— The Erimtan Angle —

Archive for the ‘Atheism’ Category

SECULARISM, BEER AND BIKINIS (2011-03-09)

HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

 

SECULARISM, BEER AND BIKINIS

CAN ERİMTAN

Some time ago, the Turkish government made public that it planned to alter the way in which alcohol is being sold in the country. According to some, the current Justice and Development Party, or AKP, government has been waging a war against the consumption of alcohol in the country in a bold-faced attempt to bring Turkey more in line with Islamic rules and regulations.

Two vocal critics of the AKP and its government, Soner Çağaptay and Cansın Ersöz, researchers affiliated with the Turkish Research Program at the pro-Israeli Washington Institute for Near East Policy, categorically write that since “the AKP rose to power in Turkey in 2002, special taxes on alcohol have increased dramatically, making a glass of wine or beer one of the most expensive in Europe, and for that purpose anywhere in the world.” In June 2002, the AKP adopted the Special Consumption Tax, or ÖTV, which raised the tax on alcoholic beverages from 18 percent (the standard VAT rate) to 48 percent, and as time went by, the ÖTV rate increased more and more until it reached 63 percent in 2009. Subsequently, the government came under fire for its policy and in 2010, some ÖTV taxes were eliminated.

But now the Tobacco and Alcohol Market Regulatory Authority, or TAPDK, has issued new regulations restricting advertisements for alcoholic beverages as well as its sale tactics. The decree requires catering companies that organize events that serve alcoholic beverages to get a license before each event. While it also prohibits supermarkets and grocery stores from placing alcoholic products for sale near goods aimed at children and youngsters. In addition, the sale of alcohol will be banned at municipally owned establishments and along roads designated as highways and state routes in the traffic code. However, no such provision in the regulation will apply to the sale of alcoholic beverages at venues in coastal zones. Draconic measures which restrict access to a product which is already restricted as a result of its high price?

Çağaptay and Ersöz opine that in “2003, Turkey’s per capita alcohol consumption rate was 1.4 liters per year. For that same year, this amount was 10.9 liters in Belgium; and 11.5 liters and 9.0 liters in neighboring Cyprus and Greece respectively. Even, Qatar, which implements a rigid version of the Shariah under the Wahhabi school, had higher per capita alcohol consumption rates than Turkey, at 4.4 liras per capita.” In other words, Turkish citizens do not appear to partake of alcoholic beverages all that much to begin with.

Arguments claiming to protect the young are very popular when it comes to restricting access to “forbidden” products such as pornography and/or drugs the world over. Mehmet Küçük, the head of the TAPDK, has publicly said that the aim of the new decree was not to restrict individuals’ freedoms but to lessen alcohol’s incentive. In other words, Küçük merely wants to limit the availability of attractive seducers, arguably in a way somewhat similar to the effect of laws that eventually prohibited the Marlboro Man from riding into the sunset while willingly exposing his body to carcinogenic substances in Europe and elsewhere. Küçük is thus suggesting that Turkish citizens require a nanny-state that knows best what is right or wrong. Turkey, a country that straddles the Balkans and the Middle East with a population that is officially 99.9 percent Muslim, is arguably the only country with an Islamic population and culture that allows its citizens unrestricted access to alcoholic beverages. Are the new regulations regarding the sale of alcoholic beverages in Turkey a somewhat cynical ploy to increase the state’s tax revenues or is there more than meets the eye?

In my opinion, the whole debate surrounding the consumption of alcohol in Turkey is primarily about perception. Opponents of the AKP government accuse Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ministers of secretly planning to introduce Islamic codes and attitudes via the backdoor. They thus regard this new TAPDK decree as a direct attack on the country’s “secular constitution.”

Is this really the case, and if so, why? In my book, “Ottomans looking West?” I posited that the “proclamation of the Republic . . . liberated Turkish citizens from the restrictions of Islam and the Şeriat [Shariah].” As a result, Republican Turks were meant to enjoy this world and its delights to the fullest and the decision to let Turkish citizens “partake of the delights of the mortal world was arguably crystallized in the consumption of alcoholic beverages. A strict interpretation of Islam explicitly prohibits the drinking of intoxicants in this world.” Hence, the issue of unrestricted access to beer and other alcoholic intoxicants has now assumed political, if not ideological, importance.

