What Is Secular Music? (Sacred vs. Secular Music)

Secular music is any music that doesn’t fall into the category of sacred music. Although secular refers to something that is not religious, it often deals with more earthly things. Secular music deals with a wide range of matters, such as love or war, or incorporates religious elements indirectly. 

Secular music can also simply be non-religious songs of praise and celebration, such as those sung by secular choirs. Secular music can be written and performed by people of faith or without faith, and secular music is not necessarily godless or anti-religious.

That said, secular music does fall outside the realm of sacred music, which cannot contain any words that are not specific to a certain religion.

Key Takeaways

  • Secular music encompasses all musical forms that do not qualify as sacred, focusing on worldly themes rather than explicitly religious ones.
  • Both individuals with and without religious affiliations can create and perform secular music, highlighting its inclusive nature. It is not inherently anti-religious but simply exists outside the sacred domain.
  • In contemporary settings, secular music is prevalent in entertainment, ranging from dance and jazz to pop and rock.
  • While sacred music is consecrated for religious ceremonies and tends to remain constant in form and style, secular music is characterized by its adaptability and constant evolution.
  • Despite their differences, secular and sacred music share commonalities, such as their ability to entertain.
  • The distinction between secular and sacred music helps in understanding the diversity and depth of musical expression across cultures.

What is Secular Music? 

The word secular means “of worldly or temporal matters as distinguished from religious and spiritual ones”. Secular music is any music that has no direct ties to religion and does not directly promote a profession of faith.

Secular music is typically not focused on any set of religious beliefs or practices. Secular music can have a secular theme or message, be it about love, war, nature, politics, etc., but secular songs do not need to contain lyrics pertaining specifically to religion.

Secular songs are also often written and performed by secular musicians who will not affiliate with any particular religion.

Secular Music in the Present Day 

Secular music is composed for secular use and enjoyment. The secular realm is the world of everyday life and living, and secular music would include any type of music that has no religious content, and often this will be dance or jazz music.

There are secular songs about love, heartbreak, and life in the city or country; practically anything goes as long as it has no religious content.

Secular music is particularly popular for use in the entertainment industry – anyone looking to hire a professional secular musician will find plenty of applicants with secular music on their resumes, whereas musicians who prefer more sacred music may have a harder time getting secular gigs. 

How can music be considered sacred? 

The word sacred is derived from the Latin sacrare, which means to set apart or consecrate. And so, sacred music is the music set apart or consecrated for use within the liturgy. 

Sacred music is a subset of music that is designed to be performed in places of worship, such as churches and synagogues. These styles are typically performed by professional musicians during weekly religious ceremonies. Many sacred songs have lyrics that cover one or more topics from the bible. 

Differences between Sacred and Secular Music

Secular music dates back to the earliest days of recorded history, while sacred music is typically affiliated with religious practice. Anyone can create secular music, while sacred music requires training in both theoretical and practical aspects of the religion in question. 

Secular music does not require devotion or piety towards any one god or set of beliefs; secular songs are instead about love, war, or secular topics in general. Sacred music does not have this same flexibility.

Secular music is not the opposite of sacred music, and secular songs can often be performed at religious events (depending on the religion, of course) as long as the music doesn’t conflict with the values of the religion.

Sacred Music does not change

Sacred music does not change very often, whether in form or style,  because it contains topics that are part of the core values of the religion.

Unlike sacred music, secular music undergoes such rapid changes based on culture, time, and place, that new genres can be created even within the boundaries of a single genre within a decade.

However, worship music can even include live bands with rock and electronic elements in music, and therefore these can certainly change over time.

Examples of Secular music 

Pop, rock, and rap songs.

Secular music is the kind of music that you can hear and dance to on a daily basis. It’s played on the radio stations and at parties all over the world.

Despite this secular music is still very popular among many people. But secular music is very different from sacred music in that secular music has no religious meaning while sacred music refers to religious songs or hymns.

Examples of Sacred Music

Christian, Gospel, and Hymnals/Songs.

Sacred music can be found in many forms inside churches all over the world. It makes reference to songs and hymns which people sing inside these churches. Many of the secular songs actually borrow from sacred music and turn them into secular songs. 

For example, you’ll find some secular songs that contain lyrics about religion, faith, and holy imagery. Sacred music is different from secular music because sacred music always has religious meaning.

Similarities between secular and sacred music

One thing secular and sacred music has in common is that both can be used to entertain people. They both have their differences but they also share some similarities as well.

Many secular artists like Beethoven, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, and Stravinsky were influenced by sacred music during their time. You can even hear some secular songs that borrow from hymns. 


Any music that is not considered sacred is considered secular music. By identifying the differences between sacred music and secular music, we are able to understand both types of music better. 

Some of the things that separate secular music from sacred music are that secular songs are about human beings, secular songs do not require devotion or piety, secular music can be heard every day, secular songs have no religious meaning while sacred music has religious meaning. 

Secular music and secular songs tend to be less formal than sacred music and hymns, secular lyrics tend to focus on human beings, secular music speaks of the temporal, physical, and earthly while sacred music speaks of the eternal, heavenly, and spiritual.

There are also some similarities between secular and sacred music. They can both be used to entertain people, secular artists borrow from sacred music, and secular songs borrow from hymns.