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Turkish Atheism on the Rise


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Atheist Republic (News)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): n.d.

There has been a continuous growth in the number of non-religious people in the Turkey, which, by some reckonings, has been quite dramatic via the increase in the number of atheists within the theocratic state known for working via the state to keep evolution out of the classrooms

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan continues to have a theocratic politics with the ongoing encouragement of Islam to the Turkish people. But, at the same time, we see this rise in the number of atheists within the country. Those for whom religion simply doesn’t take or didn’t take.

As reported, “According to a recent survey by the pollster Konda, a growing number of Turks identify as atheists. Konda reports that the number of nonbelievers tripled in the past 10 years. It also found that the share of Turks who say they adhere to Islam dropped from 55 percent to 51 percent.”

The official directorate of religious affairs in Turkey, Diyanet, declared in 2014 that 99% of the Turkish public identifies as Muslim. However, with recent survey data from Konda, this has created heated debated within the country.

Ahmet Balyemez, a 36-year-old computer scientist, stated, “There is religious coercion in Turkey… People ask themselves: Is this the true Islam?… When we look at the politics of our decision-makers, we can see they are trying to emulate the first era of Islam. So, what we are seeing right now is primordial Islam… Fasting and praying were the most normal things for me.”

Cemil Kilic, a theologian, considers both statistics correct. In that, 99% of Turks identify as Muslim but only identify as such from a cultural and a sociological perspective. Kilic, here, is making a distinction between cultural Muslims, as in cultural Christians, and spiritual Muslims.

The theologian Cemil Kilic believes that both figures are correct. Though 99 percent of Turks are Muslim, he said, many only practice the faith in a cultural and sociological sense. They are cultural, rather than spiritual, Muslims.

Kilic stated, “The majority of Muslims in Turkey are like the Umayyads, who ruled in the seventh century… The prayers contained in the Koran reject injustice. But the Umayyads regarded daily prayer as a form of showing deference towards the sultan, the state and the powers that be… Regular prayers have become a way to signal obedience toward the political leadership… And prayers in mosques increasingly reflect the political worldview of those in power.”

Kilic explained how the lack of a formal religion, in this case Islam, does not negate a moral compass of the individual, as he states that some atheists are even more ethical and conscientious than a great number of Muslims.

One of the facts floating around this issue of Islam and atheism on the rise within Turkey is that fact that President Erdogan has been in power for about 16 years, as prime minister until 2014 and then president onwards into the present.

Kilic argued the state admixture with religion is part of the problem and the atheists may, in fact, be more consistent in their beliefs than the Muslims at times. Ateizm Dernegi, the central organization for atheists in Turkey, has, through its leader, Selin Ozhoken, stated that the desire by Erdogan to produce devout Muslims has, in fact, failed miserably in a number of ways.

Dernegi explained, “Religious sects and communities have discredited themselves… We have always said that the state should not be ruled by religious communities, as this leads to people questioning their faith and becoming humanist atheists.”


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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