Turkey’s Muslim citizens have had legal access to alcohol since 1926. Turkey’s Islamic neighbor states do not grant their citizens equally easy access to the forbidden delights of alcohol. As a result, some Turks regard the issue as critical to the definition of secularism in the country. In fact, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) also defines secularism as “Concerned with the affairs of this world, wordly; not sacred.”

But nowadays, the term, particularly in its French form of laicité (at the root of Turkey’s laiklik), denotes a strict separation of church (or religion) and state. And, the theory is that Turkey, as a result of the reform movement, known as the İnkılap, is a secular state. In reality, however, ever since the Turkish state abolished the Caliphate and the Ministry of Pious Endowments in 1924, the Turkish Republic has regulated its citizens’ religious life through the Religious Affairs Directorate, a branch of government attached to the office of the prime minister.

Consequently, proponents of secularism in Turkey quite naturally feel the need to attach a lot of importance to certain symbolic issues: the availability of alcoholic beverages springs to mind, as well as the thorny headscarf issue, or rather the notion that women possess the freedom to don more or less revealing outfits (arguably, to please the male gaze). Let us call these charged matters “beer and bikinis” as a shorthand for the contentious topic of Turkish secularism in the 21st century.

Ali Bardakoğlu, the president of the Diyanet until recently, publicly called for the establishment of an independent religious authority in Turkey in an interview he gave to the self-avowed atheist Ahmet İnsel of daily Radikal (Oct. 23-24, 2010). After he made these statements, Bardakoğlu was replaced by Mehmet Görmez as the head of the Diyanet (Nov. 11).

***************************************

Advertisements

The Drumpf, as Chosen by God to Lead His People

dallas-pastor-robert-jeffress

On 20 January 2017, before attending his inauguration ceremony as 45th POTUS, the Drumpf, accompanied by his wife and the Pence couple, attended a sermon delivered by the Southern Baptist Rev. Robert Jeffress at the St. John’s Episcopal Church in D.C. And the good Reverend did not mince his worlds on this occasion:

President-elect and Mrs. Trump, Vice-President-elect and Mrs. Pence, families and friends, it’s an honor to be with you on this historic day.

President-elect Trump, I remember that it was exactly one year ago this weekend that I was with you on your Citation jet flying around Iowa before the first caucus or primary vote was cast. After our Wendy’s cheeseburgers, I said that I believed that you would be the next President of the United States. And if that happened, it would be because God had placed you there.

As the prophet Daniel said, it is God who removes and establishes leaders.

Today─one year later─God has raised you and Vice-President-elect Pence up for a great, eternal purpose”.i

Rev. Jeffress thus appears to believe that his god, the Christian God of the Southern Baptist Convention, a congregation counting more than 15 million members in 2015, has a special plan for the Drumpf.

jeffressprayer

The Reverend continued along, spouting more and more inanities and absurdities in the process:

When I think of you, President-elect Trump, I am reminded of another great leader God chose thousands of years ago in Israel. The nation had been in bondage for decades, the infrastructure of the country was in shambles, and God raised up a powerful leader to restore the nation. And the man God chose was neither a politician nor a priest. Instead, God chose a builder whose name was Nehemiah.

And the first step of rebuilding the nation was the building of a great wall. God instructed Nehemiah to build a wall around Jerusalem to protect its citizens from enemy attack. You see, God is NOT against building walls!

And the Old Testament book of Nehemiah records how Nehemiah completed that massive project in record time—just 52 days.

