Secularism as Political Movement and Essay

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The Church although took a reactionary approach to the change, there was no benefit of such approach. People felt more farther from the religious authority than before. The Church labeled the new secular system as the pursuit of wanton passions and indulgence in sins by the masses. The labeling took systematic shape when Pope and regional priests tried to lure vast segments of society by declaring the new secular system as inviting the wrath of God and corrupting the society with evil (Gunn, 2005).

The Church also held the new ideology responsible for the widespread poverty and suffering of the common men. They also tried to pursue people that not displaying allegiance to the religion will leave the segments of French society vulnerable to suffering through divine sources. The French left played a vital role in spreading the anticlericalism in Pre-revolution and post-revolution France. This helped the middle classes of France to hold some place in the political system and increase their participation in the democratic system of France. Parliament was thus inclined to curtail the ever increasing power of Church through legal decrees banning the use of religious and ethnic preaching to divide the society into secular and religious segments.

Nonetheless, the cultural secularism could not be deep rooted until quite late as the people of France were themselves deep rooted, both socially and culturally in the religious dominion. Church was a central power around which their lives revolved and the power of Church, though questioned and curtailed by the state, could not be erased from the minds of people until quite late. The left of French politics continued their efforts to keep the power of Church checked in all forms, whether in form of preaching or indirect control of the state institutions and the armed forces. There was near absolute agreements that religion should not be made to be paying a decisive role in the public life of individuals as well as the state.

The majority of theories have propagated that state is freed from the papal control as a consequence of secular perspective being established. It is also argued that secularism is a theoretical perspective and absolute secularism is not applied in the French society even and its application is relative to the segment of society where its application and propagation is investigated. The French revolution has increased the process of secularization and to date the process remains in an evolutionary phase. The recent instance has been the banning of head scarves in France and the banning of minarets of mosques.

These are the recent instances where French revolution ideology has been strengthened. The society is vigilant that no religious dominion shall be reestablished in their society where the secularism was achieved after a hard fought battle in their country. The majority of the people that have backed the decisions of secular governments believe that should the religious stakeholders be allowed to exert their influence in the country, there can be the beginning of another violence marred protesting movements between the seculars and the religious groups in France.

The Pre-Revolution Iran and secularism

Before Iran was engulfed in the revolution, Raza Shah Pahlavi was the secular leader of Iran. There was secularism and people were not judged on the basis of their faith or to be correct, their affiliation with the dominant religion Islam. There was disconnect between the mosque and the state and Shah of Iran was the most secular leader that Iran experienced. The Iran revolution provides a better understanding that how regimes can leave their subjects dissatisfied and thus enable the environment for change, in Iran's case it was called an Islamic revolution and in case of France it was called the French revolution.

Whereas one enabled the establishment of secular apparatus in governance, the other enabled the religious right to assert its will through the popular uprising of Iran in 1979. The secular regime was uprooted and the leader was forced to flee Iran. The new order, the anti-secular order was established. The friction between this theocratic and democratic perspective is seen yet again in Iran and the most recent development in the country show that resistance to the religious system is growing (Arjomand, 1988).

The social injustice and the inherent shortcomings of the regime enabled that secular system was thought of as the main source of the problem. There was a growing concern in the general population that their problems are stemmed in the injustice of system. Since the Raza Pahlavi was supported by the west, specifically the U.S., the discontent of people was high. People thought that the U.S. intends to implement their secular agenda through the Shah (Klaits & Haltzel, 2002).

There is an inherent economic aspect to the process of secularization in Iran and later the theocratic establishment of Iran's religious government. The British had exploited the Iran's oil fields for decades and when a democratically elected Prime Minister tried to nationalize the oil fields, there was resistance among the western forces. Raza Shah was once deported and then re-emerged with the help of allied Western powers, the British and the U.S. amongst the most noteworthy.


Majority of the population, before the French revolution took place, was discontent with the established system in France. The key idea behind the French revolution was that Church powers should be removed from that of State power and state should function irrespective of religious dominion in France. There was an increased urgency displayed by the political left in France that in order to make modernization work in France, the religious power should be reduced in the society. The society and culture had to be replaced by a more inclusive and egalitarian source of power called the democracy. The new and secular system replaced the established system. On the other hand., in Iran, before revolution in 1979, there was a secular and West backed government that was later overthrown by the popular uprising.

There is an increased need to view secularism in the appropriate perspective. No society can be absolutely secular as there are leanings towards religion in the minds and cultures. The governments can however remain aloof to the essential religious aspects by limiting its role to being a governance related mechanism. The French revolution represents whereby the middle classes and resistant sections of society helped the establishment of a secular society by overthrowing the power structure of Church.


Arjomand, S.A. (1988). The turban for the crown: The Islamic revolution in Iran. Oxford University Press.

Bauberot, J. (2003). Secularism and French religious liberty: a sociological and historical view. BYU L. Rev., 451-464.

Gunn, T.J. (2005). French Secularism at Utopia and Myth. Hous. L. Rev., 42, 81.

Klaits, J., & Haltzel, M.H. (2002). Global ramifications of the French revolution. Cambridge University Press.


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