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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

George Jacob Holyoake (1817-1906), British writer who coined the term "secularism."

Secularism is the concept that government or other entities should exist separately from religion and/or religious beliefs.

In one sense, secularism may assert the right to be free from religious rule and teachings, and freedom from the government imposition of religion upon the people, within a state that is neutral on matters of belief. (See also Separation of church and state and Laïcité.) In another sense, it refers to the view that human activities and decisions, especially political ones, should be based on evidence and fact unbiased by religious influence.[1] (See also public reason.)

Secularism draws its intellectual roots from Greek and Roman philosophers such as Marcus Aurelius and Epicurus, medieval Muslim polymaths such as Ibn Rushd, Enlightenment thinkers like Denis Diderot, Voltaire, John Locke, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and Thomas Paine, and modern freethinkers, agnostics and atheists such as Bertrand Russell and Robert Ingersoll.

The purposes and arguments in support of secularism vary widely. In European laicism, it has been argued that secularism is a movement toward modernization, and away from traditional religious values (also known as "secularisation"). This type of secularism, on a social or philosophical level, has often occurred while maintaining an official state church or other state support of religion. In the United States, some argue that state secularism has served to a greater extent to protect religion from governmental interference, while secularism on a social level is less prevalent.[2][3] Within countries as well, differing political movements support secularism for varying reasons.[4]

Contents

Overview

The term "secularism" was first used by the British writer George Holyoake in 1851.[5] Although the term was new, the general notions of freethought on which it was based had existed throughout history. In particular, early secular ideas involving the separation of philosophy and religion can be traced back to Ibn Rushd (Averroes) and the Averroism school of philosophy.[6][7] Holyoake invented the term "secularism" to describe his views of promoting a social order separate from religion, without actively dismissing or criticizing religious belief. An agnostic himself, Holyoake argued that "Secularism is not an argument against Christianity, it is one independent of it. It does not question the pretensions of Christianity; it advances others. Secularism does not say there is no light or guidance elsewhere, but maintains that there is light and guidance in secular truth, whose conditions and sanctions exist independently, and act forever. Secular knowledge is manifestly that kind of knowledge which is founded in this life, which relates to the conduct of this life, conduces to the welfare of this life, and is capable of being tested by the experience of this life."[8]

Barry Kosmin of the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture breaks modern secularism into two types: hard and soft secularism. According to Kosmin, "the hard secularist considers religious propositions to be epistemologically illegitimate, warranted by neither reason nor experience." However, in the view of soft secularism, "the attainment of absolute truth was impossible and therefore skepticism and tolerance should be the principle and overriding values in the discussion of science and religion."[9]

State secularism

Motto of the French republic on the tympanum of a church.

In political terms, secularism is a movement towards the separation of religion and government (often termed the separation of church and state). This can refer to reducing ties between a government and a state religion, replacing laws based on scripture (such as the Torah and Sharia law) with civil laws, and eliminating discrimination on the basis of religion. This is said to add to democracy by protecting the rights of religious minorities.[10]

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. Secular states also existed in the Islamic world during the later Middle Ages.[11]

Due in part to the belief in the separation of church and state, secularists tend to prefer that politicians make decisions for secular rather than religious reasons.[12] In this respect, policy decisions pertaining to topics like abortion, contraception, embryonic stem cell research, same-sex marriage, and sex education are prominently focused upon by American secularist organizations such as the Center for Inquiry.[13][14]

Most major religions accept the primacy of the rules of secular, democratic society but may still seek to influence political decisions or achieve specific privileges or influence through church-state agreements such as a concordat.[citation needed] Many Christians support a secular state, and may acknowledge that the conception has support in Biblical teachings, particularly Jesus' statement, "Then give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's."[15] (See article). However, some Christian fundamentalists (notably in the United States) oppose secularism, often claiming that there is a "radical secularism" ideology being adopted in current days and see secularism as a threat to "Christian rights"[16] and national security.[17] The most significant forces of religious fundamentalism in the contemporary world are Fundamentalist Christianity and Fundamentalist Islam. At the same time, one significant stream of secularism has come from religious minorities who see governmental and political secularism as integral to preserving equal rights.[18]

Some of the well known states that are often considered "constitutionally secular" are France, India,[19], Mexico [20] South Korea, and Turkey although none of these nations have identical forms of governance.

Secular society

In studies of religion, modern Western societies are generally recognized as secular. This is due to the near-complete freedom of religion (beliefs on religion generally are not subject to legal or social sanctions), and the lack of authority of religious leaders over political decisions. Nevertheless, religious beliefs are widely considered a relevant part of the political discourse in many of these countries. This contrasts with other Western countries where religious references are generally considered out-of-place in mainstream politics.

