Just as modernity altered the way individuals understood their relationship to society at large, so did it fundamentally change the way individuals understood themselves. It used to be that a person’s identity was defined by the society to which he or she belonged. But as society was increasingly deemed to be nothing more than the product of human imagination, so too were social identities cast aside as mere human constructions. After all, if there are numerous alternatives to the present social order, there must also be numerous alternatives to the identities that society ascribes to us. Thus, with the rise of modernity, new collective identities began to arise, constructed not through societal mandates but through conscious self-reflection—not “Who do you say I am?” but “Who do I say I am?” In short, the modern age has ushered a transition from a world in which identities were bestowed to a world in which identities can be gained or lost through deliberate action—from a world of ascribed identities to a world of self-identification.”
[Page 132-133 Chapter Six- Generation E]
Source: Reza Aslan. How to win a Cosmic War: God, Globalization and the end of the War on Terror. Random House, New York, 2009.