Why was Nehemiah so successful in building the wall and rebuilding the nation?”. ii

nehemiah_images

In the next instance, Rev. Jeffress goes quite some way comparing the Drumpf to the Biblical leader of yesteryear, stating that “Nehemiah was a gifted leader”, a gifted leader who “knew he could not succeed without God’s divine help”.iii And eventually, the good Reverend ends his hyperbolic drivel in this over-the-top fashion:

When President Ronald Reagan addressed the Republican National Convention in my city of Dallas in 1984 he said, “America needs God more than God needs America. If we ever forget that we are “one nation under God,” then we will be a nation gone under.”

President-elect Trump, you had a campaign slogan that resonated with tens of millions of Americans because it spoke to their heartfelt desire: “Make America Great Again.”

Psalm 33:12 gives us the starting point for making that happen: “Blessed— great—is the nation whose God is the Lord.”

May God bless President-elect Trump, Vice-President-elect Pence, their families and advisers. And may God truly bless the United States of America”.iv

And this then brings me to consider the always insightful and inquisitive Chris Hedges, whose 2007 book American Fascists already ten years sounded the alarm, at the time arguably referring to the dirty deeds done dirt cheap by George W.v

chris-hedges-american-fascists

In his review of the book, Nicholas Lezard posits that the casual observer might very well think “that the term ‘American Fascists’ is a little inflammatory. But Hedges does not claim that the Christian right is a Nazi party, nor that America will inevitably become a fascist state, as we understand the term. The Christian right is, though, ‘a sworn and potent enemy of the open society’, which is just about as bad; and the book is a kind of checklist in which you can tick off their characteristics against those of their predecessors: implacable intolerance of others; manipulation of language; paranoia; lying on a grand scale; exploitation of people’s fears; the creation of leadership cults; hate-mongering; the creation of a state of mind in which adherents are perpetually at war, fighting a good fight against their enemies. And the language, cited by Hedges, is chilling. Pastor Russell Johnson, who leads the Ohio Restoration Project and is, not coincidentally, an unofficial campaigner for Christian Republican candidates for high office, stands against an enormous American flag with a cross superimposed on it, saying: ‘We’re on the beaches of Normandy, and we can see the pillbox entrenchments of academic and media liberalism . . . We’ll take our country back for Christ.’ Well-integrated and highly motivated elector-registration drives suggest that they may well do so. Some may say they already have; George W Bush’s links with these people are well established, and receive another airing here. Hedges is clear about the danger facing America and argues that part of the responsibility lies with a supine media and a church establishment too pusillanimous or namby-pamby to point out that you could hardly call the Christian right Christian in the conventionally accepted meaning of the term (a quick look at their attitude to enormous wealth should settle any doubts on that score)”.vi The Hedges book thus shows that the recent history of the United States has been shaped by their leadership’s adherence to the tenets of the Christian faith: from Ronald Reagan over the atheist-hating George H. W. Bush, with an arguably minor detour under Bill Clinton, reaching its full apotheosis under Bush, Junior and Obama, who was “much attached to the work of the American Protestant exponent of ‘Christian realism’, Reinhold Niebuhr”, as I pointed out as long ago as 2011.vii And now, the Drumpf is set to bring this whole evolution to its natural conclusion as the one U.S. President apparently clearly chosen by the Christian God to do his will . . . according to some.

continuity_maxresdefault-1

i“Read the Sermon Donald Trump Heard Before Becoming President” TIME (Jan 2017). http://time.com/4641208/donald-trump-robert-jeffress-st-john-episcopal-inauguration/.

iiRead the Sermon Donald Trump Heard Before Becoming President”.

iii “Read the Sermon Donald Trump Heard Before Becoming President”.

iv “Read the Sermon Donald Trump Heard Before Becoming President”.

v “Empire Files: Trump, Fascism & the Christian Right” The Erimtan Angle. http://apob.tumblr.com/post/157867661192/empire-files-trump-fascism-the-christian.

vi Nicholas Lezard, “Onward to the apocalypse” The Guardian (03 Feb 2007). https://www.theguardian.com/books/2007/feb/03/featuresreviews.guardianreview24.

vii Cfr. “Libya: A Just War???” The Erimtan Angle (29 March 2011). https://sitanbul.wordpress.com/2011/03/29/libya-a-just-war/.

