For many specialists the term “secularism” and its derivatives mean in general “a system of political or social philosophy that rejects all forms of religious faith.” In fact this is, more or less, the type of definition given by the college dictionaries. The main concept here is the rejection of any religious element as a viable component of a political or a social philosophy.
Secularism is perceived as involving and implying a confrontational position, an antagonism to or rejection of the religious faith and the notion of transcendence as related to the human condition.
In 1991, in an ad hoc conference at the Rockford Institute Center on Religion and Society, in New York, specialists in the field like R. J. Neuhaus, E. C. Ladd, G. M. Marsden, and Paul Johnson, presented a different aspect on secularism parallel to the antagonistic attitude against religion.
E. C. Ladd, for instance, in his paper “Secular and Religious America,” pointed out that for a proper understanding of secularism it is necessary to take into account three important and interrelated sets of revolutionary changes stretching through the last two or three centuries:
1. The commercial and later industrial revolution, which dramatically expanded the wealth of nations;
2. The Enlightenment and subsequently scientific revolution which greatly altered our perceptions of ourselves and the universe; and
3. The egalitarian revolution which brought down ascriptive class societies and established more open, participatory, and sometimes even democratic systems in their stead. It was this whole complex process that led to the formulation of the fundamental meaning of secularization.