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Comparative Secularisms and the Politics of Modernity: An Introduction

  • Linell E. Cady
  • Elizabeth Shakman Hurd

Abstract

In mid-nineteenth century England, George Holyoake coined the term “secularism” to name an orientation to life designed to attract both theists and atheists under its banner. Impatient with positions defined in opposition to traditional Christian belief, such as atheist, infidel, or dissenter, Holyoake dreamed of a new formation, rallying around the “work of human improvement,” that would not be splintered by these older divisions.1 He needed a positive philosophy, one that was not parasitic on what was being rejected. His 1854 Principles of Secularism aspired to give voice to such an alternate vision. Its signature features were its appeal to reason, nature, and experience and its passionate commitment to the amelioration of human life. Although it clearly differed from forms of traditional Christianity that invoked clerical or scriptural authorities or focused on supernatural means and otherworldly ends, secularism, as Holyoake fashioned it, was not the antithesis of religion or one side of a religion-secularism binary. It was a canopy large enough to house some forms of religion as it excluded others. Its capaciousness was one of its defining virtues.

Keywords

National Identity Religious Tradition Religious Minority Religious Pluralism Political Liberty 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    George Jacob Holyoake, Principles of Secularism Illustrated, rev. 3rd ed. (London: Austin, 1871), 9.Google Scholar
  2. 6.
    Eric S. Waterhouse, “Secularism,” in Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, ed. James Hastings (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1920), 349.Google Scholar
  3. 8.
    Tomoko Masuzawa, The Invention of World Religions (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 10.
    José Casanova, Public Religions in the Modern World (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994), 17.Google Scholar
  5. 12.
    Talal Asad, Genealogies of Religion: Disciplines and Reasons of Power in Christianity and Islam (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993), 207.Google Scholar
  6. 18.
    Paul Rabinow, French Modern (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1989), 9Google Scholar
  7. 19.
    See Joan Scott, The Politics of the Veil (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2007).Google Scholar
  8. 29.
    Deniz Kandiyoti, “Review of Women and Gender in Islam,” Contemporary Sociology 2, no. 5 (1993): 688–689CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Linell E. Cady and Elizabeth Shakman Hurd 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Linell E. Cady
  • Elizabeth Shakman Hurd

There are no affiliations available

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