July 22, 2003

Alevi and atheism

Another night in which actual work is preventing me from enjoying my new blog. I took a short break to look for information on the Alevi in Turkey, and wound up on a site called What you need to know about Agnosticism/Atheism". I don't think I could be an atheist -- I lack the necessary piety, devoutness and rigor to ascribe to this peculiarly ascetic faith.

In any case, the site has a page on the Alevi, on which we are informed,

Even though scholars of the contemporary Middle East tend to associate Alevi with Syria, where they have played an influential political role since the 1960s, a majority of all Alevi actually live in Turkey. Alevi include almost all of Turkey's Arab minority, from 10 to 30 percent of the country's Kurds, and many ethnic Turks. In fact, a majority of Alevi may be Turks. Historically, Alevi resided predominantly in southeastern Turkey, but the mass rural-to-urban migration that has been relatively continuous since 1960 has resulted in thousands of Alevi moving to cities in central and western Anatolia. Consequently, Alevi communities of varying size were located in most of the country's major cities by the mid-1990s.

Because of centuries of persecution by Sunni Muslims, Alevi became highly secretive about the tenets of their faith and their religious practices. Consequently, almost no reliable information about Alevi Islam is available. Unsympathetic published sources reported that Alevi worshiped Ali ibn Abu Talib, observed various Christian rituals, and venerated both Christian and Muslim saints. Prior to the twentieth century, information on the sect was so sparse and distorted that even Twelve Imam Shia regarded Alevi as heretics. However, the tendency among most contemporary Twelve Imam clergy is to recognize the Alevi as a distinct legal school within the Twelve Imam tradition. In addition, major Twelve Imam Shia theological colleges in Iran and Iraq have accepted Alevi students since the 1940s.

They list a source, incidentally, the Library of Congress, particularly its country studies.

Among the requirements of the faith of atheism, it seems to me, is an unhealthy obsession with religion.

Posted by Ideofact at July 22, 2003 11:55 PM

"I don't think I could be an atheist -- I lack the necessary piety, devoutness and rigor to ascribe to this peculiarly ascetic faith."

Ha ha! Brilliant!

Excellent blog - I've been reading it for ages.

All the best.

Posted by: Thebit at July 23, 2003 05:50 AM

Thanks for the kind words. I have the vague feeling I'm plagiarizing that line from someone, but if so I can't remember whom.


Posted by: Bill at July 24, 2003 12:18 AM

This is a bit confusing. THis post seems to imply that 'Alevi' and 'Aliwite' are two names for the same sect. Your earlier Aliwite post seemed to treat them as distinct. Do you know which it is?

Posted by: Alex at July 24, 2003 03:30 PM

The Alevi and Alawites are distinct sects.

They do sound similar to the Alawites, though, don't they?

Posted by: Bill at July 24, 2003 03:47 PM

because of the practice of dissimulation and crypto-religion in the middle east, it is hard to figure out if alevis & alawites are the same-i have seen alevis as referred to as alawites who are in turkey & vice versa. similarly, i have seen ibadi muslims from oman referred to as "shia" though they are strictly speaking descended from the khajirites who predated the sunni-shia split....

Posted by: razib at July 26, 2003 12:36 AM


this article:
relates alevis & alawites to the bektishis who are most prominent today in albania.

Posted by: razib at July 26, 2003 12:39 AM

If atheism is a faith, so is disbelief in the tooth fairy.

This devout agnostic will stick to Ambrose Bierce's peerless definition of the word 'faith': Belief without evidence in what is told by one who speaks without knowledge, of things without parallel.

Posted by: Rand Race at July 28, 2003 04:29 PM


while doing some research on sects in Islam, i happened to have reached ur page http://www.ideofact.com/archives/000017.html and also read the comments that were there. I m not sure what extra research material u have recd till date but i thot of sharing this extra bit of info with u. the difference bet Alevis of Turkey and Alawis of Syria is very small but u can find more info on them frm this link http://www.angelfire.com/az/rescon/PPLGRME.html

hope u find it useful. Cool Regards in this hot weather

Posted by: Juzer Mohammed Husain at May 18, 2004 02:23 AM