The Post-Secular as the Post-1968 Generation
Any time I hear someone say that so and so is the smartest person in the world I do not know what to make of it. I once had a teacher at Reed tell me that John Rawls, Jurgen Habermas, Jacques Derrida, and Alisdair MacIntyre were the smartest people on the intellectual scene and that since all the above besides Habermas and MacIntyre were dead, Habermas constituted the top notch mind in the Western intellectual world. I do not know what his rationality actually was but at any rate such names are typically associated with leaders in their field.
If we add Charles Taylor to the group, and the recently deceased Richard Rorty, we come to the interesting fact that all of these thinkers became or have become obessed with questions of religion in their later years.
It reminds me of the numerous accounts of slave-owners who in their wills sanctioned that all of their slaves should be set free. Could it be that death is the essential feature of the post-secular (or is the redundant?).
Taylor of course, has always been a Catholic but somewhat came out of the closet swinging with his overly large book "A Secular Age". Derrida's later work was consumed with questions of religion, MacIntyre more than ever is invoking his Catholicism, Rawls spent considerable time at the end of his life addressing issues of religion and the public square, Richard Rorty attempted to establish some new psuedo-religious-Romanticism and of course everyone now speaks (whether correctly or not) of Habermas's turn to the question of religion.
Could it be that the so called post-secular age is in part nothing more than an generational crisis in which significant intellectuals are confronted more than ever with their finiteness? Also, all of these intellectuals were discussing religion quite fervently before 9/11.
What we are experiencing is the passing away of a generation and the emergence of a new establishment that is a bit more inclusive of the religious. What is then to be made of the new atheism? Well everyone outside of Sam Harris is older than fifty
(I am thinking about initating research on an emerging field that I like to describe as the cognitive science of cogntive scientist - I bet you I can make the same conclusions about them as they do about the origins of religion). Of course things are a bit more varigated than this but I do think that the so called post-secular is inseperable from a certain post-1968 sensibility.