Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

The Dialectical Path of Secularism and Laicité: Development of Secularism and Laicism: An Existentialist Question

Seda Unsar, Prof Eliz Sanasarian.

The historical course of secularization and the doctrine of secularism are best understood by means of exploring the basis and the evolution of three components embedded in religions: The idea of contract of society, natural law and theory of resistance. These components not only are vital for the relationship between secularism and religion but also determine the roots of tolerance. Indeed, what identifies the relationship between secularism and religion is the very existence or non-existence of these components and their particular evolution or formation. The present paper attempts to explore the Classical and the Christian legacy in terms of this existence and evolution.
The effect of these theoretical components of Western secular development is viewed through the lenses of two centers of authority (the authority of power and of worldview) each of which has two kinds (State and Church; lay and religion respectively): The change of kind in one center of authority led to the change of kind in the other. Our concern is to dissect this transition.
Another concern is to identify the distinction of religion and faith, and their separation, which is the real effect of secularism, and the fact that the radical rhetoric of Enlightenment was possible precisely because the establishment of a church above, or subordinate to, or parallel with the state was theoretically possible (as well as it practically happened) peculiar to Christianity and its historical evolution. Lastly, the paper discusses the religious and secular bases of toleration.


Seda Unsar  (United States)
PhD student
Political Science Department, USC
University of Southern California

Prof Eliz Sanasarian  (United States)

University of Southern California

  • Secularism
  • Laicité
  • Religion and politics

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)