Pub. date: 2011 | Online Pub. Date: October 04, 2011 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412994163 | Print ISBN: 9781412959636 | Online ISBN: 9781412994163 | Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
The term secularism has different senses. It is used to refer to secular humanism and atheism; the social process of secularization; and political, state-driven projects. This entry is concerned solely with the third sense, which is most frequently used in political science. Broadly speaking, secularism, anywhere in the world, means the advocacy of a separation of organized religion from organized political power (the state) that is inspired by a specific set of values. In this general sense, secularism is a normative doctrine that pretends to be universal, although it is applied in different cultures that are more or less compatible with it. Secularism can be understood in its strict meaning of separateness between political power and religion or, more broadly, as bearing several values such as toleration, equal religious liberty, and freedom of religion. Sometimes these two definitions may be in contradiction, as illustrated in France over the issue of ...