Among the first to delineate the nature of a secular society, D. L. Munby characterizes a secular society as one which:

  1. Refuses to commit itself as a whole to any one view of the nature of the universe and the role of man in it.
  2. Is not homogenous, but is pluralistic.
  3. Is tolerant. It widens the sphere of private decision-making.
  4. While every society must have some common aims, which implies there must be agreed on methods of problem-solving, and a common framework of law; in a secular society these are as limited as possible.
  5. Problem solving is approached rationally, through examination of the facts. While the secular society does not set any overall aim, it helps its members realize their aims.
  6. Is a society without any official images. Nor is there a common ideal type of behavior with universal application.

Positive Ideals behind the secular society

  1. Deep respect for individuals and the small groups of which they are a part.
  2. Equality of all people.
  3. Each person should be helped to realize their particular excellence.
  4. Breaking down of the barriers of class and caste.[21]

Modern sociology, 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 include D. L. Munby, Max Weber, Carl L. Becker, Karl Löwith, Hans Blumenberg, M.H. Abrams, Peter L. Berger, and Paul Bénichou, among others.

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

Secular ethics

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

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.[22]

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.

Secularist organizations

Groups such as the National Secular Society (United Kingdom) and Americans United campaign for secularism are often supported by 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. Sean Faircloth, as Executive Director of Secular Coalition for America, lobbies and advocates for separation of church and state as well as the acceptance and inclusion of Secular Americans in American life and public policy. While Secular Coalition for America 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.

Student Organizations, such as the Toronto Secular Alliance, try to popularize nontheism and secularism on campus. The Secular Student Alliance is an educational nonprofit that organizes and aids such high school and college secular student groups.

In Turkey, the most prominent and active secularist organization is Atatürk Thought Association (ADD), which is credited for organizing the Republic Protests - demonstrations in the four largest cities in Turkey in 2007, where over 2 million people, mostly women, defended their concern in and support of secularist principles introduced by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

Leicester Secular Society founded in 1851 is the world's oldest secular society.

See also

Contrast:

References

Notes

  1. ^ Kosmin, Barry A. "Contemporary Secularity and Secularism." Secularism & Secularity: Contemporary International Perspectives. Ed. Barry A. Kosmin and Ariela Keysar. Hartford, CT: Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture (ISSSC), 2007.
  2. ^ Yavuz, Hakan M. and John L. Esposio (2003) ‘’Turkish Islam and the Secular State: The Gulen Movement’’. Syracuse University, pg. xv-xvii. ISBN 0815630409
  3. ^ Feldman, Noah (2005). Divided by God. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, pg. 147 ("But with the Second World War just ahead, secularism fo the antireligious type was soon to disappear from mainstream American society, to be replaced by a new complex of ideas that focused on secularizing the state, not on secularizing society.")
  4. ^ Feldman, Noah (2005). Divided by God. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, pg. 25 ("Together, early protosecularists (Jefferson and Madison) and proto-evangelicals (Backus, Leland, and others) made common cause in the fight for nonestablishment [of religion] – but for starkly different reasons.")
  5. ^ Holyoake, G.J. (1896). The Origin and Nature of Secularism, London: Watts and Co. p.51
  6. ^ Abdel Wahab El Messeri. Episode 21: Ibn Rushd, Everything you wanted to know about Islam but was afraid to Ask, Philosophia Islamica.
  7. ^ Fauzi M. Najjar (Spring, 1996). The debate on Islam and secularism in Egypt, Arab Studies Quarterly (ASQ).
  8. ^ Secularism, Catholic Encyclopedia. Newadvent.org
  9. ^ Kosmin, Barry A. "Hard and soft secularists and hard and soft secularism: An intellectual and research challenge."
  10. ^ Feldman, Noah (2005). Divided by God. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, pg. 14 ("[Legal secularists] claim that separating religion from the public, governmental sphere is necessary to ensure full inclusion of all citizens.")
  11. ^ Ira M. Lapidus (October 1975). "The Separation of State and Religion in the Development of Early Islamic Society", International Journal of Middle East Studies 6 (4), p. 363-385.
  12. ^ Feldman, Noah (2005). Divided by God. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, pg. 6-8
  13. ^ Washington Post, November 15, 2006 "Think Tank Will Promote Thinking"
  14. ^ "Declaration in Defense of Science and Secularism"
  15. ^ book of Luke, chapter 20, verse 25.
  16. ^ Bob Lewis (2007-05-19). "'Jerry's Kids' Urged to Challenge 'Radical Secularism'". The Christian Post. http://www.christianpost.com/article/20070519/27517_'Jerry's_Kids'_Urged_to_Challenge_'Radical_Secularism'.htm. 
  17. ^ Rev Jerry Falwell (2001-09-15). "Jerry Falwell - Quotations - Seventh quotation". http://www.positiveatheism.org/hist/quotes/foulwell.htm. 
  18. ^ Feldman, Noah (2005). Divided by God. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, pg. 13
  19. ^ "Preamble of the Constitution of India"
  20. ^ See article 3 of the 1917 Mexican constitution, and Article 24. See also Schmitt (1962) and Blancarte (2006).
  21. ^ The Idea of a Secular Society, D. L. Munby, London, Oxford University Press, 1963, pp. 14-32.
  22. ^ Holyoake, George J. (1896). English Secularism. Chicago: The Open Court Publishing Company.

