Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Islamic Governance has Made Turks Less Religious

From a new academic paper by Murat Çokgezen, via Marginal Revolution:

This paper first evaluates the impact of a two-decade-long Islamization policy carried out by a pro-Islamist party, which came to power in 2002 in Turkey, on the attitudes of Turkish people toward religious values, religious practices, and clergy. In this regard, how the importance of religion, frequency of going to mosques, and trust in the clergy have changed among Turkish Muslims between 2002 and 2018 were examined by using World Values Survey data and employing logistic regression analysis. Estimation results indicated a reduction in belief in God, attendance to mosques, and trust in clergy, which imply the failure of the Islamization policy. Second, we explored what caused the failure by using the same data set and methodology. Our estimations suggested that the symbiotic relationship between the pro-Islamist government and religious clergy and institutions may explain the failure. As the government is identified with religion in the eye of the public, dissatisfaction with the government turned to dissatisfaction with religious values.

Unfortunately the paper is paywalled so I can't tell you how big the changes were. Since religious faith has declined across much of the world in the past 20 years, this might just be the international norm, not the fault of the Turkish government; but at any rate they are not succeeding in fighting that trend.


David said...

It's become a truism that separation of religion and state is good for the sake of religion--maybe it's a true truism for all that.

On the other hand, it's curious that the identification of religion and state didn't seem to hurt religion in premodern Islam. Perhaps that's because there was a huge amount of religious life that was inherent to the society and daily life, and it was more that the state tried to identify itself with that, than that religion was being identified with the state and enforced by it. Dynasties came and went, but Islam remained whole in itself.

Perhaps Ataturk's secularization was successful enough in the sense that Islam is no longer part of daily life in the same way. (Arguably also Turkish secularism shared with Salafism a tendency to remove or downplay a lot of what used to make Islam a comfortable part of everyday life: humdrum holy men, half-educated village mullahs, saints helping with rain, etc.)

G. Verloren said...


Aside from matters of faith proper, religion used to fill the roll that is now fill by science and rationalism - that of helping people make important decisions.

Who do you go to when the crops are failing and you need help? Today, we go to scientists - but in the past, they went to priests.

Politicians and the state no longer make religion a central focus of governance because it turns out empirical study and reason do a much better job of fixing problems than prophecy and prayer do.

David said...


There's some of what you say, but traditional religion's role was much deeper and broader than that. In Islam, Shari'a deals with virtually every aspect of daily human life, including property, inheritance, diet, polite behavior, dress, criminal law, business practice, etc. The same is certainly true of Jewish law. Premodern Christianity was in some ways more circumscribed in its coverage, but nevertheless also structured much of daily life.