turning point, encompassing providential deism and changes in the impersonal order (a propensity towards anthropocentricism and a change in the understanding of God). Part 3 illuminates the crisis in civilization attendant to these changes, including radical redefinitions of the goals of society, counter-cultural artforms, and the development of new unbelieving variants of the vertical ideal of order such as fascism and radical nationalism.
Part 4 traces the secularizing force from a 16th century religious belief interwoven with social life, through the 19th century mechanistic materialism that questioned all religious systems, to the 21st century's near-total erosion of the enchanted cosmos system from five centuries previous. Without society's superstructure, strength and stability, Taylor argues, secularization has the effect of reducing its once-characteristic religious influence to simply one of many optional accessories. Part 5 gives an imperative for both humanistic and faith-based belief (while clarifying the obstructive nature of modern Western culture) by finding sources of morality to facilitate possession of particulars common to both perspectives. He strongly stresses the need to make every attempt to avoid the almost inevitable inclination to violence.
Taylor concludes A Secular Age by addressing the rise in modern culture of a predominant concept of a closed immanent order and what he feels is the culmination of the matter, the impetus to complete the reforming of culture. Although steeped in the longstanding traditions of political philosophy, Taylor is not bound by them, coming to some conclusions contrary to mainstream secularization theorists, but reinforcing them with deductions that could only have come from one of the finest critical minds of our times.