Monday, March 17, 2008

My latest effort to try and locate Indonesia within the current Atheist/Enlightenment zeitgeist (see 'Let Us Pray' below) has received a couple of comments:

Hi Simon,

Just wanted to let you know how much I enjoy your column in the Jakarta Post, especially your ongoing assault on religious foolishness. Never considered myself an atheist until I moved to Jakarta and wasn't able to order a beer during Ramadan which really pissed me off. The concept of a non existent God giving a damn whether I'd drink a beer, my diet or sexual preferences is absolutely absurd on all levels. What also pisses me off is this childish demand for respect for something which any sane rational thinking person must reject on moral grounds. Well I could go on and on, on this subject, you have probably already read the excellent works of Christopher Hitchens, Dawkins and Sam Harris, please keep up your efforts against organized madness and superstition.



Thank you Sir, I certainly have read those authors as well as Dan Dennett. You can find all four debating each other on You Tube as The Four Horsemen (ho ho). I reckon their are plenty of faith doubters in this country but obviously coming out of the closet to the general approbation of their family and communities is not a viable option for them.

I also received this:

Hello there Simon. Do they have a bravery medal here in Indonesia? If so I will recommend you…coming right out and saying that you are an Atheist. I’m surprised that the Jakarta Post building is still standing. I personally am now 73 and have been an Atheist for as long as I can remember. Actually I am now a Muslim (in theory) as I had to convert to marry my 24 year old Indonesian wife. When I met her, she was not much of a believer, unlike her family and now thinks that the whole religious scene is a load of cobblers.
I notice that in your article you use the word bugger. That to me appears to be a British term. Are you in fact originally from the UK like I am?
What I find truly amazing is that here in Indonesia, one of the most religious countries in the world, there are so many daily disasters. To any thinking person it would be obvious that praying at the mosque five times a day does not achieve much of a result but, as you say, religious followers are not thinking people.
You also point out how religion is inculcated into young children. This was a point raised by the book and film “The root of all evil.” Who was it who rightly said “Give me a child for the first five years of his life and I’ll give you a servant of God forever?”
I have been contemplating writing an anti-religious book entitled “The Lord is thy shepherd…and thou art sheep.”
It was a pleasure reading what you had to say and I look forward to hearing more from you.

Sheldon Archer

Thankyou Sir, The Jakarta Post building is indeed still standing. This could be due to me having a readership of about 7 (6 of whom are sympathetic Westerners). I am indeed from the UK, hence the use of the word 'Bugger' here, which was not intended as a comment on Catholic child abuse cases (although thinking about it now it works both ways doesn't it?)

As for “The Lord is thy shepherd…and thou art sheep” well this indeed feeds into many of feelings about Christianity. Sheep are docile, pack animals that blindly follow each other. And why do shepherds look after sheep?? Not because they like them (although some shepherds perhaps like their sheep a little too much) but so that they can eventually kill them and live off them.

See all seven of you next week.