Quantcast

«

»

Nov 28 2011

Why I am an atheist – Gülşah Ökmen

My story dates back to 4 years ago during when I was in 6th grade.

We started having our science course in our newly built lab. Our science teacher, who was in her 30s, was a firm believer. Outside the school she was wearing headscarf1. During a lecture, I realized a framed poster on the floor. I went to the teacher’s desk at the end of the class and said “Something has fallen off here ma’am”. With a sharp voice she replied back “Oh that, they found it among the old lab stuff, I didn’t want to confuse you by hanging stuff like that on the wall.” When I took the poster and started to examine it, she warned me to put it in the trash and walked out of the classroom. As you can guess, there was a detailed description of the tree (evolution) of life on the poster. I didn’t know much about the tree of life or evolution until that day but I pretty much figured that my teacher was irritated of the poster because of her religious beliefs. When I came home I immediately set out to make a research about evolution on the internet and examined the basic written and visual sources on evolution and natural selection for hours. And that day, for the first time in my life, I questioned the all mighty creator on whose existence I didn’t have the tiniest doubt before.

The more I read about evolution, which gives much more humane (and universal) answers to the questions like how we exist than intelligent design does and stands on sound evidence, the more I reasoned, questioned and got curious. All the prevarication of my teacher when I asked her questions about these issues together with the pervasive moralist pressure of the conservationist society all around me, stimulated me to inquire a lot more and drove me to explore further. With time, being skeptical also helped me to get rid of my other stupid supernatural fears and thus made me sleep more peacefully and take more confident steps in life. Besides, as it has always bothered me that the god was holding men dearer and commanding only to women to cover themselves, I questioned more. It was not very difficult for me to come up with the conclusion that this whole religion and belief systems were nothing more than sick dreams of a patriarchal society.

As time went by, with all these thoughts on my mind, I got rid of my ignorant superstitions, and I am finished with feeling guilty about being a woman and with being treated like a second-class person. I am much more aware that I’m holding the rights to speak about my life and my body, and I think I am much more peaceful and confident than if I were a religious person. This is why I’ve been an atheist for three years now.

Gülşah Ökmen
Turkey

1Translator’s note: it is not allowed to teach with headscarfs in public schools in Turkey.

(Gülşah Ökmen was the winner of a coming out essay contest held in Turkey on this Turkish atheist blog.)

14 comments

Skip to comment form

  1. 1
    Human Ape

    (Gülşah Ökmen was the winner of a coming out essay contest held in Turkey on this Turkish atheist blog.)

    If these Why I am an atheist posts were a contest I would vote for this young lady who has more intelligence and more curiosity than her incompetent teachers.

  2. 2
    jan

    As a teacher, I find it difficult to understand teachers who either ignore their own subject to such an incredible extent, or who deliberately misinform.

    “Difficult to understand” is an understatement.

    Welcome.

    I would also like to honour the fact that Turkey was the first European state to establish the separation of religion and government.

    (Not counting the French revolution, that doesn´t have historical continuity with the present)

  3. 3
    electrabotanical

    You can’t hide the truth by throwing away a poster, or burning a book, or telling a kid “not to worry about it”. That just shows the kid that there’s power in the suppressed knowledge. What can be more tempting than forbidden truth? Bravo to Gülşah Ökmen for seeking that truth.

  4. 4
    Which Way Is Up?

    I’m thinking there is a little more courage to admitting you’re an atheist in Turkey than elsewhere in the West. A brave young woman.

  5. 5
    barbarienne

    “I’m thinking there is a little more courage to admitting you’re an atheist in Turkey than elsewhere in the West.”

    –>My thoughts exactly.

    I salute you, Gülşah Ökmen, for your strength.

  6. 6
    Jadehawk

    I’m thinking there is a little more courage to admitting you’re an atheist in Turkey than elsewhere in the West. A brave young woman.

    huh?

    Turkey is more secular than the US. I can see how it would take a lot of bravery to being an out atheist in rural Turkey (similar to being an atheist in rural Alabama, say), but in the cities…?

  7. 7
    WCorvi

    It’s interesting that those who want to ‘teach the controversy’ and ‘give all points of view’ don’t include ANYTHING about evolution in their sunday school classes, isn’t it? In fact, their kids know NOTHING about science, and they want to keep it that way – no teaching the controversy here.

    When I first heard about sundae school, I thought, “Gee, finally a school I’ll like – about making (and presumably eating) ice cream treats.” You can imagine my shock when it turned out to be even worse than the other five days, for memorizing irrelevant junk.

  8. 8
    DLC

    Good to read of people everywhere stepping away from the irrational and toward the rational.

  9. 9
    ManOutOfTime

    Inspiring and brave, and one of the youngest Why I Am A’s so far. Once again demonstrating why religious zealots are right to fear science!

  10. 10
    pelamun, the Linguist of Doom

    Turkey is more secular than the US. I can see how it would take a lot of bravery to being an out atheist in rural Turkey (similar to being an atheist in rural Alabama, say), but in the cities…?

    Recently, there has been some backlash going on. Like the restriction of alcohol sales across the country, and some efforts of the AKP administration of Istanbul

    http://www.setimes.com/cocoon/setimes/xhtml/en_GB/features/setimes/blogreview/2011/01/21/blog-02

    But I’d say it’s still within the range of what you can expect in other moderate Islamic countries…

  11. 11
    pelamun, the Linguist of Doom

    But Jadehawk, I agree with you on the basics. To those commentators praising the poster’s courage, the note of the translator relating to the veil should’ve made them think…

  12. 12
    Burcu Dogan

    Turkey being secular in education?

    Süleyman Biçer, who has been teaching for more than 14 years, received a warning for talking about Darwinian evolutionary theory in response to a question posed by one of his students. Biçer, a teacher at the Mamak Trade Chamber Elementary School in Ankara, replied to a question from one of his students on the subject of whether human beings came from monkeys. The teacher reportedly told the class how human beings and other species have evolved over many years.

    Read the full story on http://bit.ly/ugqvBn. There are at least 2 seminars each month in Istanbul issuing this problem.

  13. 13
    Frans

    @2, jan

    I would also like to honour the fact that Turkey was the first European state to establish the separation of religion and government.

    (Not counting the French revolution, that doesn´t have historical continuity with the present)

    Unless you see WW2 as breaking historical continuity that’s incorrect:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1905_French_law_on_the_Separation_of_the_Churches_and_the_State
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secularism_in_Turkey

  14. 14
    fuhcough

    OK people, “4 years ago while in 6th grade”, assuming it’s along similar lines to North Am, makes her, what, 16 or 17? “Coming out” as an atheist at that age is a pretty commendable thing. Being different in any way from your peer group at that age is not easy.

    And to have come to the conclusion that the religious system surrounding you is “the sick dreams of a patriarchal society” through your own personal study takes some intelligence. I don’t know the biology curriculum between grade 6 and 10 in Turkey any better than I know it in Alabama, but it doesn’t sound like evolution as a big part of it.

Comments have been disabled.