Charles Taylor, in A Secular Age, provides three possible meanings for secularity: (1.) a divorce between religion and politics, as public spaces have mostly been emptied of God. (2.) religious belief and practice are no longer the norm. (3.) belief in God is one option among many, and may not be the easiest option. While his is the most authoritative work on the secular, and at some level is an irrefutable recounting of the emergence of the peculiarities of modernity, nonetheless each of these meanings have been challenged. As Jon Butler bluntly states it, “All three of Taylor’s “secularities” are problematic and probably wrong.”
In regard to thesis (1.), Butler argues that in most of the world, including the United States, many if not all parts of Europe, most of the Middle East, Africa, South Asia and Latin America, it is hard to discern the divorce between religion and politics. In regard to thesis (2.) he argues, it is not at all clear that decline in belief typifies the United States, Latin America, the Middle East, or South Asia. Butler acknowledges there have been shifts with such things as the rise of conservative Protestantism, Pentecostalism (in Latin America) and decline in mainline denominations and “irritation” of traditional Catholicism.
Butler’s main argument is in regard to thesis (3.). He argues that Taylor has not made it clear for whom “conditions of belief” have changed, not accounting for the experience of ordinary people. In Butler’s critique, Taylor tends to slide unnoticeably between the realm of ideas (the realm of intellectuals) and experience (a shared imagination), blurring the difference. He suggests a category between or beyond belief and unbelief, namely “religious indifference.” At a time when public disbelief might result in punishment or death, of course, most everyone is going to profess belief, but this may hide indifference. “After the formal Christianization of the Roman Empire and well into the early modern period, unbelief and behaviors seemingly supportive of unbelief became criminal. Paganism and heresy; not just atheism, brought gruesome punishment and death. Long before Luther or Calvin, Church and government tortured, burned, and executed critics and reformers.” The Church and its political backers had to resort to force and authority to sustain Christian belief long before the 1500’s, as belief did not seem to be nearly as irresistible as Taylor imagines. Apparently, it was not “virtually impossible not to believe.”
A wide variety of literature demonstrates, in Butler’s account, that “the Church needed the support of secular authorities to sustain even a tentative, if also powerful, hold on the religious commitment of ordinary people before 1500. Rather than belief being axiomatic, as Taylor argues, it was contingent and threatened from inside as well as outside.” Belief, however, was not primarily challenged by unbelief, according to Butler, as unbelief speaks of actually caring about religion. Isn’t it as Max Weber argued, that just as some are not musically inclined most may not be religiously inclined, one way or another? “In highly different ways, Taylor misses something important about ordinary religious practice—that indifference, born of many different causes, may be more important to difficulties faced by religion in many ages, including the ages Taylor insists were axiomatic for religion in the West, than unbelief and the formal expressions of irreligion that attract great thinkers.”
Taylor’s project may accurately trace the history of ideas and the thoughts of intellectuals and those working within a philosophical tradition, but this does not necessarily capture the experience of the majority.
Of course, belief; unbelief; and skepticism have been the stuff of philosophical argument for centuries. But at best, indifference receives little attention and even less analysis. It shows up mainly in accounts of ordinary beliefs, attitudes, and behavior and usually in brief discussions of lay absence from religious observance, whether formal, as in church or synagogue or mosque services, or informal, as in discussion of popular leisure or otherwise ‘secular’ culture. Typically, absence, and certainly indifference, are noted, often with some alarm, but little dissected.
Part of what is at stake in the reading of secularity, is what to make of the supposed post-secular. If the secular was equated with a detached rationalism, mind/body dualism, individualism, the privatization of religion (connected to individualism), and these modern categories are now collapsing in the post-modern age, does this mean there is an opening for religion and God? Or in fact, is the indication (with Butler and others) that there was always something else, perhaps something deeper at work, which secularism and its critique only touch upon? If this is the case, then the emergence of the religious in this post-secular age, raises questions about what this might mean.
In a Pauline critique of the human predicament, the shared human problem is not irreligion, levels of religious belief, or the possibility of believing otherwise (Taylor’s secularization thesis). In spite of the Protestant notion that belief or unbelief is fundamental, which in turn has given rise to conceptions of the secular (with its notions of various dualisms and private religion), Paul does not locate the fundamental human problem with religion/irreligion or belief and unbelief. For Paul the fundamental human problem is bondage to deception due to the orientation to the law. Whether the law is from God, from nature, or from the angels, is not Paul’s concern, but the problem is this symbolic order, taken as primary, creates a gap, alienating humans from God and enslaving them to a lie. The law is not itself the problem, but the primacy given to the law. This law, or symbolic order, might be connected to the Jewish law, though Paul is specifically arguing this is not simply a Jewish problem but the human problem. In turn, the divisions and dualisms that mark every human (Jew/Gentile, slave/free, male/female) due to their entanglement with various symbolic orders, are addressed by Jesus Christ.
Slavoj Žižek and Jacques Lacan are among those who recognize that Paul is engaging a universal and fundamental predicament, in which the human Subject is structured by this orientation. Lacanian theory is committed to the “reality” of Paul’s description of the problem, eschewing Paul’s picture of the solution in Jesus Christ. The result of this orientation, in Paul’s description, is not unlike the isolated individualism, the evacuation of the reality of God, and the creation of a polity (the city of man, this dark world, the principalities and powers) described in Taylor’s version of the secular. None of which is to deny the value of Taylor’s project, and is even an affirmation of several of the fundamental trues he has hit upon. It is simply to qualify and set this understanding in a larger frame, along with Butler, to suggest that the impetus behind the modern shares a genealogy that is universal.
