(Once upon a time, Indonesia was well-known in the world as a nation of peace, tolerance and religious pluralism. Other countries even made us their example, a country full of people with various religious beliefs, from various ethnic and language background, people who live side by side in harmony.
Indonesia was and even more now, a very religious country, where the people live and breathe religion. It doesn’t matter what religion a person is, as long as it’s one of the six official religions. While it is unheard of in developed countries, in Indonesia identity cards bear not only name, address and sex, but also religion. Thus, religion is a must in the country of 240+ million people.
I still remember as a little girl, my Christian neighbors would come to our house in Eidl Fitr to celebrate our Ramadan victory with us, and vice versa, we would come to their houses to celebrate Christmas with them. Back then, we were not suspicious with one another, we were all like one big happy family, with real problems, none of which originated from religion. Those were good times.
I also remember being taught that religious people, specifically Muslims, go to heaven (if they’re good) and others do not. As kids, our schools taught us communism equals atheism and therefore very, very bad. This is deeply embedded in our minds which is why many Indonesians feel somewhat afraid or even disgusted towards communists and atheists.
As a little Muslim girl, at home and in Madrasah, I was taught that Jews were our enemy, never mind the fact that the Koran says otherwise. Christians weren’t mentioned, as it was politically incorrect to address them as our enemies back then. Besides, the President was close with the Christian community as well as the Muslims, making it a point that we were brothers and sisters who must fight the latent danger of communism and atheism.
Back then, I thought religious people like my dad, with his Peci, white shirt and sarong, reading the Holy Koran and doing the daily 5 obligatory prayers, Friday prayers plus the sunnahs like Dhuha and Tahajud; Or neighbors that go to church every Sunday and have bible studies once or twice a week, were perfect. Maybe they were, then. Living without a religion was something unthinkable, and most certainly a life that would doom a person to hell.
Fast forward several decades, things have changed. Not for the better, but for the worse. Now, the country is becoming more religious than ever, but tolerance is slowly becoming a thing of the past. Suspicion of Christian evangelism, for example, is rampant everywhere in the country with ridiculous accusations of lures of instant noodle to make one convert. Not only that, even sects within Islam are now attacked, despite sharing the same God and the same Holy Book.
Many of us are not obeying the law but instead take matters into our own hands. We are bypassing God as the only rightful entity to judge and condone or condemn anyone. Attacks and burning down of churches, places of worship and even mosques of different Islamic faith from Indonesia’s mainstream Islamic brand make many feel threatened to continue living in this tropical paradise. The government is weak and caves in to terrorist demands. A real shame that would make our founding fathers turn in their graves.
However, as we are growing more religious, good morals seems to have declined. There is no more shame in bribery, in prostituting the country by selling its resources to the so-called ‘infidels’ for big money while the country is short of the resources sold;
there is no more shame in adultery, in human rights violations, in cheating the poor; there is no more shame in flaunting riches in front those who don’t have enough money to buy a decent meal, in attacking people for having different beliefs, in condoning immoral and violent acts;
there is no more shame in oppressing ethnic and religious minority, in stealing funds intended to help those struck with earthquake/tsunami;
there is no more shame in not being polite, in offending our brothers and sisters of different beliefs, of displaying behavior and attitude suitable for the middle ages, and;
there is no more shame in abandoning victims of a disaster as a result of one’s greedy attempt to rich themselves, in any immoral acts in the interest of one’s self or group, being a bigot, racist and being discriminative.
We are instead fixated in pornography, women’s dress codes, dangdut singers’ dance and internet as if those are the only things in the world that could and would corrupt the moral of our future generation. We aren’t even ashamed of the fact that we are in the top 10 of most corrupt countries in the world, as if money is our new God, yet we are, without a doubt, one of the most religious nations in the world.
As I see all those above and more so-called religious people fighting with one another. Where one feels more self-righteous than the other and worse, hurting and killing people in the name of God, a God – if It exists at all – who would most likely shed a tear in sadness and frustration at all this, my opinion and feeling towards religions have changed 180 degrees.
I now strongly believe that religions are the culprit of all hurt and heartaches the people of this world has endured in the past, present and future. I believe it’s nothing but poison to the human mind. It limits our thinking, promotes hatred and violence and it tries to control us with threats of hell and lure us into doing evil things with promises of heaven. The day I know what religion God believes in, is the day I will once again believe in a religion. But until then, all the points above are the reasons why I think religion doesn’t matter at all.
First published in Rima's blog: http://rimafauzi.com/blogs/