What is the culture of atheism

'Ne mutlu ateistim diyene' *
Atheism & The Political Importance of Culture in Turkey Today

A project by the Center for Near and Middle Eastern Studies (CNMS) at the Philipps University in Marburg in cooperation with the Institute for Sociology at the Bahçeşehir University in Istanbul.

The aim of the research project is to investigate contemporary discourses on atheism in Turkey. The importance of the topic of atheism has to be seen in the context of the culture war currently taking place in Turkey. For some time now, the ruling elite has been striving to elevate their favored culture of pious conservatism to the social norm in order to consolidate their political power in the state and in society. Morally and religiously sensitive topics such as nudity, sexuality, alcohol consumption, evolutionary biology or criticism of religion are increasingly subject to a systematic ban from education and the media, while at the same time a state strengthening of religious education offers and an increasing visibility of religious references and symbols in politics and society can be observed. The declared aim of educating a new, religious generation is increasingly calling into question the previous model of Turkish secularism and the national identity that feeds on it. The individual human rights guaranteed in the Turkish constitution - in this case the protection of freedom of belief and conscience in the sense of freedom from and from religion - seem to be under pressure in the face of recent developments.

The public visibility of non-religious, atheistic ways of life calls into question the cultural hegemony of pious conservatism and thus the claim to rule of the ruling elite. The use of public space can thus function as an efficient means of demanding political power. In this sense, atheism becomes part of a (counter) hegemonic discourse about the political meaning of culture (The Politics of Culture) investigated.