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Secularity (adjective form secular) is the state of being separate from religion.

For instance, eating and bathing may be regarded as examples of secular activities, because there may not be anything inherently religious about them. Nevertheless, both eating and bathing are regarded as sacraments in some religious traditions, and therefore would be religious activities in those worldviews. Saying a prayer derived from religious text or doctrine, worshipping through the context of a religion, and attending a religious school are examples of religious (non-secular) activities. Prayer and meditation are not necessarily non-secular, since the concept of spirituality and higher consciousness are not married solely to any religion but are practiced and arose independently across a continuum of cultures, however it may be argued that these practices have arisen as a result of religious (non-secular) influence.

Most businesses and corporations, and some governments, are secular organizations. All state universities in the United Statesmarker are secular organizations (due to the First Amendment of the United States Constitution) while some private universities are church-related; among many, six church-related examples are Brigham Young Universitymarker, Boston Collegemarker, University of Notre Damemarker, Baylor Universitymarker, Mercer Universitymarker, and The Catholic University of Americamarker.

The public university systems in the United Kingdommarker and Australia are also secular, although many public primary and secondary schools are religiously aligned.

Origin of term

Secularity derives from a Latin word meaning "of the age". The Christian doctrine that God exists outside time led medieval Western culture to use secular to indicate separation from specifically religious affairs and involvement in temporal ones. This meaning has been extended to mean separation from any religion, regardless of whether it has a similar doctrine.

This does not necessarily imply hostility to God or religion, though some use the term this way (see "secularism", below); Martin Luther used to speak of secular work as a vocation from God for most Christians.

Modern usage

Examples of secular used in this way include:

Related concepts

  • Laïcité is a French concept related to the separation of state and religion, sometimes rendered by the English cognate neologism laicity and also translated by the words secularity and secularization. The word laïcité is sometimes characterized as having no exact English equivalent; it is similar to the more moderate definition of secularism, but is not as ambiguous as that word.


  • Secularism is an assertion or belief that religious issues should not be the basis of politics, a movement that promotes those ideas or an ideology that holds that religion has no place in public life. Secularist organizations are distinguished from merely secular ones by their political advocacy of such positions.


  • Laïcisme is the French word that most resembles secularism, especially in the latter's extreme definition, as it is understood by the Catholic Church, which sets laïcisme in opposition to the allegedly far milder concept of laïcité. The correspondent word laicism (also spelled laïcism) is sometimes used in English as a synonym for secularism.


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Notes

  1. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. "Secularity". ("1. The condition or quality of being secular. 2. Something secular.")



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