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Munazara and Argumentation Ethics Research Center

Non-Religious Beliefs and Practices in Turkey: Non-Religious Quests in the Changing Social Structure

Drawing on empirical data from seven different cities in Turkey, this study will examine how and why non-religion has emerged in Turkey. It particularly will focus on the ways in which social dynamics form and shape non-religion in Turkey.
To date, Turkish society has been generally known as 99% Muslim, and the majority of which is considered conservative. Moreover, it has been ruled by the Justice and Development Party government for the last 20 years, which is known to be its Islamist and conservative inclinations. Despite the overt conservative policies, there have been speculations about a surprising increase in non-religion in general public opinion. It has also been speculated that non-religion is not anymore reserved domain of secular sections but increasing numbers of sympathizers are seen even among the children of conservative Muslim families. Thus, related to deeper social dynamics the subject matter deserves scholarly attention, exploratory scientific research methods.

At first glance, this phenomenon may seem to be related to a proportionally small and marginal segment of Turkish society. However, this segment consists of groups that have close contact with intellectual developments in the West; have high cultural capital, and have high public visibility and influence in Turkey. That is to say, non-religious individuals weigh more important than their numerical presence. Indeed, non-religion emerges as one of the most crucial, if not dominant positions in the relevant public discourses and social positions. Many controversial issues such as ‘Halal food certificates‘, ’raising a religious generation, ’religion section in previous Turkish identity cards, sexual preferences, abortion discussions and embryo research are discussed in the context of non-religion. Non-religion provides the primary hegemonic position in these debates.

In the context of the increasing presence of non-religion both in the world and in Turkey, understanding the underlying dynamics will contribute to the cutting edge literature and our social life in many spheres ranging from politics to education, health, legal system and fundamental rights and freedoms.

In this research project, we propose to conduct field research that employs both qualitative and quantitative methods. The fieldwork will compose of four phases: participant observations, semi-structured interviews in the largest cities of the seven regions in Turkey, and focus groups. In the last phase, we aim to conduct an online survey.


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