Why explore secularism?

Secularism raises significant questions about how we balance freedom of, and from, religion with other rights. These are some of the most important questions which arise in all of the humanities, from religious and belief education to citizenship, and from the arts to history.

Exploring Secularism provides teachers with the material they need to ask these questions in an informed way. It is not a manifesto of answers. It encourages students to explore a range of answers and come to some of their own.

The Commission on Religious Education has recognised secularism as a key concept in the study of religion and worldviews. By using Exploring Secularism, you and your students will join a long tradition of people from all faiths and none, of artists and authors, of politicians and philosophers, judges and theologians, all of whom have grappled with these debates.

The issues considered in Exploring Secularism are growing ever more relevant as British society considers how best to respond to growing religious diversity, growing non-belief, political instability and intolerance.

The principles of secularism which protect and underpin many of the freedoms we enjoy are:

  1. Separation of religious institutions from state institutions, and a public sphere where religion may participate, but not dominate.
  2. Freedom to practise one's faith or belief without harming others, or to change it or not have one, according to one's own conscience.
  3. Equality so that our religious beliefs or lack of them does not put any of us at an advantage or disadvantage.

A guide for teachers

Exploring Secularism: A guide for teachers sets out the principles behind all of our resources it offers advice and a secularist perspective on the key questions.

As secularists we have a particular viewpoint on these questions, but however secularist or non-secularist your approach these questions are relevant to anyone with an interest in religion and belief.

1. Introduction

Sets out the principles which should underpin the use of Exploring Secularism resources: "Student led", "Teacher mediated", "Built on shared values", "Balance and critical reflection" and "Transparent".

2. What is secularism?

This section equips teachers with a basic understanding of what secularism is, and the questions which arise most directly from this.

3. Secularism in the curriculum

This section breaks down the core and tangential subjects where questions relevant to secularism can come up.

4. Using the Exploring Secularism resources

This section provides information on the six themes, how to make the resources appropriate for different key stage, and how the resources are laid out.

5. A secularist viewpoint on these questions

Exploring Secularism is all about questions which arise in a pluralist society where people have different beliefs. This section sets out a mainstream secularist viewpoint on these questions which might be useful for a range of discussions about secularism, freedom of and freedom from religion.

6. A secularist viewpoint on wider educational issues

Secularists believe that state education systems should be inclusive and secular (religiously neutral) and equally respecting of the rights and freedoms of students of all backgrounds. They believe that state education should be neither religiously nor irreligiously directive.


These contains a table indicating the main subjects where the key questions are relevant and are likely to come up, as well as other subjects where they might. Also in this section is a reading list which may be of interest for a deeper background on secularism, and a slightly abridged glossary of key terms that come up throughout Exploring Secularism.

Browse Resources

Further Resources

Core Principles

What is secularism? How do secularists and their critics address freedom of and...

Freedom of Expression

What does freedom of expression really mean? Should it have limits? Explore how...

Equality & Human Rights

What is freedom of and from religion? Explore how political and moral debates...

Secularism, Religion & Society

How do people’s worldviews impact social issues and the rights of others? Explore...

Secularism, Art & Literature

How have artists, poets and authors shaped our views of religious privilege, tolerance...

Secularism & History

How has history changed secularism, or secularism changed history? Explore how...

Letter to your school

A template letter for your school on why they should consider Exploring Secularism....