Pub. date: 2008 | Online Pub. Date: April 25, 2008 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412963879 | Print ISBN: 9781412926942 | Online ISBN: 9781412963879| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Sacred versus Secular
Eric Michael Mazur
In common usage, the terms sacred and secular are often set in opposition— sacred referring to anything related to or in contact with the Divine, and secular referring to that which is not Divine—the temporal, earthly, or common. However, the two concepts have slightly different meanings for scholars engaged in the academic study of religion; they are similarly expressed in oppositional terms—but not to each other. In the academic context, both terms defy efforts to define them accurately, which has led to their decline as organizational concepts. This entry looks at this academic discussion. Among scholars, the sacred is understood either as (a) a sui generis quality of transcendence considered by religious adherents to be inherent in the way of things (that is, sacred as a foundational and irreducible quality of an experience or object), or (b) as a dynamic process or reaction expressed by religious adherents toward particular Although ...