Difference Between Secularism and Secularization

Key Difference – Secularism vs Secularization
 

Although secularism and secularization are two terms that often go together, there is a key difference between the two terms. Before identifying the difference let us have a look at the words. Both secularism and secularization come from the word secular. This can simply be understood as not religious or spiritual. Now let us focus on the two words. Secularism is a philosophical stance that stresses that religious thought should not influence the public and religion and institutions should be separate entities. Secularization is the process through which a society that had religious values embedded in the social institutions move away towards a non-religious institutional framework. This highlights that while secularism is more of a philosophical stance, secularization is the actual process which highlights the transformation that is taking place in society. This article attempts to highlight this difference in detail.

What is Secularism?

Secularism is a philosophical stance that stresses that religious thought should not influence the public and religion and institutions should be separate entities. The term was first used by George Jacob Holyoake, who was a British writer. This has its roots in the ideas of most thinkers during the Enlightenment. John Locke, Thomas Paine, James Madison are some key thinkers who can be considered as examples.

Secularism emphasizes the idea that various social institutions should remain uninfluenced by religion. This includes education, politics and even overall governance of the people. In the past before the Enlightenment, religion had control over most institutions. For example, religion was at the heart of the economy as well as education. This resulted in discrimination and creation of social order on the principles of religion. Secularism highlights that this link should be broken. The majority of the modern societies in which we live today can be considered as examples of secular societies.

Difference Between Secularism and Secularization

What is Secularization?

Secularization is the process through which a society that had religious values embedded in the social institutions move away towards a non-religious institutional framework. In developmental theories such as the modernization theory, secularization of a particular society is viewed as a step towards modernity. The argument that the theorists make is that along with the process of modernization and rationalization, the role of religion and its authority diminishes.

Some experts consider secularization as a historical process. In this process, the control that religion had over various social institutions and the culture of the society changes. As a result of this, religion transforms into an institution that has little power to influence other social institutions. Let us take a small example. In the past, in the feudal societies, religion had immense control over the lives of people, both economically and socially. The church was not merely the religious institution but also had the power to control the society. Now in the modern society, religion lacks such power. In its place, there are other institutions such as the civil law, government, and judiciary system.

Key Difference - Secularism vs Secularization

What is the difference between Secularism and Secularization?

Definitions of Secularism and Secularization:

Secularism: Secularism is a philosophical stance that stresses that religious thought should not influence the public and religion and institutions should be separate entities.

Secularization: Secularization is the process through which a society that had religious values embedded in the social institutions move away towards a non-religious institutional framework.

Characteristics of Secularism and Secularization:

Nature:

Secularism: Secularism is a philosophical stance.

Secularization: Secularization is a process.

 

Image Courtesy:

1. Church vs State [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

2. Cartoon on German Secularization c. 1803 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons