Indonesia lobs one over the plate


I write a blog that highlights, among other things, the pervasive way in which religion detrimentally affects the lives of people all over the world. I also put a fair amount of effort into highlighting issues of free speech, which is something I feel quite strongly about.

Indonesia isn’t even trying to make my job difficult.

On Monday, Indonesia’s constitutional court decided in favour of its controversial 1967 blasphemy law, thwarting hopes it would be reviewed to allow new religions and sects.

Hooray for the modern world! While thousands of people work tirelessly every day to cure disease, discover more about the world and push the frontiers of human endeavour, Indonesia’s religion-controlled government (can you say “theocracy”? I knew you could!) is cracking down on people whose beliefs are a different kind of stupidity than the officially-licensed stupid. This bootleg stupid can’t be allowed to spread, or people might start realizing that if several contradictory views of the supernatural exist, they might all be wrong.

“The majority of Indonesia’s 235 million strong population are moderate Sunni Muslims, with a reputation for tolerance.”

This quote baffles me. A Muslim majority country, with a Sunni majority therein, who are purportedly tolerant (I have no idea what that means in the context of religion, particularly in a theocratic country), upholds a law banning non-sanctioned religious expression. Perhaps someone at the BBC mis-spelled “ignorance”.

While I am (clearly) not a fan of religion, I am even less a fan of state-sponsored religion. More than that, I am even less a fan of telling people they are not allowed to speak their beliefs, no matter what they might happen to be. While I make fun of places like Indonesia, Ireland, Lybia and Somalia I do so out of a deep sadness. No progress has ever been made, either by individuals or by societies, by jailing dissidents for speaking up against corrupt power. We will never be able to free people from the crushing yoke of poverty until we can throw off the oppressive influence of small-minded religious bigots. Religion has no place in either our laws or the marketplace of ideas.

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