Dawkins and Mehdi Hasan

The well-known atheist Richard Dawkins debates the Al Jazeera journalist Mehdi Hasan, who is clearly out of his depth and apparently unable to imagine a world without purpose or meaning. Published on Jun 21, 2016.

 

Allah-005

Ancient Atheism: Professor Tim Whitemarsh and his book

Battling the Gods (2016)

The A.G. Leventis Professor of Greek Culture at Cambridge University, Tim Whitemarsh argues in his book that disbelief in divine causality and/or intervention was rather commonplace in the ancient world, more commonplace than monotheism at the very least he would argue. Illustrating this point, the Independent columnist Boyd Tonkin reasons that if “we accept that the Israelites in Jerusalem dumped all other gods in favour of the jealous, unique Yahweh sometime after 539BC, then by that period Xenophanes of Colophon had already recorded his scepticism. In other words, atheism may be ‘at least as old as the monotheistic religions of Abraham’. Let no one brand a non-believer as some post-Enlightenment freak, or atheists as modern weirdos who are ‘incomplete in their humanity’ . . . “.[1] Were it not that Xenophanes of Colophon actually “claimed that there was only one God, an eternal being, who shared no attributes with human beings” in the 6th century BCE, as related by the freelance writer and part-time Professor of Philosophy at Marist College, New York, Joshua J. Mark.[2] Still, Professor Whitemarsh “suggests [in his book] that atheism – which is typically seen as a modern phenomenon – was not just common in ancient Greece and pre-Christian Rome, but probably flourished more in those societies than in most civilisations since”.[3]

shutterstock_192985055-390x285

Professor Whitemarsh argues that “[w]e tend to see atheism as an idea that has only recently emerged in secular Western societies . . . The rhetoric used to describe it is hyper-modern. In fact, early societies were far more capable than many since of containing atheism within the spectrum of what they considered normal . . . Rather than making judgements based on scientific reason, these early atheists were making what seem to be universal objections about the paradoxical nature of religion – the fact that it asks you to accept things that aren’t intuitively there in your world. The fact that this was happening thousands of years ago suggests that forms of disbelief can exist in all cultures, and probably always have”.[4] And he goes on that “[b]elievers talk about atheism as if it’s a pathology of a particularly odd phase of modern Western culture that will pass, but if you ask someone to think hard, clearly people also thought this way in antiquity”.[5] But this period of apparent leniency came to an end with the Roman adoption of Christianity in the 4th century CE: “The age of ancient atheism ended . . . because the polytheistic societies that generally tolerated it were replaced by monotheistic imperial forces that demanded an acceptance of one, ‘true’ God. Rome’s adoption of Christianity in the 4th Century CE was . . . seismic’, because it used religious absolutism to hold the Empire together. Most of the later Roman Empire’s ideological energy was expended fighting supposedly heretical beliefs – often other forms of Christianity. In a decree of 380, Emperor Theodosius I even drew a distinction between Catholics, and everyone else – whom he classed as dementes vesanosque (‘demented lunatics’). Such rulings left no room for disbelief”.[6]

Emperor Theodosius

Image processed by CodeCarvings Piczard ### FREE Community Edition ### on 2016-02-10 22:43:25Z | http://piczard.com | http://codecarvings.com’’ÿ³.‘-s,

[1] Boyd Tonkin, “Battling the Gods: Atheism in the Ancient World by Tim Whitmarsh, book review” The Independent (18 Feb 2016). http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/reviews/battling-the-gods-atheism-in-the-ancient-world-by-tim-whitmarsh-book-review-a6881636.html.

[2] Joshua J. Mark, “Xenophanes of Colophon” Ancient History Encyclopedia (02 September 2009). http://www.ancient.eu/Xenophanes_of_Colophon/.

[3] “Disbelieve it or not, ancient history suggests that atheism is as natural to humans as religion” University of Cambridge Research (16 Feb 2016). “http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/disbelieve-it-or-not-ancient-history-suggests-that-atheism-is-as-natural-to-humans-as-religion#sthash.DpC54PeT.dpuf.

