George Jacob Holyoake Coined the Term Secularism & Overview

Secularism term was used by George Jacob Holyoake in 1851. Secular is a Latin word in which “Saeculum” means a fixed period of time.  It is related to earthly affair rather than spiritual affairs. Secularism was developed in a religious context for the sake of preserving peace among Christians.

what is secularism

In medieval Europe, “the Latin term “Saeculum” was also used to refer the member of clergy whose chose to work in the world” rather than taking monastic vows. They were living the world they were not able to fulfill the high standards of morality and personal conduct. They were not able to maintain their absolute purity so church hierarchy considered them as inferior to who have able to maintain their absolute purity.

In early centuries, this separation between pure religious order and a less than pure, this-worldly social order was evidently present in the Christian society. This led to the difference between faith and knowledge, revealed theology and natural theology.

As theologians debated for the existence of a separate domain of knowledge characterized by human reason, there was a shift in Faith and revelation. Earlier they typically belonged to the traditional province of church doctrine and teaching and now they theologians developed the idea of natural theology.

It was more scientific in nature as they believed that knowledge of God could not simply be obtained through revelation and faith but also through human reason while observing and thinking about Nature and Universe.

They believed that human reason advance in and on the realm of empirical, material observation. It can possibly lead to same conclusions as religious faith and the study of supernatural revelation but it difficult for them to be concordant in one organization of the study. Faith could not be used to acquaint reason and reason could not be used to construct faith.

Now devoted Christians pushed secularisation as they were interested in investigating about the world they live in. They focused more on thought and learning. They tried to translate the principle of religious into the wider political community but they were not able to succeed.

But the passage of time church became more and more distant from the political affair as people were now interested in the realm of action and thought than just faith and in hope that they will be free from ecclesiastical authorities. With the growth of rationalist speculation in philosophy and theology, the hold of the church was getting loose.

They didn’t appreciate the differentiation but tried to suppress the speculation in hope of holding on the primacy of faith which was dominant over the rationalistic thought for centuries. But this effort was failed as people wanted work outside of religious canon.

The World “Secular” denotes the peaceful existence of all religions and belief so that it can facilitate good and well being of Humanity. But all religion, Ideology, Beliefs are acceptable to the extent that it does not pose any threat to the interest of worldly power and well being of Humans.

As earlier explained it was a shift from Christian notion of perfection to a new conception of good social and political order. This new idea foresees a society form of and by individuals to meet their needs for security and the meet the needs of life. There many outlooks present in term of secularism.

According to Diest, God was the creator of immanent order. Being a creator, the natural order is proof that he exists. He follows his will in building the proper human order of mutual benefits. His law is back up by rewards and punishment in next life. It works on the belief that there is a need for religion to maintain good order in society.

Jacobin viewpoint suggests that any form of public religion is unacceptable and faith must be consigned to the private sphere. The “moral independence” a self-sufficient social morality without transcendent reference.  Immanuel Kant’s “reason alone” (die blosse Vernunft) means reason unaccompanied by any extra premise derived from revelation or any other allegedly transcendent source. It is based on man as a free agent who is responsible for his own action without influence any other being over him.

In Diest, a good religion consists a set of beliefs in a god or some other transcendental power that follows an acceptable or rational morality. It should not pose a challenge by a religious authority to ‘reason alone’ i.e. to the proper order of the society. It rejects “superstitions”, “fanaticism” and “enthusiasm”.  Religion can be a facilitator of social order by instructing the right principle but should not pose a threat to social order. It led to the division between immanent and public/private order.

George Jacob Holyoake who coined the term “Secularism” said in his book English Secularism:

Secularism is a code of duty pertaining to this life founded on considerations purely human and intended mainly for those who found theology indefinite or inadequate, unreliable or unbelievable.its essential principle are three:

1.The improvement of this life by material means.

2. That science is the available Providence of man.                                                                                           3. That it is to do good. Whether there be good or not, the good of the present life is good, and it is good to seek that good.

Bernard Lewis said, “The term ‘secularism’ appears to have been first used in English towards the middle of the nineteenth century, with a primary ideological meaning. As first used it denoted the doctrine that morality should be based on rational consideration regarding human well-being in this world, to the exclusion of consideration relating to the god or afterlife. Later it was used more generally for the belief that public institution especially general education should be secular, not religious.” “In the twentieth, it has acquired a somewhat wider range of meaning derived from, derived from the older or wider connotation of the term ‘secular’. In particular, it is frequently used, along with “separation,”  as an approximate equivalent of the French term Laicisme, also used in other language but not as yet in English.”

It suggests that the improvement of the human condition through material question not through spiritual which means through human effort rather than God, deities or other supernatural beings. Secular as something which is not worshipped, not admired in priority but open for critique, judgment, and replacement.

American secularist led the unclear understanding of this division. They recurrently confuse separation of church and state with separation religion and state. Considering above theories and understanding we need to focus the need for secularism in the present scenario. Religious Liberty is important as no one should be forced in the domain of religion or basic belief which include acceptance of non-believer and “free exercise of religion”.  Equality should exercise between the people of different faith or basic belief areligious. Weltanschauung is the particular philosophy of life should be acceptable devoid of any inequality. There should be equal representation of all spiritual families and their thoughts should be included in society’s political identity. Efforts should be done to maintain harmony and concordance among the supporter of different religion and views.

State neutrality is very important to avoid any promoting or going against any religion or belief which includes people who don’t believe in religion. To sustain democratic and secular state the effort are needed to facilitate and accept diversity.

1) equal treatment of people beside their option

2) protecting people in relation to their practice, belief or religion they adhere to.

3)granting them freedom of speech.

There are different belief which can only be realized if the political principle such as human rights, equality, democracy, the rule of law are applied.

Secularization is closely related to secularism but it is a process which leads to exclusion and secularism does not necessarily do so. In the process of secularization institution in society- economic, political, and social are removed from the control of religion. There was direct or indirect control of religion on the functioning of various institutions. So these control was taken away from religious leaders and was given to political leaders. Now the citizenship was not essentially was defined by religion and people were free from ecclesiastical authorities.

However, it is important to note secularization is associated but different from separation of church and state. Secularization happened all over the globe but the separation of church and the state is what happened in the political sphere. The separation of church and state in secularization, the religions have equal representation and sharing their thoughts and beliefs but they can’t impose anything on people. The government holds neutral position without favoring or disfavouring any religion.

This shift of power from religious to political was never smooth. The religious authorities used temporal power to suppress this change. the violent revolution and America are an example of this resistance towards change. Secularism holds the more philosophical position about the ways things should be, but secularization is acted to implement that philosophy occasionally through force. The value of a religion which is followed by peoples is entirely voluntarily as there is no propagation or discouragement from the state.