Turkey's Directorate of Religious Affairs' (Diyanet) leader Ali Erbaş
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In the Turkish town of Konya, the Ministry of Education has written a report titled The Youth Are Sliding to Deism. The report explains that young Turks who are students in the state-sponsored religious imam hatip schools are becoming dissatisfied with Islam. Instead of turning to atheism, the belief that God does not exist, they are turning to Deism, the belief that God does exist. Unlike the "revealed" religions such as Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Baha'i and Mormonism, all of which claim to have a special divine revelation that they are based upon, Deism rejects the claims of divine revelations. In Deism belief in The Supreme Intelligence/God is based on the application of a person's innate reason on the laws and designs in nature. The linked to article sums Deism up well when it states Deism is belief in God without religion.
The fact that young Turkish students in state-sponsored Islamic schools are leaving Islam for Deism is very upsetting to Turkish politicians and clergy, all the way up to Turkey's President Erdogan. The leader of the Nationalist Action Party was angry at the people who wrote the report (attacking the messenger) and said that they are "putting on the Turkish youth the stain of Deism, which is one stop before atheism." (As mentioned above, Deism is the opposite of atheism in that Deism is the belief that God does exist, and atheism is the belief that God does not exist.)
Turkey's top clergyman and the leader of the Directorate of Religious Affairs, Ali Erbaş, described Deists as being "perverse" and that they do not belong to the Turkish nation. He also believes that young Turks who are leaving Islam for Deism don't really understand what Deism is and that Deism rejects the belief in religious prophets, which means Deism rejects the belief that Muhammad was a prophet of God. Erbaş said, "Deism means denying the Prophet (Muhammad). Which Muslim can deny the Prophet and remain as a Muslim?" He's obviously missing the point: the Turks who are leaving Islam for Deism DO deny the Islamic belief that Muhammad was a prophet and do not want to remain Muslims.
Even though atheism and Deism are opposites, both are based on free thought and both reject the claims of divine revelations promoted by the "revealed" religions. This is why the Atheism Association in Turkey is taking a very public stand on the side of the Deists. They are tired of the government and Islamic clergy using Turkey's Penal Code 216, which prohibits "provoking the public to hatred, hostility or degrading religions", to silence atheists and all free thinkers. The Turkish Atheism Association is calling on prosecutors to prosecute Erbaş and other anti-Deists who publicly say and write that Deism is a "stain" and that Deism is "perverse". It will be interesting to see what the prosecutors will do.
The American revolutionary and Deist, Thomas Paine, wrote in The Age of Reason that the success of the American Revolution made it possible to have a revolution in religion based on our innate God-given reason and Deism. Paine wrote:
"Soon after I had published the pamphlet Common Sense, in America, I saw the exceeding probability that a revolution in the system of government would be followed by a revolution in the system of religion. The adulterous connection of church and state, wherever it had taken place, whether Jewish, Christian, or Turkish, had so effectually prohibited by pains and penalties, every discussion upon established creeds, and upon first principles of religion, that until the system of government should be changed, those subjects could not be brought fairly and openly before the world; but that whenever this should be done, a revolution in the system of religion would follow. Human inventions and priestcraft would be detected; and man would return to the pure, unmixed and unadulterated belief of one God, and no more."
In The Age of Reason, The Complete Edition, Paine wrote, "inquiry is the road to truth, he that is opposed to inquiry is not a friend to truth. The God of truth is not the God of fable; when, therefore, any book is introduced into the world as the Word of God, and made a groundwork for religion, it ought to be scrutinized more than other books to see if it bear evidence of being what it is called." This free-thought principle expressed by Thomas Paine is what is causing the young people in Turkey to leave Islam behind for Deism.The power of the religious right, from the days of Paine through today, have prevented a widespread Deistic revolution in religion from happening in the US. However, the First Amendment rights Americans can enjoy if they decide to use them has allowed Deism to find a home on the Internet (www.deism.com), which is truly international in scope. For the last 25 years the World Union of Deists has been, and is, reaching out to people all over the world with Deism, and not only has intro to Deism pages in 20 different languages, including Turkish, it also has the first part of Thomas Paine's enlightening book The Age of Reason in Arabic. Perhaps Thomas Paine's vision of a Deistic revolution in religion is now starting in Turkey?