[4] “Disbelieve it or not, ancient history suggests that atheism is as natural to humans as religion”.

[5] “Disbelieve it or not, ancient history suggests that atheism is as natural to humans as religion”.

[6] “Disbelieve it or not, ancient history suggests that atheism is as natural to humans as religion”.

Bangladesh: Nationalism, Democracy and Socialism and Almighty Allah

Council_3106964_orig

Last year, the writer and historian Ryan Shaffer put forward that “Bangladeshi atheists and secularists are under attack from their government and Muslim extremists. In the last year, several leading Bangladeshi secularists have been murdered. In late 2014 and early 2015, four vocal professors, authors, and bloggers were killed by extremists by being hacked to death in public. The first murder was of Shafiul Islam, who was killed by several machete-wielding men near his home following allegations that he banned women from wearing burkas in his university classes. Then Avijit Roy, a Bangladeshi American writer who was critical of Islam, was attacked by three men with machetes and died at a nearby hospital from his injuries. Lastly, Oyasiqur Rahman and Ananta Bijoy Das, both atheist bloggers, were killed by assailants with machetes in separate but nearly identical attacks. These murders are just the latest in a campaign against atheists in Bangladesh. Since the 2013 murder of Ahmed Rajib Haider, another blogger who criticized Islam, the Bangladeshi government has walked a fine line between safeguarding its official religion of Islam and trying to protect nonbelievers from violent Islamic extremists”.[1]

Jus8Z4F

In early 2014, AFP reported that “Bangladesh police have charged seven students of an elite university and a cleric over the murder of an allegedly atheist blogger who was critical of Islam and Islamic groups. The students are accused of hacking to death Ahmed Rajib Haider, 35, near his home in Dhaka in February [2013], days after he helped launch a campaign against Islamist leaders accused of war crimes. Police also charged an imam from a Dhaka mosque with instigating the murder by allegedly preaching that it was legal to kill atheist bloggers who campaigned against Islam”.[2] The situation in East Bengal seems to be very dire indeed. The report goes on to say that the “body of Haider, better known by his Bengali online identity Thaba Baba, was found with hatchet wounds to the head in what police said was an apparent attempt to behead him. Six out of the seven men — all of whom are students of the prestigious and private North South University — and the imam have been arrested and are being held in jail, [Dhaka police deputy commissioner Masudur Rahman] said. Haider’s killing was the second attack in Dhaka against bloggers critical of Islam, after the stabbing of a self-styled ‘militant atheist’ by three unidentified men in January [2013]. After Haider’s death, Bangladesh’s Islamic parties started to protest against other campaigning bloggers, calling a series of nationwide strikes to demand their execution, accusing them of blasphemy”.[3]

Rajib-1

Giving a little potted history, Shaffer explains that “Bangladesh has its origins in religious strife and sectarianism. It gained its independence in 1947 when British India was divided to create a separate Muslim land. Originally founded as a Muslim-nation called East Pakistan, the country underwent a devastating ‘war of liberation’ against West Pakistan in 1971 and became Bangladesh, a nation of Bengalis. Though the country has a secular democracy, Islam is the official state religion and Muslim political parties play significant roles in crafting laws and influencing prosecutions. However, the current ruling party is the Awami League, a left-leaning secular socialist party [in power since 2009], and the prime minister is Sheikh Hasina, a woman who also governed the country from 1996 to 2001. Bangladesh’s recent history has been marked by corruption, assassinations, and arrests of political rivals, including Hasina’s 2008 indictment for extortion. At the same time, Muslim extremism has cast a large shadow with terrorist attacks killing and injuring large numbers of people, most notably two dozen deaths and hundreds of injuries following Hasina’s public anti-terror speech in 2004. Indeed, the country has weak governance and vocal religious extremists, which is further complicated by poverty and terrorism. Politicians have used Islam as a wedge for broadening its appeal and tapping into populist support for the nation’s official religion. Specifically, the government has been pursuing atheists and humanists for “hate speech” over their online posts critical of Islam”.[4]

