Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 June 2015
‘Secularization’ is a Latinism used in European languages referring to the helplessness of the individual whose world-regulating God has died on him. All that is left to him is to cope, at his own risk and taking full responsibility, with the finite and fragile nature of his individual and social existence in this time and in this world.
The word claims to describe a historical state of global dimensions. It is difficult to conceive of the existence of God as a regional or local phenomenon and just as difficult to imagine that His absence applies only as far as the Bosphorus. Yet, however much the notion of secularization may make sense in Europe, it fails to do so in the USA of the ‘moral majority’, the revivalist gatherings of the Pentecostal movement in Latin America or in large parts of the Islamic world. With his finger on this contemporary pulse and one eye on the newspaper headlines, Jürgen Habermas, in conversation with Cardinal Ratzinger, believes we have already entered a ‘post-secular age’. While in this reading we have now wound up with the opposite of secularization, we are not out of the woods yet. Our horizon is still dominated by monotheism, and that means we have remained within a geographically and culturally delimited part of the world, for the notion of secularization or that of the post-secular age makes sense solely within this horizon.