‘Europe further Christianized through modernization’ - YASIN AKTAY

‘Europe further Christianized through modernization’

Stating that the Quran is more widely read in Turkey in the modern age should not be considered as praise to modernization.

The Quran being more widely read with modernization is, generally, a situation that is the result of the popularization and formalization of the book, academic culture, the printing press, and education. This has, as a matter of fact, been a development that directly contributed to our religious perceptions as well as the internalization of the Scripture by the masses, and the change of our religious culture’s quality.

Before raging about modernization, before getting carried away by what we lost with modernization, recognizing the kinds of means and opportunities this new age brought to humanity is extremely important both as a requirement of fairness and in terms of having the ability to develop languages in line with the spirit of this era.

Access to the Qur’an and fundamental religious sources has become extremely easy for all in proportion with the development of the printing press and, especially the development of formal and widespread education. Of course, this will have direct impact on institutes of religious authority and their perspectives. Obviously, we cannot expect the authority of the hodja to continue in the same manner as it did back in the time when nobody had any knowledge other than that which was taught by the hodja. This will thus, inevitably reflect on the quality of the quality of the hodja’s sermon as well.

Therefore, saying that Quranic education, its teaching and, as a matter of fact, its prescience was generally a lot more developed within these advances that also coincided with the Republic era does not mean to correlate this matter to the Republic’s policy and will. As mentioned previously, on the contrary, the expectation from even Quran translations in the early years of the Republic was not to convey the message of the Quran but for the masses to see the content suspected to be superstitious and to destroy the authority of religion by the impact of this.

Of course, the exact opposite happened. The more the Quran was read the more people believed in its content, the more they became devoted to it and the more they persevered to fulfill its requirements.

This was clearly the unplanned, untargeted and unwanted result of the action. The Quran being read a lot more by the masses also changed the nature of the religious authority, giving superiority to the book’s authority over the hodja’s authority. This then paved the way to the process that rendered everybody competent. It is clear where this has brought us. I suggest to those who, in the current situation, see the traces of secularization a lot more, follow the process backward. However, I cannot be optimistic about this suggestion because some of the emotions that make us unrealistic regarding history reading come into play. It places an approach that sanctifies the past in advance, for example, a perception that everything is regressing, behind the steering wheel in all our readings without questioning it.

In fact, the process we went through with this regard is not all that different from the West’s experience. For instance, there is a discourse in the West that is almost never questioned. It is said that secularization reached its peak with modernization and that religious authority has declined. Yet, this theory has, in recent times, been almost turned upside down with the staggering studies and theories presented by renowned sociologists Peter Berger and Thomas Luckman.

In their study on the European example, Berger and Luckman go as far as to say that Christianity experienced its true golden age in the modern era. Religiousness, which was valid particularly in rural areas in the Middle Age, a time when religiousness was considered more dominant, consists of a paganism whose boundaries and discourses are ambiguous. It is not possible to find Christianity in the true sense there; though the existing content of Christianity is also no different to paganism.

Yes, Christian priests had unquestionable authority over ignorant villagers who did not know the Bible, who did not have the chance to read it, which they established and continued with the influence of feudal lords. However, those priests allowing the villagers to convert this authority to a religiousness they may choose at their own will with their conscious, knowledgeable and personal evaluations was out of the question.

Frankly, the Church was not concerned about conveying its own religious-theological approach to the villager masses. It was enough that the masses obeyed and, in exchange for this obedience, the church guaranteed ontological security. This security, in the simplest of terms, was land in heaven, the key to the door of paradise. According to Spinoza, the cunning villager was even able to think that he/she stood to profit in this exchange by deceiving God.

Renowned German sociologist Max Weber had long objected to the praises sung to European villagers in the name of religiousness. According to him, the “religious villager” image is a simple fiction of European romanticism that idealizes its rural past. Both villagers and primitive societies resort to the charm of religion for empirical purposes like good crops or healthy children (Bryan S. Turner, “Max Weber and Islam”, Vadi Publications, p. 191).

As a result, as the Church found the opportunity for further development with urbanization, the more academic forms of religiousness came into play along with the Church’s networking. This has at least given the opportunity for at least a sounder meaning and expression of religion to become more widespread at this level. Here, the Bible and other holy scriptures were read a lot more, whereby healthier literature relevant to these reached a more egalitarian and participatory area. Hence, in contrast to the secularization claims in Europe today, sociologists are saying that Christianity is a lot stronger today than it was in the past.

This, of course, is a slightly game-changer reading, but there is benefit in approaching it from this angle as well.

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