Four Approaches to Dealing with the Religious - Secular Divide
Political Science Sabanci University Istanbul, Turkey
This paper discusses the preliminary findings of a research project entitled "Social Structure and Religion in Turkey", sponsored by the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey. In its broadest sense the project investigates the impact of religion on economy, politics and gender in Turkey. In particular, the research poses questions such as: how do the different social groups perceive religion? Do different perceptions influence political behavior (democratic attitude), views on economy (entrepreneurial culture), and gender relations (formulation of more equal gender relations) and how does it effect attitudes towards EU?
In-depth interviews and participant observations conducted with local religious notables in three cities revealed that dissention with the state is voiced through a religious discourse. This discourse which entails negotiation, compromise and interaction between the traditional and dominant secular norms is framed through five juxtapositions: (i) sacred (transcendental) and profane (mundane), (ii) traditional and modern, (iii) public and private space, (iv) text and praxis, and (v) religious and scientific knowledge. But how do individuals bridge these tensions? What sort of strategies religious authorities and key persons make use of in attracting and persuading believers? Based on the preliminary observations and data, depending on the circumstances and the target audience four approaches were identified. The utilitarian pragmatic approach involved strategic calculations of rewards and punishments. External incentives or threats were perceived in relation to the core principles of religion. The communitarian approach centered on norm compliance and made use of a bounded rationality. Close community and group environments "provide simplifying shortcuts, cues, and buffers that can lead to the enactment of particular role conceptions among individuals" (Checkel, 2005, 810). It best manifested itself in attitude toward family affairs and was articulated through a masculinity discourse. The communicative approach materialized when agents presented arguments to persuade each other through reasoned communication. Last approach, radical rationality, appeared when the recognition of the impossibility of reaching a universal common ground was accepted; it rejected an all-encompassing project for entirety of society and looked for tolerance for difference, thus being more suitable for the democratic attitude where social divisions are stark and deep.