According to the theories of secularisation, modernity is inexorably accompanied by a decline of all that is sacred, a decline that is inversely proportional to increased progress, to the spreading of education and to processes involving urbanisation and industrialisation. To the extent that it indicates a loss of the churches’ influence over individuals, secularisation can be identified with the concept of de-Christianisation; one part of theology however has on the contrary interpreted this as a rendering true Christianity, as the valorisation of humankind that has last “grown up” (Bonhoeffer) called upon once again to its responsibility as a believer.
It was above all F. Gogarten who developed the persuasion that secularisation was the mature and coherent result of Biblical and Christian faith, overturning the dominant trend in Christian churches that sees in it the root of the evils afflicting the church and the contemporary world. The theses on the inevitability of secularisation have however been questioned in recent years by a number of scholars, according to whom not only the United States or non-western countries but even Europe is characterised by a phenomenon involving a return to religion, with a considerable rise in the number of believers.
On this subject the German sociologist Klaus Eder coined the terminology “post-secular society”, with which he exposed the paradox of the rise of religious communication in the society of communication, resulting in its greater visibility in public areas. This visibility increases with changes in religious institutions, with increased media mobilisation and identity movements. According to Eder, the idea of a secular Europe is therefore entirely up for discussion, religiosity acquires a stronger presence, recognisable and pervasive although accompanied by less organised phenomena and with fewer bonds of belonging.
The word “post-secular” was repeated by the philosopher Jurgen Habermas and by Pope Benedict XVI, according to whom it indicates a dimension of social and cultural life in which an effort is made to reciprocally translate and understand secular language as a religious one, on one hand, and on the other attempting to understand what others say in their own languages even when unable to translate it as they should; it means starting with rescinding the bond that links modernisation and disenchantment, it means closing with the postulate that makes progress indisputably coincide with secularisation.
As Francesco Saverio Trincia wrote, “post-secular” is a philosophy that “proves itself capable of reactivating the path moving in the opposite direction from mundane knowledge and from the saeculum in general, to once again come into contact with the “other” universe of religious faith. This path is “inverted” compared to the “descending” process in which secularisation consists, during which, using Habermas words “forms of religious thoughts and life are replaced by rational equivalents that are however superior”“.
From: Jurgen Habermas – Benedict XVI (Joseph Ratzinger), Reason and faith in dialogue, by G. Bosetti, Marsilio, 2005.