Secularism

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Secularism or secularity are also used in the meaning of Laïcité, a concept related to the separation of state and religion.

Secularity is the state of being without religious or spiritual qualities. For instance, eating a meal, playing a game, or bathing are examples of secular activities, because there is nothing inherently religious about them. Saying a prayer or visiting a place of worship are examples of non-secular activities.

An approximate synonym for secular is worldly in the sense "this worldly", although from a Christian point of view, "secular" may be used as contrast to "spiritual". The root word of secular is saeculum, which in fact refers to the passage of time rather than a physical place or thing. Thus that which is secular can be more accurately thought of as taking place within time, rather than in relation to eternity

Secularism has two distinct meanings.

  1. It asserts the freedom of religion, and freedom from religion, within a state that is neutral on matters of belief, and gives no state privileges or subsidies to religions.
  2. It refers to a belief that human activities and decisions should be based on evidence and fact, and not superstitious beliefs, however devoutly held, and that policy should be free from religious domination. For example, a society deciding whether to promote condom use might consider the issues of disease prevention, family planning, and women's rights. A secularist would argue that such issues are relevant to public policy-making, whereas Biblical interpretation or church doctrine should not be considered and are irrelevant.

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[edit] Secular movements

Its proponents argue secularism is the concept that societies should be governed by a process of reasoning rather than dogmatic belief. Its opponents argue that secularism is a concept which, instead of presenting freedom of religion, actually holds all religions in contempt.

[edit] State secularism

In political terms, secularism is a movement towards the separation of church and state. This is the idea that religion should not interfere with or be integrated into the public affairs of a society. This can refer to reducing ties between a government and a state religion, replacing laws based on scripture (such as the Ten Commandments, Manu Smriti and Sharia law) with civil laws, and eliminating discrimination on the basis of religion.

Secularism is often associated with the Age of Enlightenment in Europe, and plays a major role in Western society. The principles, but not necessarily practices, of Separation of church and state in the United States and Laïcité in France draw heavily on secularism. As in the West, the idea of separation of the Church from the state has also existed in India since ancient times. Hindu traditions lend strong support to the idea that the functions of the priest and king are to be separated. And modern Indian society is built on these values.

It is claimed to be an essential component of a secular-humanist political ideology, the justification being that it adds to democracy by protecting the rights of atheist and religious minorities.

[edit] Government secularism

In this sense, secularists would prefer that politicians make decisions based on secular reasons, rather than religious ones. Decisions about many contemporary issues, such as stem cell research and sex education, are often made on the basis of religious belief.

[edit] Societal secularism

Secularism can also be the social ideology in which religion and supernatural beliefs are not seen as the key to understanding the world and are instead segregated from matters of governance and reasoning. In this sense, secularism can be involved in the promotion of science, reason, and naturalistic thinking.

Secularism can also mean the practice of working to promote any of those three forms of secularism. It should not be assumed that an advocate of secularism in one sense will also be a secularist in any other sense. Secularism does not necessarily equate to atheism; indeed, many secularists have counted themselves among the religious.

Some societies become increasingly secular as the result of social processes, rather than through the actions of a dedicated secular movement; see secularization.

[edit] Secular ethics

Main article: Secular ethics

Holyoake's 1896 publication English Secularism defines secularism as follows:

Secularism is a code of duty pertaining to this life, founded on considerations purely human, and intended mainly for those who find theology indefinite or inadequate, unreliable or unbelievable. Its essential principles are three: (1) The improvement of this life by material means. (2) That science is the available Providence of man. (3) That it is good to do good. Whether there be other good or not, the good of the present life is good, and it is good to seek that good.

Holyoake held that secularism and secular ethics should take no interest at all in religious questions (as they were irrelevant), and was thus to be distinguished from strong freethought and atheism. In this he disagreed with Charles Bradlaugh, and the disagreement split the secularist movement between those who argued that anti-religious movements and activism was not necessary or desirable and those who argued that it was.

[edit] Secular society

In studies of religion, modern Western societies are generally recognized as secular. Generally, there is near-complete freedom of religion (one may believe in any religion or none at all, with little legal or social sanction). In the West, it is believed religion does not dictate political decisions, though the moral views originating in religious traditions remain important in political debate in some countries, such as Canada, France, United States and others (see Laïcité). Religious references are considered out-of-place in mainstream politics. Religious influence is also largely minimised in the public sphere, and religion no longer holds the same importance in people's lives as it used to.

Modern sociology, born of a crisis of legitimation resulting from challenges to traditional Western religious authority, has since Durkheim often been preoccupied with the problem of authority in secularized societies and with secularization as a sociological or historical process. Twentieth-century scholars whose work has contributed to the understanding of these matters are Max Weber, Carl L. Becker, Karl Löwith, Hans Blumenberg, M.H. Abrams, Peter L. Berger, and Paul Bénichou, among others.

