Turkey established a separation between mosque and state in 1923. Turkey as a secular country doesn’t have a state religion. There are several articles in the Turkish constitution that protect religious and cultural differences. Turkey is also a member of the European Convention on Human Rights Committee which dictates European standards in freedom of religion in Turkey.
The biggest portion of the Turkish people believes in Islam followed by a big number of Christians and Jewish citizens. There are many other smaller cults and beliefs which I would try to mention in this article. Numbers I will give about Beliefs in Turkey are round numbers and please don’t forget that religion is a personal affair between God and believer.
List of Common Beliefs in Turkey
Islam is the most dominant religion in Turkey. Turkish Ottoman Sultans were the leaders of the Islamic World as Caliphs. Following the collapse of the Ottomans and exile of the sultans, their titles were removed. Today the seat of Caliph is completely revoked in Turkey. There is a state agency called the Presidency of Religious Affairs and this agency is responsible for the management of mosques in Turkey. Presidency of Religious Affairs is state-funded and tries to keep Turkish Islam bound to the secular root of our constitution.
Muslims in Turkey are divided into some sects and subgroups. The most common ones are Hanafi, Shafi’i, Ja’fari and Alawite Muslims. Muslim groups in Turkey have been living together for more than a thousand years and there is a strong cultural bond between them.
Christians come number two in Turkey when the numbers are considered. Christianity’s roots in Turkey goes back to Biblical times. Apostle Paul had two missions in Turkey. Saint John lived and passed away in Ephesus. Also there is the House of Virgin Mary in Ephesus too. There are several sects of Christianity in Turkey. The most common ones are; Armenian Church, Latin Church, Syriac Orthodox Church, Greek Orthodox Church and Protestant Church. Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople representing a big part of the Eastern Orthodox Churches is located in Istanbul. Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witnesses are freely operating and growing in numbers too.
Hebrew citizens of Turkey has a long and proud history. Hebrews were living in Turkey even before Christianity and Islam arrived. Synagogues can be seen in places like Sardis which were built in the early Roman era. There were Jewish communities in Ephesus when the Apostle Paul arrived as was mentioned in the Holy Bible.
The Jewish population of Turkey had gone higher in 1492 because of Iberian Jews fleeing persecution. Ottomans located Sephardic and Ashkenazi families to cities like Bursa, Istanbul and Izmir. A significant number of Synagogues can be still visited in these cities today.
Atheism, Deism and Agnostism
These three philosophies are followed by %3 to %10 of the Turkish population. Especially Deism is a rising trend in Turkey. Recent polls suggest that about %10 of the Turkish youth are Deist.
Write to me if you are interested in learning more about religions and beliefs in Turkey. I hope we will have time to freely discuss these subjects while we will be driving between Turkish cities. See you soon, Hasan Gülday.