ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Whither Secularism: Is It a Problem of Definition?

Whither Secularism: Is It a Problem of Definition?

This essay proposes a move away from the "dyad" conceptualisation of the secular and the sacred. The source of contestation against the secular is not only religion but also other institutions in society. The binary conceptualisation of the secular and the sacred derived from the reality of fused institutions of an earlier era is of limited value. It is argued here that the secular is multifocal as is the secular agenda. The enemies of the secular include entrenched interests in the economy and polity which, in today's highly differentiated societies, are not guided exclusively by religion. Further, the conditions that define the secular, namely, the separation of the state from religious authority, neutrality of the state towards all religions, the establishment of a procedural republic, are all "ideal types" to be used as a Weberian research tool, but, collectively, these do not encompass the secular problem in its entirety. In this essay the secular is defined as a value, a preferred way of life rooted in secular philosophy. Secularism is the ideology which motivates action towards implementing secular values. The essay presents the difficulties with the traditional definition of the secular with illustrations from past and current events, and presents an alternate approach.

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