Politics in Minutes (2016)

Secular states

As republics replaced the old monarchies, the political power of religions, and particularly the Christian church, was increasingly seen as incompatible with the idea of democracy. Many of these new nations followed the lead of the USA in establishing themselves as secular states, excluding religion from the political process while adopting a strict neutrality on matters of faith. This follows the liberal principle of giving all citizens an equal right to practise their chosen religion, or none, without favour or discrimination. The majority of modern liberal democracies are either founded on or have adopted the idea of a secular state. However, some have gone further in the separation of state from religion, declaring themselves officially atheist. The Soviet Union, China and North Korea have all adopted this form of secularism, and tolerated religion to a greater or lesser extent, while Albania actually banned religion in 1945. But religion continues to have an influence, even in the most secular of states: in 1954, the USA amended its pledge of allegiance to include the phrase ‘one nation under God’.