Secularization Meaning, Process and Religious Objections

Secularization and secularism are very closely related but if we were in-depth, we will find the real differences because both of them do not offer the same answer to the question of what role does religion plays in society.

Secularisation is a process that leads to exclusion while secularism is a system or ideology which is based on the principles that there should be a sphere of values, knowledge, and actions that is independent of the religious authority.

But this sphere does not exclude the religion from having any role in the political or social affairs.

Definitions of Secularization

Various definitions of Secularisation are present in books. But the term is broadly used in 6 areas of scientific literature.

Definitions of Secularization

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The first five areas are along the lines of definition while the sixth area is considered to be the clarification of use.

  1. The first is when someone is discussing macro-social structures. In this case, Secularisation refers to differentiation. It shows the process in which different aspects of society like political, legal, moral, economic, etc. become very distinct from each other.
  2. The second use is when one is discussing the individual institutions. Here, the term secularization is used for denoting the transformation of religious institutes into a secular institute. One such example is the evolution of Harvard University from a religious institution into a secular Institute.
  3. The third definition is when one is discussing different activities. So here, the term Secularisation refers to the transfer of the different activities from religious to a secular institution like the shift in the provision of social services from the churches to the government.
  4. When someone is discussing mentalities, then secularization refers to the transition which is made from the ultimate concerns to the proximate concerns.

For example, the individuals who are living in the west are expected to have moderate behaviour in response to any immediately applicable consequences rather than expecting the post-mortem consequences.

  • When someone is discussing populations, then the secularization indicates the various broad patterns of the societal decline in response to the various levels of religiosity, which are opposed to the individual level of Secularisation.
  • When someone is discussing religion, then the secularization can be used unambiguously for referring the religion in a generic sense like a reference to Christianity cannot be made clear unless any person specifies what exactly is the denomination of Christianity that is being discussed.

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Background Philosophy

The background philosophy is credited to both cultural shifts which are happening in the society due to the emergency of rationality and also the development of the science, which is used as a substitute for superstition.

Background of Secularization
Background of Secularization

The second thing is the changes which are made by the religious institutions to compensate for this fact.

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At the most basic stages, this phenomenon begins with a very slow transition made from the oral traditions and going up to a writing culture, which diffuses the knowledge.

This reduces the authority of clerics and results in the shift of responsibility for education from the community and the family to the state. This shift of the responsibility further had two consequences:

  1. The first consequence was the collective consigns which were defined by Durkheim were diminished.
  2. The second consequence was that religion becomes the matter of an individual choice of the person rather than becoming an observed social obligation.

Process Implication

When the process is going on; several institutions weather be political, economic, and social, were removed from the overall control of the religion.

Process of Secularization
Process of Secularization

At various times in the past, this control of the religion might have been direct with the ecclesiastical authority having the major authority over the operation of these particular institutions.

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One example of the same can be that we can see when the priests are in charge of the nation’s only system of the school.

Another time, the control can be direct or indirect along with the religious principles which constitute the basis for how things will run then, and the particular region is used to define citizenship.

Whatever be the case, those institutions are simply taken away from the various religious authorities or even handed over to the political leaders or even use for completing the alternatives. These are also created alongside religious institutions.

The independence of these particular institutions has helped and allowed the individuals to become more independent from the ecclesiastical authority’s.

And the need of these political authorities is no longer mandatory for submitting to the religious leaders, who are present outside the conference of a church or a temple.

Difference between Secularization and Secularism

The main difference between Secularisation and secularism is that secularism is considered to be more philosophical about how things are going and should go.

Difference between Secularization and Secularism
Difference between Secularization and Secularism

While on the other hand, Secularisation is said to be the effort for implementing that particular philosophy even sometimes with the help of force.

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Various religious institutions may continue to give their opinions about the public matters but the actual authority and the power are restricted entirely to the private domain.

People who confirm this particular behavior to the values of those religious institutions do voluntarily and by their own will and are not affected by the encouragement or the discouragement given by the particular state.

It is considered to be the change of the society from a close and recognizable proof which has religious qualities. It refers to the historical procedures where religion loses its social and cultural importance in society.

On the other hand, secularism is considered to be the guideline of the partition of government organizations and also the individuals who are ordered to represent a place from religious dignitaries and religious establishments.

