How is life for an atheist in Turkey?

We have to answer this question differently for an atheist, versus an atheist activist.

Compared to many other countries with majority muslim population, being an atheist in Turkey is not as bad or as difficult as one might think. There are no laws that require the prosecution and punishment of atheists solely because of being atheist, and someone’s life is not in danger simply because of being an atheist, usually. Danger of physical harm (getting beaten by a mob, etc) is also not an issue usually, for most people, in most settings (although there may be exceptions).

This would be the situation most atheists would find themselves in, but only when this is only known by a limited number of people, such as their social circles, or their community. They may feel discrimination, bias and other difficulties in the workplace and within their extended community, but usually not to a degree that would endanger their lives or put them in risk of physical harm.

Some may be lucky enough to not even experience any of that, if their social circle is more accepting to their identity. Those people may be able to live openly atheist lives in Turkey without any significant negative consequences or difficulties.

But those would be in minority. Most atheists would face more issues, if they are openly atheist. A lot of atheists in Turkey would be forced to live their lives as closet atheists, or suffer difficulties and discrimination from the others around them.

For public figures, the situation would be a little more different. If someone is a public figure, and openly atheist, they may still be okay, as long as they don’t make their atheism a central aspect of their image and their outlook, and as long as they are not atheist activists.

But if someone is an atheist activist, their lives would be a lot more difficult, especially if they are well known, or if they are public figures.

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What happened to Atheism in Turkey?

Atheism was very active in Turkey for a while. Especially between 2008 and 2016. It was pretty much only active online, but it was active. There were many online message boards, discussion forums, facebook pages, short youtube videos, even some ebooks on the topic.

We even founded an Atheist Association in Turkey in 2014 (two associations initially, then they combined into one). The Association is still around, and it would require another article to cover them properly, in terms of what they have been up to, and the issues they encountered, etc.

But the main point I would like to make in this article is that the atheist activism in Turkey seems to have cooled down a little in the last several years, and entered a period of stagnation and inactivity. At least this is my impression.

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Erdogan’s Turkey


Political situation in Turkey is worsening.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been tightening his grip on the polical structure of Turkey, and all its institutions.

He has been getting almost all the screen time on all the TV channels that report news. Opposition party leaders and their speeches are rarely mentioned in the media.

He has been getting involved in everything, and every decision. In Turkey, the president’s role has been more ceremonial normally. Similar to the European model, not American. The head of the executive branch is the Prime Minister in Turkey, not the president. And the president doesn’t have the right to legally interfere with the executive decisions.

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The first Atheist Association in Turkey is founded


The first Atheist Association in Turkey is founded a few weeks ago.

This is not only the first atheist organisation in Turkey, but also the first one in the large region of Middle East and Caucasus. And the first one in a country with a predominantly muslim population.

In a way, this is a historic event. History books in the future may mention this as a note.

As an internet activist for Turkish atheism, I have also been a part of this process and supported this initiative in any way I could.
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Atheism in Turkey

Recent studies suggest that atheism is rising all around the world, therefore it is not surprising that there is a noticeable increase in the number of atheists and atheist activism in the muslim nations, especially the most moderate of them all, Turkey.

Atheism is a concept that has not been known or understood properly in the islamic world, including Turkey, until the recent times. And these recent times are so recent that it actually means the last decade or so, or the “internet age”.

Before the recent times, the term “atheist” or its Turkish equivalent “ateist” was just a foreign word. It was a western word that was poorly understood, that was typically used in connection with communism, and also was being confused with satanism or similar views. People didn’t really know what it meant, and they didn’t care. Of course they knew it had something to do with not believing in God (or ‘Allah’ in this case), but it was thought to mean someone who has no moral values, a sociopath, or a mentally or psychologically ill person.
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Atheists and free speech in Turkey

There are a lot of atheists in Turkey. But they are mostly active on the internet. For a lot of atheist activists, it is still not advisable to carry out activities in the real world, with an openly atheist identity. A lot of atheist activism can be carried out as an evolutionist, or someone who supports humanism and/or secularism, etc but usually not as a plain atheist.

With an increasing pressure from the current islamist government, and no civil rights organizations to help them, Turkish atheists are imprisoned on the internet.

One of the biggest problems Turkish atheists have is the organized campaigns designed to pressure and silence them. Especially the constant pressure of lawsuits they face in the recent years that are usually filed by some islamist groups, the most active one being Harun Yahya (Adnan Oktar)’s group.
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A group of evolutionists sued Harun Yahya (Adnan Oktar) in Turkey

Harun Yahya (Adnan Oktar) is the head of the largest creationist organization in Turkey, and perhaps in the whole Islamic world. His activities and influence is also felt internationally. He distributed tens of thousands of copies of his book, “The Atlas of Creation” to many prominent researchers and research institutes throughout the United States and Europe. He also carried out a campaign placing ads on the busses in London.

But his main influence is felt in the Islamic world, especially in Turkey. And it is not only his creationist propaganda that causes the problem, but he and his followers have also been running campaigns to intimidate and suppress evolutionists and evolutionism in Turkey.

In the recent years, he has been responsible for filing lawsuits that banned thousands of websites that had non-religious, evolutionist or atheist content in Turkey, including Richard Dawkins’ website, wordpress domain, google groups and many others.
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Book: “Ateizmi Anlamak” (Understanding Atheism)

Title: Ateizmi Anlamak (Understanding Atheism)

Author: Aydin Turk

Publisher: Propaganda Yayinlari

ISBN: 978-0-9879366-7-7

Language: Turkish

Length: 267 pages (e-book version), 327 pages (printed version)

Availability: Available as an e-book from iTunes, Smashwords, Sony, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Baker Taylor, etc. Printed version is also available at

Summary: This book is the first one of its kind. It is written by a Turkish author, who is an atheist with a muslim background, on the subject of atheism. It is written for the muslims, looking at atheism from their point of view, and answering their questions about atheism and explaining atheism to them. Read More »

FoRB (Freedom of Belief Initiative) Interview


The following interview is originally published at:

FoRB (Freedom of Belief Initiative)’s interview with me (Aydin Turk):

İÖG (Turkey) / Freedom of Belief Initiative Interview with Atheist Forum Editor on Freedom of Thought, Religion or Belief in Turkey, state-religion relations, new Constitution and Article 216 of the Turkish Criminal Code.

İÖG (Turkey) / FoRB Initiative): How many atheists/agnostics do you estimate are in Turkey?   Is there official data or research on which this estimate is based on? 

The general thought is that the percentage of atheists in Turkey is very low, approximately 1-3%.   But I am unaware of any concrete or reliable statistical work on this.  Most of the existing work applies to certain groups, such as university students etc.   Read More »

Godless Universe

Why God is not a valid explanation

Most people do not base their religious beliefs on scientific or logical reasoning. People generally believe because other people around them believe.

But these beliefs should still appear to be scientifically justified, otherwise the skeptic and scientific part of the human mind, which is possessed by everyone to some degree (more for some people and less for others), is not satisfied.

That is why most people try to provide evidence, or at least some ‘reason’ for their beliefs. As we mentioned so many times in the past, the evidence they provide is always flawed. But two of the arguments they provide are worth consideration, and these are usually the main reasons why most people think there is a God.
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