Irreligion in Indonesia

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Atheism, or Irreligion in Indonesia, is uncommon among the country's inhabitants, as there is a great stigma attached to being an atheist in Indonesia and is widely condemned by the Indonesian people.


It is difficult to quantify the number of atheists or agnostics in Indonesia as they are not officially counted in the census of the country.[1] Indonesian atheists, such as those belonging to the Indonesian Atheists organization, predominantly communicate with each other solely via the Internet.[2] According to Human Rights Watch, tolerance towards atheists among the general Indonesian public is growing, but they are still subject to violence by "largely militant Islamists."[3]


Atheists are subject to discrimination in Indonesia, seeing as irreligion violates the first principle of Pancasila (the Indonesian constitution). Religious tolerance in Indonesia is limited to muted acceptance of other religions apart from Islam. Indonesian atheist activists are pursuing their religious freedom.[4]


Freedom of religion is enshrined in the Indonesian Constitution; however legal protection is only afforded only to six official faiths of the country—Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Confucianism.[3] B. F. Intan has written that natural law does not require one to follow a particular religion. Atheism as he sees it, however, is used more as an example of harmony between various religions and is not used as grounds to denounce popular religion.[5] This natural law is used as grounds for the creation of a common law, which is more usually employed elsewhere as the basis for laws governing criminal activity or civil disputes.[5]


Insulting or interfering with the practice of one of the official faiths stated above in Indonesia can bring a five-year prison term.[3] In the past, prominent atheists have only been prosecuted under religious customary laws, so it is unknown if atheism is actually prosecutable under secular law.[6][7][8]

When declared atheist Alexander Aan wrote in February 2012 on Facebook that God does not exist, he was taken into custody and initially charged with blasphemy. The police claimed that they were doing this to protect him from attackers, however, no charges have been levied against his attackers. He has been prosecuted under blasphemy law, blasphemy by its Criminal Code. The Code’s Article 156(a) targets those who deliberately, in public, express feelings of hostility, hatred, or contempt against religions with the purpose of preventing others from adhering to any religion, and targets those who disgrace a religion. The penalty for violating Article 156(a) is prisonment, Presidential Decree No. 1/PNPS/1965 on the Prevention of Blasphemy and Abuse of Religions.[9] This incident raised a debate about the legality of atheism versus treating it as a genuine religion.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Commentary: Is there room for atheists in Indonesia?". The Jakarta Globe. Retrieved 2013-09-18.
  2. ^ "The Rise of Indonesian Atheism". The Jakarta Globe. Retrieved 2013-09-18.
  3. ^ a b c Schonhardt, Sara (2013-04-26). "For Indonesian Atheists, a Community of Support Amid Constant Fear". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-09-18.
  4. ^ Hodal, Kate (2012-05-03). "Indonesia's atheists face battle for religious freedom". London: The Guardian. Retrieved November 7, 2012.
  5. ^ a b Benyamin Fleming Intan (2006). "Public Religion" and the Pancasila-Based State of Indonesia: An Ethical and Sociological Analysis. Peter Lang. p. 160. ISBN 978-0-8204-7603-2. Retrieved 7 November 2012.
  6. ^ "Raising Kids Without God: Atheist Parents in Indonesia". The Jakarta Globe. Retrieved 2013-09-18.
  7. ^ "No Need to Believe: Indonesia's Atheists". The Jakarta Globe. Retrieved 2013-09-18.
  8. ^ "Commentary: Is there room for atheists in Indonesia?". The Jakarta Post. Retrieved 2013-09-18.
  9. ^ "Commentary: Is there room for atheists in Indonesia?". The Jakarta Post. Retrieved November 7, 2012.
  10. ^ "Wed, November 7, 2012". THE JAKARTA GLOBE. Retrieved November 7, 2012.