Faith is Dangerous

by Tarık Günersel    /  July 18, 2014  / No comments

When religious faith signifies violence, not salvation.

Etching of a scene from the Spanish Inquisition. Credit: Richard Nilsen.

Killing in the name of God(s) has cost not millions, but billions of lives, human and nonhuman. The history of past and present religions is full of crimes. In fact, any ideal or utopia may turn out to be a nightmare in real life. So the words “faith” and “believer” should not be limited to the conceptions of God(s) and religions.

  1. Wor(l)ds in Danger, a<br />
column by Tarik Günersel
  2. Life is words in action, literature is action in words.
  3. Humans are about to destroy their spaceship Earth. Some of them are aware of this and they try to change the course of events. Will they succeed? Will more humans be alarmed and do something?
  4. Literature is vital and translators are messengers of world peace.
  5. Though I shall focus on the literary scene in Turkey and its problems regarding freedom of expression, I shall not omit the other parts of our planet. Today local is global and vice versa.
  6. Tarik Günersel
  7. Tarık Günersel is a poet, playwright, aphorist, librettist and short story writer. He is the president of PEN Turkey and an ex-member of the PEN International Board. He studied English Literature at Istanbul University. A self-exile after the military coup in 1980, he spent four years in Saudi Arabia with his wife Füsun and their daughter Barış, teaching English. A dramaturg at Istanbul City Theater since 1991, he has acted on stage and screen and directed some of his plays. He proposed World Poetry Day in 1997 which was accepted by PEN International and declared by UNESCO as the 21st of March. His translations into Turkish include works by Samuel Beckett, Vaclav Havel and Arthur Miller. His works include The Nightmare of a Labyrinth (mosaic of poems and stories), and How’s your slavery goin’? His Oluşmak (To Become), a “life guide for myself,” includes ideas from world wisdom of the past four millennia. He has recently initiated the Earth Civilization Project with the support of several intellectuals from various parts of the planet.

Here is a new poem in my attempt to comprehend and express the mental mechanism of believers who kill in the name of faith:

Faithfully violent

“Life is a test,” he says. “Detest
this life to test your faith.
Didn’t they attack us for money?
Didn’t they destroy countless lives?
Didn’t they rape our women?
Didn’t they kill our children?
Now it’s our turn. In the name of God.
Not for money but for heaven.
So hate is fair.
Grudge is our air.
Such is the content and the form.
Hate for doubt is the norm.”

Grudge is a tick in the soul.
Grudge is thick again.
It’s a thick tick to gain
as a ticket to heaven.

Then I even hate my hate.
With my hate I’m in a cave.
As a believer I must behave:
“My hand is God’s hand,” I say
to start my first beheading
which will make a heading.
“Faith is my soul,” I whisper to you.
“Hate is fate for which you’ll pay.
With your blood I’ll pay
for the ticket to heaven.”

God’s will is my will.
Afterlife is my fate.
Grudge is the judge
when faith is hate.

*

Faith is dangerous, but it may also be constructive. A doubtful, self-critical attitude is vital. That’s why philosophy, scientific thinking, and a fruitful relationship with the arts should play a bigger role in education.

But those areas are exactly what PM Erdoğan seems to detest. His leadership has been changing Turkey for the worse: More Sunni Islam, no critical philosophy, minimal art and science. Creationism instead of evolution is attacking the minds of young people.

Beware: If Erdoğan becomes President, darker days are likely. Not only for Turkey. His support of violent Islamic fundamentalism has led to more bloodshed in the Middle East. He now illegitimately uses all the advantages of being the PM, while the other two candidates, Ekmel İhsanoğlu (nominated by CHP and MHP) and Selahattin Demirtaş (nominated by HDP) have relatively modest possibilities.

I intend to focus on the presidential race and the candidates in August, which will be hotter than usual this year.

About the Author

Tarık Günersel is a poet, playwright, aphorist, librettist and short story writer. He is the president of PEN Turkey and an ex-member of the PEN International Board. He studied English Literature at Istanbul University. A self-exile after the military coup in 1980, he spent four years in Saudi Arabia with his wife Füsun and their daughter Barış, teaching English. A dramaturg at Istanbul City Theater since 1991, he has acted on stage and screen and directed some of his plays. He proposed World Poetry Day in 1997 which was accepted by PEN International and declared by UNESCO as the 21st of March. His translations into Turkish include works by Samuel Beckett, Vaclav Havel and Arthur Miller. His works include The Nightmare of a Labyrinth (mosaic of poems and stories), and How’s your slavery goin’? His Oluşmak (To Become), a “life guide for myself,” includes ideas from world wisdom of the past four millennia. He has recently initiated the Earth Civilization Project with the support of several intellectuals from various parts of the planet.

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Fearless, Ink.