The Muslim Secular Istanbulus and Religion

One of my favorite chapters in this book is Pamuk’s chapter on his own experiences of religion. The way young Orphan views God struck me as strange when I first read them but, now I am able to see how they are similar to beliefs around the world. At the very beginning of the chapter the author talks about how the cooks and the maids are the ones interested in God and later explains why he thought this was. The fact that religion and God is a fable or tonic for the poor and those in pain. He speaks of how his family view the religious as backwards and how these traditions are halting the progress of the Turkish Republic. It is only later when brought to a mosque by the maid Pamuk realizes that “religious people are harmless”. This is of course a huge matter in Turkish everyday life and the debate over the place of religion is one that will continue forever but the parallels in this chapter always strike me. I think that this stereotype of only the needy and broken needing religion is alive and well in all societies. The concept of having to fill some kind of whole successful and rational people feel with science and philosophy is especially common among the mostly secular upper middle class. Why is this? Is there a sense of sad superiority? (This tension is, of course, changing in Modern Turkey since Pamuk’s childhood with a new upper class of devout Muslims and it is changing the identity of Turkey.) I think there is but why? He describes his family’s superstition and half-belief and it confuses me. When a culture is forced to change so quickly and the traditions remain with humans just changing their names how does one become more valued by different people?

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