The confusions of the term ‘secular’ are threatening to hand victory in the putative battle against modernity to reactionary conservatives. The term, originally, as pointed out many times here, does not refer to a philosophy in any specific way. And yet we see secular humanists, and now more aggressively the New Atheists, trying to equate the ‘secular’ with atheism, scientism, darwinism, and now the most reductionist form of neuroscience.
But if we examine the real history of the early modern we can see that secular humanism is a poor rendering of the complexity of the early modern. The modern transition seems to be a very balanced outcome, in which the place of religion has shifted, without being displaced. This might help explain why new atheists can’t seem to make headway with religious questions.
The ‘secular’ in the original sense means the change of age period, or saeculum, and the period from the sixteenth century onward most definitely stages such a new age period. We have to be very careful in the way we interpret this. It is a very complex and balanced phenomenon, which includes religion, science, philosophy, politics, and art. But a particular type of interpretation, which arose about the time of marxism, but now inherited by most scientists and atheist humanists, has attempted to usurp the whole game for a narrow kind of scientism.
Ironically, the claim on the Enlightenment is especially confused: the peak of the Enlightenment was already clearly producing a critique of science, as with Kant, at one and the same time as they were trying to produce a culture of critical science.
I think that the contracted scientism now gaining a foothold (for the umpteenth time) is actually underming ‘modernity’ by making it something that it isn’t.