AN ASSIGNMENT ON
PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF REQUIREMENTS
OF THE COURSE
GS F211 (MODERN POLITICAL CONCEPTS)
SOLANO DA SILVA
SHIKHAR SHARMA( 2011A3PS048G)
Secularism is the principle of separation between government institutions and the persons mandated to represent the State from religious institutions and religious dignitaries. Secularism encourages a social order separate from religion, without actively dismissing or criticizing religious belief. The essay traces the development of this concept right from the seventh century to the present scenario of a secular society. The views of some of the prominent thinkers like John locke, Voltaire, Russell and Gandhi have also been highlighted. The essay also presents secularism in Indian context as well as its interpretation in some of the western countries.
The term "secularism" was first used by the British writer George Jacob Holyoake in 1851. Holyoake argued that "Secularism is not an argument against Christianity , it is one independent of it. It does not question the pretensions of Christianity; it advances others. Secularism does not say there is no light or guidance elsewhere, but maintains that there is light and guidance in secular truth, whose conditions and sanctions exist independently, and act forever. Secular knowledge is manifestly that kind of knowledge which is founded in this life, which relates to the conduct of this life, conduces to the welfare of this life, and is capable of being tested by the experience of this life." He used the term secularism to describe his views of promoting a social order separate from religion, without actively dismissing or criticizing religious belief. Although the term was new, the general notions of freethought on which it was based had existed throughout history. The idea of secularism actually dates back to 7th century B.C when major eastern religious sects with an atheistic emphasis emphasized materialist determinism in the life cycle, Confucius (551-479 B.C.) by having totally avoided the issue of religion. The same may be said of the Ajivikas sect of Buddhism and the Samkhya system of Hinduism in India. Ancient Indian atheists included Uddalaka and Makkali Gosali during the sixth century B.C.; and ancient Chinese atheists included Yang Chu, Hsu"-tzu, and Wang Chong respectively during the fourth and third centuries, B.C. It should be stressed, however, that there has been no cumulative advance in secular philosophy among any of these non-western societies that has lasted more than a century or two. Brief periods of enlightenment have occurred, but these have degenerated into uninterrupted periods of traditional orthodoxy. The seeds of secularism were sown during the 1st century A.D. byGreek and Roman philosophers such as Marcus Aurelius and Epicurus.People at that time believed that Christianity is so unbelievable that one cannot help but believe in it. But thinkers like Marcus and Epicurus opposed this saying that just because it is absurd, it is to be believed; and he [Christ] was buried and rose again; it is certain, because it is impossible. Still the ideology did not become very popular and the church held all the power.
The main reform came during the Late Middle Ages .The views of the enlightenment thinkers such as Voltaire, JohnLocke, Thomas Jefferson on religion and state contributed significantly to the present day idea of secularism.
John Locke is one of the first modern thinkers who gave their ideas on secularism. If church and state keep to their appropriate functions, each will be more secure. Locke believed the state's role should be limited to things requiring 'outward force', such as protecting life, liberty, and material possessions. The proper role of the churches was to provide...
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