Religion and Politics

Later we began to understand that this was not a real ideology and that we have more needs than just eating, drinking, and reproducing. We began to realize that meaning and needs related to the cultural world were at least as important, and that religion functioned as a cultural code that held societies together.

When our eyes opened a little more, we began to understand that there was a structure called culture, and that society could not be understood without understanding religion. Great social scientists like the late Sabri ulgener, whom I mention with deep respect, and serif Mardin were instrumental in waking us up to the world of meaning and culture. Mardin's works especially helped us see the cultural vacuum caused by a one-party administration.

Meanwhile, we discovered that we couldn't analyze Turkey's politics without paying attention to developing religious communities and tariqas that officially do not exist, but which in reality maintain their liveliness. We understood that in Turkey, where modern institutionalization and organization remain behind, that religious brotherhood and solidarity, basic forms of social organization, continues.

Religion is one of the most important elements in our worlds of meaning and culture. Attempting to abolish it is a futile and will boomerang, as many experiments have shown. Religion is not the people's opiate, but it might just be society's mortar.

Sahin Alpay, Milliyet, 2/18/95
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