Religion in the New Europe

Religion in the New Europe

Religion in the New Europe

Religion in the New Europe

Synopsis

Articles deal with the role of Christianity in the definition of European identity.

Excerpt

Charles Taylor

This is a tremendously broad topic. I propose to approach it from a certain angle, the role of religion in the various political identities that are now jostling with one another in Europe. But first I have to explain what I mean by this term “political identity,” which is a term of art I want to introduce, and which is, alas, hardly transparent in meaning.

Political identity is, of course, related to other uses of identity today, as when one talks of “identity crisis,” or “identity politics,” or of people respecting or failing to respect my/our identity. But it occupies a peculiar place in this constellation of expressions. We define the identities of individuals, and often of groups, in terms of the crucial reference points by which these individuals or collectivities orient themselves in life. in this we are following the influential use of the term in the developmental psychology of Erik Erikson. I might say of myself that I am a Catholic, social democrat in outlook, a Canadian/Québécois, thus conveying to you the value frameworks in which I sense myself to be firmly situated as I face the choices in life. These frameworks, I feel, are so fundamental that they define “who I am”—hence the use of the term “identity” here. There is a whole story, very interesting and still not fully understood, of how the term “identity” came to be used, in the last half century, for this kind of fundamental orientation. This is not just a meaningless semantic shift—like the way Americans at a certain point stopped saying “envisage” and started saying “envision,” presumably because it sounded more pompously serious. It is also fraught . . .

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