A major called Secular Studies is now being offered at just a few universities. It is another step in legitimizing secular life in the U. S.
Universities in the Western World have long offered religious studies. Many universities, of course, were started by branches of Christianity and the study of religion would have been the main reason for their early existance.
As time moved on, the responsibility to prepare students for their future careers and lives meant many universities started by branches of the faith needed to maintain adequate levels of independence from faith dogma. Several research universities, like Notre Dame, are under fire from parts of Catholicism because some of what is taught and its internal policies do not conform to church beliefs.
I know well a local professor of religious studies who has told me the impact of religion is so great most people fail to recognize it. He sees the impact in art, culture and commerce everywhere he looks.
But, scholar/authors have traced the role of secularism through our society and say its impact, rather than religion, is the one underestimated. One such author is Susan Jacoby.
Jacoby followed carefully traced activity and ideology in the century after U. S. independence was declared. She estimates it was the most secular period in our history. Secular political and social groups thrived. The political religous fervor of a Jerry Falwell is a recent phenomenon.
Study of secular thinking is a most refreshing development.