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Secularity (adjective form secular) is the state of being separate from religion.[1]

For instance, eating and bathing may be regarded as examples of secular activities, because there may not be anything inherently religious about them. Nevertheless, both eating and bathing are regarded as sacraments in some religious traditions, and therefore would be religious activities in those worldviews. Saying a prayer derived from religious text or doctrine, worshipping through the context of a religion, and attending a religious school are examples of religious (non-secular) activities. Prayer and meditation are not necessarily non-secular, since the concept of spirituality and higher consciousness are not married solely to any religion but are practiced and arose independently across a continuum of cultures. However, it can be argued that these practices have arisen as a result of religious (non-secular) influence.

Most businesses and corporations, and some governments, are secular organizations. All of the state universities in the United States are secular organizations (especially because of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution) while some prominent private universities are connected with the Christian or Jewish religions. Among many of these, seven examples of them are Baylor University, Brigham Young University, Boston College, Emory University, the University of Notre Dame, Southern Methodist University, and Yeshiva College (listed in alphabetical order).

The public university systems of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan are also secular, although some government-funded primary and secondary schools may be religiously aligned in some countries.

Origin of term

Secularity derives from a Latin word meaning "of the age". The Christian doctrine that God exists outside time led medieval Western culture to use secular to indicate separation from specifically religious affairs and involvement in temporal ones. This meaning has been extended to mean separation from any religion, regardless of whether it has a similar doctrine.

This does not necessarily imply hostility to God or religion, though some use the term this way (see "secularism", below); Martin Luther used to speak of secular work as a vocation from God for most Christians.

Modern usage

Examples of secular used in this way include:

  • Secular authority, which involves legal, police, and military authority as opposed to clerical authority, or matters under church control.
  • Secular clergy in the Roman Catholic Church, who, traditionally, do not live the monastic lives of the regular clergy and are therefore, in a sense, more engaged with the temporal world. For a related Roman Catholic reference, see Secular institute.
  • Secular education, schools that are not run by churches, synagogues, or other religious organizations.
  • Secular states with secular governments]] that follow civil laws—as opposed to religious authorities like the Islamic ShariahCatholic Canon law, or Jewish Halakha, and that specifically do not favor any particular religion.
  • Secular Jewish culture, cultural manifestations of Jewishness that are not specifically religious.
  • Secular music, composed for general use, as opposed to sacred music which is composed for church use. Secular sonatas, in the 17th century, were those not composed for church services.
  • Secular Organizations for Sobriety, a secular alternative to the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) organization which is a loosely religious one although nondenominational.
  • Secular society refers to aspects of society that are not (mosque, church, synagogue, temple)-affiliated.
  • Secular spirituality, the pursuit of spirituality without a formal affiliation with a church, or other religious organization, or the pursuit of spirituality specifically in the context of temporal affairs.

Related concepts

  • Laïcité is a French concept related to the separation of state and religion, sometimes rendered by the English cognate neologism laicity and also translated by the words secularity and secularization. The word laïcité is sometimes characterized as having no exact English equivalent; it is similar to the more moderate definition of secularism, but is not as ambiguous as that word.
  • Secularism is an assertion or belief that religious issues should not be the basis of politics, and it is a movement that promotes those ideas (or an ideology) which hold that religion has no place in public life. Secularist organizations are distinguished from merely secular ones by their political advocacy of such positions.
  • Laïcisme is the French word that most resembles secularism, especially in the latter's extreme definition, as it is understood by the Catholic Church, which sets laïcisme in opposition to the allegedly far milder concept of laïcité. The correspondent word laicism (also spelled laïcism) is sometimes used in English as a synonym for secularism.

See also

External links


  1. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. "Secularity". ("1. The condition or quality of being secular. 2. Something secular.")

ar:علمانية (صفه) bg:Секуларност da:sekularitet nn:sekulær zh:世俗