[edit] Secular state

Main article: Secular state

Most major religions accept the primacy of the rules of secular, democratic society. The majority of Christians are proponents of a secular state, and may acknowledge that the idea has support in biblical teachings, specifically in the book of Luke, chapter 20, verse 25. In this verse, in response to a question about taxes, Jesus said, "Then give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's." However, fundamentalism opposes secularism. The most significant forces of religious fundamentalism in the contemporary world are fundamentalist Christians and fundamentalist Islam.

Some of the well-known constitutionally secular states are Canada, India, France, US, Turkey and South Korea.

[edit] Criticism of secularism

Proponents of secularism have long held a general rise of secularism in all the senses enumerated above, and corresponding general decline of religion in so called 'secularized' countries, to be the inevitable result of the Enlightenment, as people turn towards science and rationalism and away from religion and superstition.

Opponents think that this view is arrogant, that secular government creates more problems than it solves, and that a government without a secular ethos is better. Christian opponents contend that a Christian state can give more freedom of religion than a secular one. For evidence, they point to Norway, Iceland, Finland and Denmark, all have a constitutional link between church and state and are far more progressive and liberal societies than some countries without such a link. For example, Iceland was among the first countries to legalise abortion, and the Finnish government provides funding for the construction of Mosques. However, proponents of secularism note that Scandinavian countries are de facto among the most secular countries in the world, having low percentages of individuals who hold religious beliefs. <ref> Journal of Religion and Society, Volume 7 2005, Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies, A First Look, Gregory S. Paul Baltimore, Maryland. </ref> Recently this argument has been debated publicly in Norway where movements sought to disestablish the state's Lutheran church. <ref> The Royal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Oslo; Norway Daily No. 238/02; 16 December 2002. </ref>

Some modern commentators criticized secularism by conflating it with anti-religious, atheistic, or even satanic belief systems.

[edit] Secularist organizations

Groups such as the National Secular Society (United Kingdom) and Americans United campaign for secularism and are often supported by those who practice secular humanism. However, there is also support from non-humanists. In 2005, the National Secular Society held the inaugural "Secularist of the Year" awards ceremony. Its first winner was Maryam Namazie, of the Worker-Communist Party of Iran.

Another secularist organization is the Secular Coalition for America. While it is linked to many secular humanistic organizations and many secular humanists support it, as with the Secular Society, some non-humanists support it.

Local organizations such as Freethought Association of West Michigan work to raise the profile of secularism in their communities and tend to include secularists, freethinkers, atheists, agnostics, and humanists under their organizational umbrella.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

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[edit] Bibliography

[edit] The secular ethic

  • Jacoby, Susan (2004). Freethinkers: a history of American secularism. New York: Metropolitan Books. ISBN 0-8050-7442-2
  • Boyer, Pascal (2002). "Religion Explained: The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Thought" ISBN 0-465-00696-5
  • Nash, David (1992). Secularism, Art and Freedom. London: Continuum International. ISBN 0-7185-1417-3 (paperback published by Continuum, 1994: ISBN 0-7185-2084-X)
  • Royle, Edward (1974). Victorian Infidels: the origins of the British Secularist Movement, 1791-1866. Manchester: Manchester University Press. ISBN 0-7190-0557-4 Online version
  • Royle, Edward (1980). Radicals, Secularists and Republicans: popular freethought in Britain, 1866-1915. Manchester: Manchester University Press. ISBN 0-7190-0783-6

[edit] The secular society

See also the references list in the article on secularization

  • Chadwick, Owen (1975). The Secularization of the European mind in the nineteenth century. Cambridge University Press.
  • Cox, Harvey (1996). The Secular City. NY: Macmillan.
  • Martin, David (1978). A General Theory of Secularization. Oxford: Blackwell. ISBN 0-631-18960-2
  • Martin, David (2005). On Secularization: towards a revised general theory. Aldershot: Ashgate. ISBN 0-7546-5322-6
  • McLeod, Hugh (2000). Secularisation in Western Europe, 1848-1914. Basingstoke: Macmillan. ISBN 0-333-59748-6
  • Wilson, Bryan (1969). Religion in Secular Society. London: Penguin.

[edit] The secular state

  • Juergensmeyer, Mark (1994). The New cold war?: religious nationalism confronts the secular state. University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-08651-1

[edit] External links

da:Sekularisme de:Säkularismus fa:سکولاریسم fr:laïcité id:Sekularisme he:חילוניים hu:Szekularizáció nl:secularisme no:Sekularisme nn:Sekularisme pl:sekularyzm fi:Sekularismi tr:Sekülerizm zh:現世主義

Secularism

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