What does secularism mean?

George Jacob Holyoake , a British writer , coined the term ‘secularism’ in 1851.Since then many have tried to re-invent it including a lot of Pakistanis who somehow believe they are the ones who have invented it and seldom revert to the original idea and philosophy behind the term. Their stress is on making secularism ‘islamic’ or at least fool the readers (and even themselves) into considering secularism as something that does not clash with Islam. This obsession sometimes brings monetary gains , some do it for the sake of fashion , some have a certain lifestyle that makes them love secularism and then there are those who just don’t have time to think.

So let’s , for a moment , take some time out and see what the founder of secularism had in mind when he coined the term.

Lets quote from his book that was published in 1896. Therein he describes secularism as follows:

“Secularism is a code of duty pertaining to this life, founded on considerations purely human, and intended mainly for those who find theology indefinite or inadequate, unreliable or unbelievable. Its essential principles are three: (1) The improvement of this life by material means. (2) That science is the available Providence of man. (3) That it is good to do good. Whether there be other good or not, the good of the present life is good, and it is good to seek that good.”

Now let’s dissect his thoughts one by one.

What is secularism?

“Secularism is a code of duty pertaining to this life”

A ‘code of duty’ is a term we can easily use to define religion. Islam is a code of duty per se. Now the other part is interesting. This particular code of duty is ‘pertaining to this life’. Note that this is not from an extempore speech but from a book. The book itself is written in 1896 as opposed to his first use of the term in 1851. So by that time he should have had multiple after thoughts and he further polished his thoughts on secularism. That is exactly why he carefully crafted his words.He was creating a religion – a religion for the world that does not care about the afterlife at all. Hence the definition ‘a code of duty pertaining to this life’ was used. Now the Pakistani authors of this age are so in love with the term that it actually feels as if their religion is secularism and not Islam. One can understand that was the intention of the founder and he has had reasonable success.

On What basis is secularism founded?

“founded on considerations purely human”

So what are these purely human considerations? Does it allow humans to be more humane? Does it ban evils that are destroying human society? porn? interest? gambling? wine? – Does it?

No it actually doesn’t. But then why is it ‘purely human’?
It actually allows all ills and prevents the state from banning them. Because they are ………..

Yet its ‘human consideration’ is to put an end to ‘religious morality’ in the society letting the state do whatever they want to do and letting humans do whatever they want to do.

There is this joke about secularism:

“A ‘secular’ father told his children you can lie  , cheat , gamble , watch porn etc. etc. as long as you let me do that.”

Who is secularism intended for?

This is where we won’t even comment. Just let the founder speak here and you would be fine.

“intended mainly for those who find theology indefinite or inadequate, unreliable or unbelievable.”

Afterthought: Just one comment.

Do share this with your friend who told you being secular has nothing to do with religion.

What are its essential principles?

Well , now that we know that someone was trying to make up a religion that would allow the state to be non-religious in the name of materialism and humanism. This was to fool the masses into thinking it would be good for them. The church had its role to play by failing to implement the social justice that was part and participle of the religion. Lets read more from Wikipedia before coming to the principles”

“Holyoake invented the term secularism to describe his views of promoting a social order separate from religion, without actively dismissing or criticizing religious belief. An agnostic himself, Holyoake argued that “Secularism is not an argument against Christianity, it is one independent of it. It does not question the pretensions of Christianity; it advances others. Secularism does not say there is no light or guidance elsewhere, but maintains that there is light and guidance in secular truth, whose conditions and sanctions exist independently, and act forever. Secular knowledge is manifestly that kind of knowledge which is founded in this life, which relates to the conduct of this life, conduces to the welfare of this life, and is capable of being tested by the experience of this life.”

One do not need to really comment on that. If you say that Medicine A has the cure but I will rather use Medicine B it has to mean something. Why not use A then? You don’t trust A? Does it have some problem?

Holyoake actually had a quarrel with another ‘intellectual’ of his time over secularism. The problem was that when he promoted such ideals he was bound to clash with the church. To avoid that clash he kept stressing that he is not against religion. Despite being an agnostic he kept arguing secularism is not against Christianity. This other intellectual  (we should name him post some research) argued against this as he wanted secularism to take on religion aggressively. Holyoake thought this would be the wrong strategy as it would damage his newly found political ideology. He wanted to ‘sneak in’ rather than come with a bang. Hence he kept arguing that it has either nothing to do with religion or that its just a social order separate from religion.

Ultimately being secular means that religion can be practiced only at home. The practical demonstration of this can be seen in the French ban for hijab.

ok now lets come back to the three principles:


(1) The improvement of this life by material means. (2) That science is the available Providence of man. (3) That it is good to do good. Whether there be other good or not, the good of the present life is good, and it is good to seek that good

But wait there is a philosophy behind each principle. Lets dissect them one by one

(1) The improvement of this life by material means.

This actually means capitalism. The improvement is visible for the rich and the poor are still waiting for the benefits of secularism to arrive. Materials do not guarantee happiness. A human being is not just about what materials he or she possesses. In fact one should never be defined by the clothes one wears or the wealth one possesses. But , oh wait , I am not being secular now.


(2) That science is the available Providence of man.

A lot of news these days are ‘click-bait’. Now this is the bait. Making to look science stand against religion. Here the church might be at fault as it was against science all those days. It may have been a reaction to all that but otherwise its pretty smart to use the anti-church sentiments and promote ‘freedom of thought’ while using science as the bait. One has to give full marks here to the founder.

Just so if any atheist is reading it : No it is not true that science cannot prove existence of God. Each word of science actually cried out loud for the existence of a master planner that created it.

  (3) That it is good to do good. Whether there be other good or not, the good of the present life is good, and it is good to seek that good.”

When you make something that has to feel like religion but cannot call itself religion it is a bit tricky. Now this is where the third principle rocks!

Good to do Good … be there other good or not …. the good of the present life is good … good to seek that good

So what if someone seeks the good of this life and the good of another life? or the afterlife? Whats wrong with that? How is that any different? The good of afterlife is achieved through the good of this life anyway. So what’s the problem with that anyway?

That’s it for our coverage of what secularism actually is. We hope you got more confused if you were not before.

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