In almost any society there exists religious ideas and political ideas. Some societies choose to link religion and politics, while others have chosen to separate the two authorities. This lesson discusses what a secular society is, and what provisions it makes for both the government and organized religion.
In a secular society, the powers of the church and the state are separate. Basically, this means that the state’s governing cannot be the result of the policies and beliefs of any organized religion and that no religious leader has automatic political authority. It also means that no person has to answer to any governmental authority for his or her religion.
For example, you can run for a political office no matter what your religious beliefs are.In the world today, many societies have at least some degree of secularity. In the United States, there is no state sanctioned church (meaning no church receives funding or endorsement from the government), and there are no automatic dual religious and political roles (meaning that no elected official automatically gains any role as a religious leader and vice versa).Currently, many people are expressing distaste for the U.
S.’s relatively high degree of secularity, saying that they believe that American values should reflect their religious beliefs. Other people point out that not all religious beliefs are the same. They feel that secularity is a founding virtue of this country and should not be changed. No matter what the current trends say however, the idea of secularity is not new.
Modern ideas about the separation between church and state go back to before the founding of the United States, and both religious and non-religious people developed and implemented secularity in this country as a response to a certain set of problems.
Modern Context of Secularity
Many of the modern ideas about a secular society were born as a result of the violence of the Protestant Reformation in Europe. The Reformation is generally dated to 1517, when the friar Martin Luther nailed The Ninety-Five Theses to a Roman Catholic church in Germany. The document served primarily as a protest to key points in the Catholic doctrine. Luther’s rebellion gained attention, and other people who wanted religious reform, such as John Calvin and Henry VIII of England, began to take action. Thus, the Protestant Reformation began.
The Reformation gave rise to Protestantism, and conflict between the Protestants and the Catholics, who saw the Reformation as heresy, was inevitable.
|This the Netherlands gained their independence from a