The danger is that to isolate the secular as a peculiar epoch in human history, is to pit the secular against the religious in a dialectic that is not only factually wrong, but misses the manner in which the symbolic, be it sacred or secular, displaces the divine reality. That is, the conception of secularism may be the peculiar thing about the secular, and not the underlying reality called secularism. This concept is lent a force that characterizes the human tendency to assign primacy to the law or the symbolic. The danger is in reifying the secular as if it has the power claimed on its behalf, as if it is the law ordering human reality.
This shows itself in the slowly evolving undermining of Paul’s radical gospel. Where Paul pictured the Christian believer as entering a new society in the church, where the old reigning socio-cultural order does not pertain, the rise of the “secular” is simultaneous with a caving in to the primacy of this order. For the first Christians, Christ was Lord, and it was understood that professing and acting on this faith may mean death at the hands of the state. Then in a Constantinian Christianity there was a divide, with “the religious” referring to monks, friars and nuns, devoted full time to the religious life, as opposed to the “secular clergy,” who would have to occupy two distinct realms. 
Skipping forward 1000 years, Henry VIII becomes head of the state church “with the power of the national state embodied in the king (the state-church). It was to the King’s ‘laws and decrees’ that the subjects made absolute submission, not to the Bishop of Rome.” This in turn led to a direct contradiction of Paul’s picture of freedom from the law. Obedience to the king was equated with obedience to God, and was thus an acting out of holiness. No longer is there a departure from the reigning social order but subsumption of the church into this order. “Obedience of a servant to a master, of a wife to a husband, of a pupil to a teacher, of a subject to a prince, of lower degree to higher degree, was analogous to the obedience of a Christian to God. The whole deferential social order was wrapped in divinity and teleologically determined by God’s scheme of redemption.” This church/state order is, after all, “ordained by God” (in this understanding).
The American experiment attempted to separate what Henry and history had welded together, but this separation was based on the dualism between body and soul, the same dualism which had coopted Paul’s gospel. William Penn formulated the difference in his separation of church and state:
Religion and Policy, or Christianity and Magistracy, are two distinct things, have two different ends, and may be fully prosecuted without respect one to the other; the one is for purifying, and cleaning the soul, and fitting it for a future state; the other is for Maintenance and Preserving of Civil Society, in order to the outward conveniency and accommodation of men in this World. A Magistrate is a true and real Magistrate, though not a Christian; as well as a man is a true and real Christian, without being a Magistrate.
Serving God is an inward affair, and obeying the magistrate or being a magistrate in no way impinges on this inward reality. According to John Locke, “The care of Souls cannot belong to the Civil Magistrate because his power consists only in outward force: But true and saving Religion consists in the inward persuasion of the Mind, without which nothing can be acceptable to God.”
Thus in the American experiment the state controlled the body, and religion was concerned with the inward self, and the two realms do not overlap. What this meant in practice is that the church was consigned to a “spiritual realm” which was thought not to pertain to the political. “People make an ‘inward judgement’ about truth and salvation, and on such matters one cannot be compelled to believe by outward force. There is this assumption of the inner mind as distinct from the outer body, religion being aligned with the inner working of the mind, and civil society with the outer, with the body. The magistrate has nothing to do with religion in this sense, because it is harmless to the state.” It works in a way similar to State Shinto in Japan, in which one Christian described being forcibly convinced that Shintoism and honoring the Emperor were non-religious, and then he says, we were all forced to bow to the Emperor as part of Christian worship. So too in a Christianity which concedes the realm of the body to the state, obeying the laws of the state is at once non-religious and bodily, and a means of coercing obedience to “God’s ordained order.”
Though the Americans attempted to throw off the domination of the state over religion, they did so in part, by conceding to the state the bodily, outward, and coercive (violent) realms. Certainly, there was a focus on the centrality of the individual, her rights, and access to the natural law of rationality, and this along with the role of religion is a continuing tension. This might be a peculiarity of the secular, but it is a peculiarity based upon the lie of absolute individualism (an isolated, self-determined autonomy), accompanied by notions that inward and outward, body and soul, mind and body, church and state, inhabit separate realms. It is the lie the gospel would expose, but more than that it is the unreality from which it delivers.
 My summary of the list from Jon Butler, “Disquieted History in A Secular Age” in Varieties of Secularism in a Secular Age, Michael Warner, Jonathan VanAntwerpen, Craig Calhoun, eds. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2010) 195.
 Butler, 195.
 Butler, 200.
 Butler, 204.
 Butler, 209.
 Butler, 209.
 Timothy Fitzgerald, “Encompassing Religion, privatized religions and the invention of modern politics” in Religion and the Secular: Historical and Colonial Formation, Timothy Fitzgerald ed. (London: Equinox Publishing, 2007) 220.
 Fitzgerald, 224.
 Penn, William. 1680. The Great Question to be Considered by the King, and this approaching Parliament, briefly proposed. and modestly discussed: (to wit) How far Religion is concerned in Policy or Civil Government, and Policy in Religion? With an Essay rightly to distinguish these great interests, upon the Disquisition of which a sufficient Basis is proposed for the firm Settlement of these Nations, to the Most probable satisfaction of the Several Interests and Parties therein. (By one who desires to give unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s. and to God the things that are God’s.] (microfiche). Edinburgh: National Library of Scotland. Quoted in Fitzgerald, 211.
 John Locke, 1689. A Letter Concerning Toleration, (2nd edn. London) 11. Quoted in Fitzgerald, 214.
 Fitzgerald, 214.