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Date Submitted: 09/07/2011 08:06 AM

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Secularism is the separation of a government, organisation or institution from religion and/or religious beliefs.

In one sense, secularism may assert the right to be free from religious rule and teachings, and the right to freedom from governmental imposition of religion upon the people within a state that is neutral on matters of belief. (See also Separation of church and state and Laïcité.) In another sense, it refers to the view that human activities and decisions, especially politicalones, should be unbiased by religious influence.[1] (See also public reason.) Some scholars are now arguing that the very idea of secularism will change.[2]


Secularism draws its intellectual roots from Greek and Roman philosophers such as Marcus Aurelius and Epicurus,medieval Muslim polymaths such as Ibn Rushd, Enlightenment thinkers like Denis Diderot, Voltaire, Benedict Spinoza, John Locke, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and Thomas Paine, and modern freethinkers, agnostics and atheists such asBertrand Russell and Robert Ingersoll.

The purposes and arguments in support of secularism vary widely. In European laicism, it has been argued that secularism is a movement toward modernization, and away from traditional religious values (also known as "secularisation"). This type of secularism, on a social or philosophical level, has often occurred while maintaining an official state church or other state support of religion. In the United States, some argue that state secularism has served to a greater extent to protect religion from governmental interference, while secularism on a social level is less prevalent.[3][4] Within countries as well, differing political movements support secularism for varying reasons.[5]



The term "secularism" was first used by the British writer George Holyoake in 1851.[6] Although the term was new, the general notions of freethought on which it was based had existed throughout history....