Chomsky and Religion

  • Ronald E. Osborn
Part of the Critical Explorations in Contemporary Political Thought book series (CEPT)


In his 2007 book, A Secular Age, Charles Taylor describes the philosophical and moral terrain of the modern world as a collision among three broad camps: (1) secular or ‘exclusive humanists’, (2) postmodern or ‘neo-Nietzschean’ anti-humanists, and (3) ‘acknowledgers of transcendence’ (pp. 636–637). One intriguing feature of this struggle, Taylor writes, is the fact that any two parties will always ‘gang up against the third on some important issue’ (p. 636). Exclusive humanists—continuing the Enlightenment project of advancing a politics and ethics within an entirely disenchanted or immanent frame—stand united with neo-Nietzscheans in their opposition to religious ways of thinking and in their goal of liberating society ‘from the illusion of a good beyond life’, relegating ideas of transcendence ‘to the status of past illusion’ (p. 637). Yet it turns out that the ‘camp of unbelief is deeply divided—about the nature of humanism, and more radically, about its value’ (p. 636). Anti-humanists (who Taylor believes have exercised a more powerful influence on history and culture over the past century than many individuals realize) have levelled an ‘immanent counter-Enlightenment’ critique of liberal conceptions of human nature and rights, which they describe as oppressive forms of essentialism and masks for sheer power objectives.


Human Nature Historical Context Human Dignity Irrational Belief Religious Faith 


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© Ronald E. Osborn 2015

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  • Ronald E. Osborn

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