Oh secularism, you are killing me

Oh secularism, you are killing me

A recent gem uttered by Turkey’s top religious official may provide an insight into why cruelty and violence remain a permanent aspect of the human condition.

Mehmet Görmez, the president of the Directorate General for Religious Affairs (Diyanet), suggested on Dec. 14 that the suffering we see today is the result of an evil created by so-called revolutionaries in France in 1789.

“Humanity way set on a different quest with the French Revolution. It envisaged building a more secular world separate from religion. But secularism sent the world into total war by exceeding the amount of violence that stemmed from religions,” Görmez said.

How did secularism do this, one wonders? By paving the way for free thinking and scientific developments, of course.

“People became able to imagine the atomic bomb thanks to scientific explorations. They produced chemical weapons and several times the number of people who died in wars throughout history died during wars in modern times,” Görmez added.

It would be a waste of time to recall the inquisition, the crusades, the Thirty Years’ War, the Sunni-Shiite conflict, the brutality of the Islamic Sate of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), etc., to remind Görmez of the pain that religions have caused. 

What is more interesting - and terrifying - about Görmez’s remarks is that, according to Turkey’s top religious official, secularism paved the way for scientific developments and science has brought humankind nothing but the atomic bomb and chemical weapons.

Only a few people – and perhaps Görmez is among them – would argue about the benefits that innovations in science and technology have given to humankind. The advances in science and technology in the 19th and 20th century, after the pressure of religion was relieved in the Western world, are the reasons for the relatively long and the prosperous life that most people now have.

Badmouthing secularism in Turkey is particularly interesting. The secular education system is the reason why Aziz Sancar recently won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on DNA repair, while other “scientists” in the Muslim world try to prove a reported quote of the Prophet Muhammad by arguing that one wing of a fly carries a disease while the other wing carries a cure.

Secularism is why women’s suffrage was introduced in Turkey in 1930 for local elections and in 1934 for national elections, while women in Saudi Arabia voted in local elections for the first time only last week. 

Maybe Görmez prefers “real” science. For example, an imam-hatip school student in May 2013, in a project accepted to the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey’s (TÜBİTAK) science fair, argued that a common bean grown in a laboratory while “listening to Quran” grows three times faster than normal beans. (Yes, that is the very same TÜBİTAK that stopped publishing books on evolution and recently recalled 50,000 other books, vowing to destroy any that do not meet the criteria of “localness and cultural coherence.”)

The remarks also come from a state official whose institution bought him a state-of-the-art Mercedes worth over $200,000. Let’s not ask whether the technology in the car was a product of “secular science.”

Görmez has no problem with “secular science” when its serves his agenda and when it is “convenient” to trust science. For example, in a speech in June 2012 when arguing that abortion was “haram and murder,” he said it was a “matter of whether or not to accept the truth put forward by science.” 

“It is a problem of facing the scientific facts. Because it does not want to face the scientific facts, the European Court of Human Rights puts cases on the issue on hold, arguing that it’s still not clear when life begins,” he said at the time.

Görmez and the Diyanet also have no problems with science of the “pre-secularism era.” The Diyanet TV, funded by the state, has broadcast documentaries praising a Muslim and Turkish scientist “who enlightened the world when the West was in the darkness of scholasticism.”

But again, all such arguments are void against the remarks of Turkey’s top state religious official, whose institution has a yearly budget of $2 billion. Trust the imam wearing the robe, secularism will kill you.