In studies of religion, modern Western societies are generally recognized as secular. Generally, there is near-complete freedom of religion (one may believe in any religion or none at all, with little legal or social sanction). In the West, it is believed that religion does not dictate political decisions, though the moral views originating in religious traditions remain important in political debate in some countries, such as France and others, religious references are considered out-of-place in mainstream politics. Religious influence is also largely minimized in the public sphere, and religion no longer holds the same importance in people's lives as it used to.
Modern sociology, born of a crisis of legitimation resulting from challenges to traditional Western religious authority, has since émile Durkheim (sociologue) often been preoccupied with the problem of authority in secularized societies and with secularization as a sociological or historical process.


Secular state

Most major religions accept the primacy of the rules of secular, democratic society. The majority of Christians are proponents of a secular state, and may acknowledge that the idea has support in biblical teachings, specifically in the book of Luke, chapter 20, verse 25. In this verse, in response to a question about taxes, Jesus said, "Then give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's." However, fundamentalism opposes secularism. The most significant forces of religious fundamentalism in the contemporary world are fundamentalist Christians and fundamentalist Islam.


Criticism of secularism

Proponents of secularism have long held a general rise of secularism in all the senses enumerated above, and the corresponding general decline of religion in so called 'secularized' countries, to be the inevitable result of Enlightenment, as people turn towards science and rationalism and away from religion and superstition.
Opponents think that this view is arrogant, that secular government creates more problems than it solves, and that theological government is better. Christian opponents contend that a Christian state can give more freedom of religion than a secular one. For evidence, they point to Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Finland and Denmark, all have a constitutional link between church and state and are far more progressive and liberal societies than some countries without such a link. For example, Sweden was among the first countries to legalize abortion, and the Finnish government provides funding for the construction of Mosques. However, proponents of secularism note that Scandinavian countries are among the most secular countries in the world, having low percentages of individuals who hold religious beliefs.
It is also claimed that a secular state is more representative of non-religious people and is therefore discriminatory towards religious people. An example of discrimination is that in European history, secularism laws were enacted in order to take political power away from clergy, seldom in order to secure civil liberties.
Some modern commentators have tried to demonize secularism by confusing it with anti-religious, atheistic, or even satanic belief systems.



Some people argue that Secularism has a different meaning in South Asia than it does in other parts of the world. In South Asia, Right wing nationalists in most parts of South Asia consider that Secularism refers to a political group of people and think that Secularists in South Asia consist only of Communists. The right wing nationalists in who are often critical of the secularists say that the Secularists often take positions that would be considered as anti-secularist in the West. They point out that Secularism is defined through history in different ways.
Where as critics point out, people like Nehru, Gandhi and Subash Chandra Bose, all of whom were non-communist Hindus who championed secularism, they also point out the Dalai Lama, a Buddhist, and Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, a Muslim, as evidence that secularism and religion are not mutually exclusive and that the idea of secularism in India is not entirely different from the western idea of secularism.