Bibliography

The secular ethic
  • Boyer, Pascal (2002). Religion Explained: The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Thought. ISBN 0-465-00696-5
  • Holyoake, G.J. (1898). The Origin and Nature of Secularism. London: Watts & Co.
  • Jacoby, Susan (2004). Freethinkers: a history of American secularism. New York: Metropolitan Books. ISBN 0-8050-7442-2
  • 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
  • Taylor, Charles (2007). A Secular Age. Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-02676-6
The secular society

See also the references list in the article on secularization

  • Berger, Peter L. (1967) The Sacred Canopy: Elements of a Sociological Theory of Religion. Garden City, NY: Doubleday.
  • Chadwick, Owen (1975). The Secularization of the European mind in the nineteenth century. Cambridge University Press.
  • Cox, Harvey (1996). The Secular City: Secularization and Urbanization in Theological Perspective. NY: Macmillan.
  • Kosmin, Barry A. and Ariela Keysar (2007). Secularism and Secularity: Contemporary International Perspectives. Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture. ISBN 978-0-9794816-0-4; ISBN 0-9794816-0-0
  • 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.
  • King, Mike (2007). Secularism. The HIdden Origins of Disbelief. Cambridge: James Clarke & Co. ISBN 9780227172452
The secular state
  • Adıvar, Halide Edip (1928). "The Turkish Ordeal". The Century Club. ISBN 0-830-50057-X
  • Blancarte, Roberto (2006). "Religion, church, and state in contemporary Mexico." in Randall, Laura (ed.). Changing structure of Mexico: political, social, and economic prospects. [Columbia University Seminar]. 2nd. ed. M.E. Sharpe. Chapter 23, pp. 424–437. ISBN 978-0765614056.
  • Cinar, Alev (2006). "Modernity, Islam, and Secularism in Turkey: Bodies, Places, and Time". University of Minnesota Press. ISBN 0-816-64411-X
  • Juergensmeyer, Mark (1994). The New cold war?: religious nationalism confronts the secular state. University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-08651-1
  • Schmitt, Karl M. (1962). "Catholic adjustment to the secular state: the case of Mexico, 1867-1911." Catholic Historical Review, Vol.48 (2), July, pp. 182–204. [1]
  • Urban, Greg (2008). "The circulation of secularism." International Journal of Politics, Culture and Society, Vol. 21, (1-4), December. pp. 17–37. [2]

External links


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Secularism is generally the assertion that certain practices or institutions should exist separately from religion or religious belief. Alternatively, it is a principle of promoting secular ideas or values in either public or private settings. It may also be a synonym for "secularist movement". In the extreme, it is an ideology that holds that religion has no place in public life.

Sourced

  • Christian morality and the asceticism of Jesus Christ have been dissolved in the acid of capitalism and secularism....If Jesus Christ were to appear today in the heart of Europe, rather than in the Middle East or Palestine, wouldn't they crucify him again in Europe? Does Jesus support the culture dominating Europe and America today, or does he oppose it? A while ago, a certain church in England officially allowed a same-sex marriage, and the priest joined two men in matrimony.
  • A genuinely democratic society requires a secular ethos: one that does not equate morality with religion, stigmatize atheists, defer to religious interests and aims over others or make religious belief an informal qualification for public office. Of course, secularism in the latter sense is not mandated by the First Amendment. It's a matter of sensibility, not law.
  • If believers feel that their faith is trivialized and their true selves compromised by a society that will not give religious imperatives special weight, their problem is not that secularists are antidemocratic but that democracy is antiabsolutist.
    • Ellen Willis, "Freedom from Religion," The Nation (February 19, 2001)
  • For democrats, it's as crucial to defend secular culture as to preserve secular law. And in fact the two projects are inseparable: When religion defines morality, the wall between church and state comes to be seen as immoral.
    • Ellen Willis, "Freedom from Religion," The Nation (February 19, 2001)

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Simple English

Secularism, also called Secularity or (adjectives: Secular or non religious) is the idea of something being not religious or not connected to a church. An example in government is, since many countries made it a law to be a part of one religion, the First Amendment was put in the United States Constitution by founding fathers like Thomas Jefferson to make sure that religion and government stayed separate (Separation of Church and State). This means that anyone can choose to practice or not practice any religion they want, and the government cannot make them be a part of a religion if they do not want to.

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