sheikh-hasina_650x400_41423657263

The Bangladeshi Constitution proclaims that the country “is a unitary, independent, sovereign Republic to be known as the People’s Republic of Bangladesh” (Article 1).[5] The document then goes on to state that “[t]he state religion of the Republic is Islam, but other religions may be practiced in peace and harmony in the Republic” (Article 2.A).[6] And driving home the point, the document also points out that “[t]he principles of absolute trust and faith in the Almighty Allah, nationalism, democracy and socialism meaning economic and social justice, together with the principles derived from them as set out in this Part [of the Constitution], shall constitute the fundamental principles of state policy” (Article 8.1) and that “[a]bsolute trust and faith in the Almighty Allah shall be the basis of all actions” (Article 8.1A).[7] As a result, it seems that the Bangladeshi mind is bound to be somewhat confused and muddled, as the Almighty Allah is the driving force behind “nationalism, democracy and socialism” in East Bengal . . .

National_emblem_of_Bangladesh_svg

[1] Ryan Shaffer, “Crisis in Bangladesh: Secularists Killed by Extremists and Under Legal Threat from Government” Council for Secular Humanism (02 June 2015). https://www.secularhumanism.org/index.php/articles/7551.

[2] “Cleric, students charged with ‘athesist’ blogger’s murder” AFP (29 January 2014). http://www.9news.com.au/world/2014/01/29/07/48/cleric-students-charged-with-atheist-blogger-s-murder#eDrLKJjuBtEuGOqO.99.

[3] “Cleric, students charged with ‘athesist’ blogger’s murder”.

[4] Ryan Shaffer, “Crisis in Bangladesh: Secularists Killed by Extremists and Under Legal Threat from Government”.

[5] “CONSTITUTION OF THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF BANGLADESH” International Relations and Security Network. http://www1.umn.edu/humanrts/research/bangladesh-constitution.pdf.

[6] “CONSTITUTION OF THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF BANGLADESH”.

[7] “CONSTITUTION OF THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF BANGLADESH”.

The Enemies of Reason

‘The Enemies of Reason is a two-part television documentary, written and presented by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, in which he seeks to expose “those areas of belief that exist without scientific proof, yet manage to hold the nation under their spell”, including mediumship, acupuncture and psychokinesis. The documentary was first broadcast on Channel 4 in the UK, styled as a loose successor to Dawkins’ documentary of the previous year, The Root of All Evil?, as seen through the incorporation of brief clips from said documentary during the introduction of the first part by Dawkins. The first part aired 13 August 2007 and the second on 20 August 2007. It includes interviews with Steve Fuller, Deepak Chopra, Satish Kumar, and Darren Brown’.

  • Astrology was developed in the 2nd century AD by the philosopher Claudius Ptolemy
  • Since Ptolemy developed this belief system, new planets have been discovered and the earth’s rotational axis has shifted 23 degrees
  • The ‘barnum effect’ is a term used in psychology whereby people tend to believe statements are specific and personal to them, when in fact they are general enough to apply to everyone
  • ‘Cold reading’ refers to the set of linguistic tricks a psychic medium might use, whereby they communicate information to someone where it sounds like they know everything about you – they are supplying words and you are constantly applying the meaning yourself
  • A quarter of the British population claims to believe in astrology
  • Half the British population say they believe in paranormal phenomena
  • Over 8 million of us have consulted psychic mediums.[1]

[1] ‘facts” Channel 4. http://www.channel4.com/culture/microsites/E/enemies_of_reason/facts.html.

Ateizm Derneği “Mirgün Cabas ile Her Şey” – 4 Mart 2015

‘Ateizm Dernegi Yönetim Kurulu üyesi Zehra Pala (Lakshmi), derneğimizin web sitesine erişimin engellenmesi üzerine 4 Mart 2015 tarihinde CNN Türk kanalında yayınlanan Mirgün Cabas ile Her Şey programına katılarak konuyla ilgili sorulara yanıt verdi’.