Science is based on a crucial principle: falsifiability. Religion, on the other hand, rests on the notion of absolute authority and infallibility. Every now and then the two worldviews clash, forcing people to make a choice…
Turkey is one of the places on Earth where the Infallibles still have the upper hand.
Tyranny: a government in which absolute power is vested in a single ruler
In a previous article titled In Turkey A Single Word Can Land You In Jail, K? I went over journalist Önder Aytaç and a cheeky tweet he made about Turkey’s Prime Minister.
It’s a sad story. Aytac used the tweet to criticize authoritarian policies, using an offensive wordplay to make his point, Turkey has zero tolerance for those who criticize Turkish authority, and Aytac found himself in jail, care of the powers vested to authorities by the notorious Article 301.
In that article I then made the connection between Turkey and its dominant religion, Islam, which the Prime Minister’s AK Party has strong ties with, focusing on said religion’s long and deep tradition of not tolerating any form of criticism toward Allah / God and his agents on earth i.e. toward authority.
Was I biased against Islam? Indeed, but no more than I’m biased toward Christianity, or any other belief system that doesn’t tolerate criticism of any kind
I thus provided a cultural backdrop for the harsh reaction of the Turkish system toward this journalist’s tweet.
Was my assertion one-sided? Yes.
Was I biased against Islam? Indeed, but no more than I’m biased toward Christianity, or any other belief system that doesn’t tolerate criticism of any kind. Divine exemption is a cheap move in my books, and I am loath to condone it.
One may wonder whether my line of argumentation was valid and substantiated, despite its hyperbole. I think it was. I connected Turkish authoritarianism with Islam’s haram views on criticizing God — or any of his agents on earth — and made the following point: silencing the opposition is not an enlightened move, especially when it’s not an one-off i.e. when the censorship is wide and institutionalized.
My argument was based on raw reality. Religion influences culture, period, especially in places where a faith is observed dutifully. Traditions kept and practised over the centuries are bound to become embedded in the societies that observe them, manifesting themselves in a number of ways, some of which have everything to do with religion, some of which mutate and change, seeping into all kinds of functions, including secular ones. Living one’s life according to the dicta of an absolute ruler, against whom none can speak, or even think, is bound to have lasting effects in a people’s psyche.
Religion influences culture, period, especially in places where a faith is observed dutifully
But here’s the problem with my argument. Since we know that tyranny and oppression are phenomena observed in all societies, cultures and religions, one can’t single out Islam and blame Turkey’s long tradition of authoritarianism on it.
There Are Other Factors In Play
Indeed. But this article doesn’t aim to explore these factors. My aim is to explore the extent to which Turkish authoritarianism is connected to its dominant religion, in this case Islam, whose insistence on excoriating all kinds of criticism toward its highest authorities is noteworthy, if not cringeworthy. No matter how non-comprehensive my argument is, there’s a point to be made about this phenomenon, and to this point I will stick, because it’s worth exploring.
In the meantime I’m making another point, showcasing how organized religion at large plays a dirty game, leading to all sorts of unfortunate events.
I will thus make special mention of Christianity, too. Even though the Church has mellowed out over the years, the faith’s authoritarian foundations are a huge concern, impeding the world’s progress.
In fact, if anything, I’m going to use organized religion to showcase the negative twist in all self-righteous belief systems, focusing on their ridiculous notions of absolute authority, infallibility, and sanctimony.
Show Me Your Opposition…
Science is our best and most reliable method of making sense of the world. Its success is based on a very crucial principle: falsifiability.
A theory should be disputable and refutable to be valid. In fact, everything needs to be falsifiable because everything is subject to change
What is falsifiability? According to Karl Popper, a theory should be disputable and refutable to be valid. In fact, everything needs to be falsifiable because everything is subject to change. There’s always room for improvement, for something that hasn’t been observed or tested to enter the scene. So long as Item A or B hold their ground and their nature is verified by multiple sources, they’re accepted.
But they need to be refutable. There has to be a way to show that they don’t work under certain conditions. If they’re not falsifiable, they’re not scientific and have no meaning, use, or bearing on the world. They’re dogmas, biases, things that can’t be improved on and which will, by default, become obsolete.
In other words, instead of acting as bridges toward a higher understanding, these items become dead ends. A terminus.
There’s no room for termina in science. Only terminals — hubs that connect with one another, driving the traffic through and our knowledge further.
…And I’ll Tell You That Infallibility Is Tyranny
Religions are narcissistic beasts. Call them sanctimonious belief systems that consider themselves the Alpha and Omega of reality. They attempt to explain everything according to their partial understanding, without the use of data or evidence. Their claim to world cosmogony makes them obsessed with ontology and human behavior, over which they have appointed themselves the final arbitrators. They’re the world’s most ancient political system – after Family – and certainly the first in terms of a society/economy.
Though each faith has a different approach and narrative, they all have one thing in common: they take their beliefs very seriously and hold their gods and deities to the highest esteem. They expect their members to follow their commands as instructed by their holy books and traditions, as interpreted and communicated by their holy men and women. This command is considered immutable and unchallengeable i.e. final, which makes it sacrosanct to all who believe in it and sanctimonious to those who don’t.
I’m not a fan of organized religion, as you may have gathered. I find beauty and wisdom in some of its words and teachings, but it’s not final, not by a long shot. If anything, I consider it tyrannical (monotheism), sanctimonious (when it takes its self too seriously, whatever the creed or teaching), and increasingly obsolete, at least in its current form.
This, of course, makes me an unbeliever and a blasphemer in certain places of the world, the punishment for which is grave. Blasphemy – or dissent from the word of any faith in general) – is the ultimate form of unholy defiance and is not taken lightly by the religious establishment, across faiths. Though the approach varies, depending on the faith, organized religion at large, desperate to maintain control of the world and unable to prove what it says, swaps falsifiability for infallibility, eager to hold its grip over its members. It seeks new followers and subscribers while struggling to overcome competition by other creeds.
Organized religion in general… swaps falsifiability for infallibility, eager to hold its grip over its members
It’s hardly unexpected, and quite natural. A dogma will fight tooth and nail for its life. If it doesn’t, it will die out to those that do, and many have done exactly that: they perished in the wake of advancing knowledge and competing belief systems.
While the perished rest in peace, or pieces, let’s address the systems that made it through, which are popular and active — Christianity and Islam — looking at how they’re operating on premises that aren’t on the right side of history.
Part 2 to follow…