It is also considered to be the attesting of the privileges at zero cost from religious teachings and guidelines.

It is considered to be a procedure which helps the general public in coping up towards non-religious institutional system.

Secularism is considered to be a philosophical process that confirms that religious thoughts should not influence the general population and other religions.

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Secularisation is considered to be a historical process while on the other hand, secularism is considered to be a philosophical process.

Secularisation is used by many famous theorists like Max Weber, Karl Marx, and Sigmund Freud. The term secularism has also been used by many famous people like the British writer George Jacob Holyoake.

Religious Objections Related to the System

It is possible for the process of Secularisation for proceeding smoothly and peaceful but in reality, this has not been the case.

Religious Objections Related to Secularization
Religious Objections Related to Secularization

Various times we have seen that the ecclesiastical authorities who were given the temporary power have not already handed over the power.

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And all the authorities to the local government, especially at the times when those particular authorities work closely associated with the conservative political forces prevalent in the area.

As a consequence of this, the Secularisation has resulted in political revolutions.

The church and state were separated in France after the violent Revolution and in America also, after the revolution, the new government was created.

But the secularism has not always been neutral in the intent. As of now, Secularism is considered to be anti-religious but it frequently promotes and encourages the various processes of Secularisation itself.

A person becomes a secularist at the very least because he or she believes in the fact that there is a need for a secular sphere in parallel with the religious sphere.

But they also at the same time believe that the secular sphere is superior to the religious sphere because of the social issues which are prevailing in the society.

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Sociological use of Secularization

The sociological use of Secularisation has been seen from the past many years and decades.

Sociological use of Secularization
Sociological use of Secularization

Various sociologists have studied that 1 of the major themes for secularization is that of the differentiation which is the tendency of the different areas of the life of becoming more and more distant and specialized following the society becoming more modernized.

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European sociology is influenced by the anthropology and has always been interested in the process of changing the primitive traditional societies into advanced societies.

Even in United States of America, the emphasis has always been laid on changing the aspect of the progress but Talcott Parsons was the main person who re-looked towards the society as a system which was emerged in the monolithic breakup of institutions.

It should always be kept in the mind by the citizens that while criticizing the various aspects which are related to the traditional sociology theory of Secularisation one has to also remember that the concepts of the social differentiation have proved to be it’s one of the most useful element.

Secularisation & Church-State Separation

Secularization has many consequences out of which one practical consequence is the separation of Church and state.

Secularization, Church State Separation
Secularization, Church State Separation

The church and the state are very closely related to each other and are associated in such a way that most of the time they are used interchangeably in practice.

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As people often use the phrase separation of Church and state rather than using the real meaning of secularization.

But one should not forget that there is a major difference between the two because Secularisation is a process that happens almost across all the societies while the separation of Church.

And the state is simply a description of what has happened or is occurring in the political sphere.

The real meaning of the separation of Church and state means that during process of Secularisation, some of the specific political institutions which are associated with the changing and wearing levels of the public Government.

And administration are removed from both the indirect and direct regions’ control over the society.

But this does not mean that the religious organizations do not have any authority or saying about the political and public issues.

But it means that these views of the organization cannot be imposed upon the public and they cannot be used as the sole basis for designing the public policy.

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Thus, it is always stated that the government should always be ready and neutral concerning the divergent and incompatible believes related to religion and should neither be hindering nor advancing any of these believes.


We have seen that secularization and secularism are very closely related but still, there are many differences present in them because they both do not offer the same answers to the question that what is the role of religion in society.

Secularism is an ideology that is based on the principle that there should be a sphere that consists of values, knowledge, and actions that are independent of the religious authority while on the other hand, Secularisation is a process that does lead to exclusion.

People Also Ask (FAQs)

What is the most common example of Secularization?

The most common example of Secularisation is the population becoming less secular over a while. Harvard University is the best example of this, as it went from a religious institute to a secular institute.

What is the difference between secularization and secularism?

The difference between Secularisation and secularism is that secularism is considered to be more philosophical about how things are going and should go while on the other hand, secularization is considered to be the effort for implementing that particular philosophy, even sometimes with the help of force.

What is secularism in sociology?

Secularism may mean the separation of state and religion, or it may mean the equality of all religions. In its first connotation, secularism refers to a precondition where there exists no state religion and the state is not concerned with any kinds of religious beliefs or practices.