Indonesian religious group and the country’s slow development

This post is not intended for close minded reader.

Before I start the discussion about why religion takes important part in making Indonesia to be a slowly developing country, I will begin with a bit of history that takes place around the year 500-1500. Far before we know the world and civilization as we know today, far behind all the technologies as we have today. That is… “The Dark Ages“.

The term Dark Ages was coined by an Italian scholar named Francesco Petrarch. Petrarch was a 14th century Italian poet who was a great admirer of the ancient Romans and Greeks. He initially intended it as a sweeping criticism of the character of Late Latin Literature. He compared those times with his own and found that he wasn’t very happy with the present-day situation. In one of his works, he writes, “My fate is to live among varied and confusing storms. But for you perhaps, if as I hope and wish you will live long after me, there will follow a better age. This sleep of forgetfulness will not last for ever. When the darkness has been dispersed, our descendants can come again in the former pure radiance.”

There is no one concession on when is the exact time period of Dark Ages. By the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, we have historians like Edward Gibbon referring to this time as “the darkness of the middle ages” and portraying life during this time as full of either uncultured barbarians, evil tyrants, or superstitious peasants. Some English historians will also say if there is any kind of Dark Ages in medieval history, it is during the earliest part of the Middle Ages, right after the fall of Roman power in Britain around the fifth and sixth centuries. It’s a period that has few surviving written sources, so we don’t know very much about what happened then.

One thing that also marks the Dark Ages is the period of religious struggle. Orthodox Christians and Catholics viewed the era from opposing perspectives. Scarcity of sound literature and cultural achievements marked these years.


The medieval period is frequently caricatured as supposedly a “time of ignorance and superstition” which placed “the word of religious authorities over personal experience and rational activity”. It was also marked by the lack of scientific advancement during that period of time. The poor people having lack of opportunity for education and the over influence of Catholic church in the scientific world.

Starting around the 14th century, European thinkers, writers, and artists began to look back and celebrate the art and culture of ancient Greece and Rome. Accordingly, they dismissed the period after the fall of Rome as a “Middle” or even “Dark” age in which no scientific accomplishments had been made, no great art produced, no great leaders born. The people of the Middle Ages had squandered the advancements of their predecessors.

Great names in sciences such as Galileo, Da Vinci, and Copernicus faced difficulties and even worse, punished for their scientific views. Meanwhile, the Islamic world was growing larger and even more powerful. After the prophet Muhammad’s death in 632 CE, Muslim armies conquered large parts of the Middle East, uniting them under the rule of a single caliph. At its height, the medieval Islamic world was more than three times bigger than all the Christendom.

This event then initiated the Catholic Church to began the authorization of military expeditions (Crusades) in the 11th century to expel Muslim from the Holy Land. Crusaders, who wore red crosses on their coats, to advertise their status, believed that their service would guarantee the remission of their sins and ensure that they could spend all eternity in heaven.

What happened between the Europeans and Middle Eastern back then indirectly hampered to Indonesia’s history as a country far away from where this conflict happened. Since the Europeans were no longer allowed to enter Constantinople, they started to find a “new world” by sailing to the other side of the world to find spices, this includes Asia and Africa. As the exploration began, they started to realize the advancement in sciences that Asians and Africans progressed at that time. This then triggered them to start the Renaissance period, of which was a cultural movement that profoundly affected European intellectual life in the early modern period (14th-17th centuries).

They found only by the separation of nation and religion, they could do the revolution in science, art, and culture.

Demo MABM by Lukas

By looking at this history, I then realize that the situation which happened in Europe over 500 years ago is what exactly happening in Indonesia today. Religious people tried to control the nation through their influence in radical ways. While the other people in developed countries are debating about finding the renewable source of energy, our people are still debating whether or not to give Christmas wishes EVERY f*cking year. Campaigning that going to Mc. Donald’s is a way of helping Jews. And the saddest part is that we are still treating people based on their religious and ethnicity background as if we learned nothing from what happened in May 1998.

It is true that the freedom to believe and hold any religions is part of human rights. But then, it makes me started to wonder if this freedom has dozed us off in the true meaning of freedom in believing in any religions so that we start forcing our definition of what is true and what is not to other people?

I see religion as something truly personal. It shouldn’t be forcefully linked to education or even state or political governance. We are so afraid to open ourselves to people with different religious and ethnicity background by oppressing them. We ill-treat Ahmadiyah people, we molest Chinese people, we publicly humiliate gays and lesbians. If we are tormenting people with different believes simply because we are too afraid to be one of them, doesn’t it mean that we have such a narrowed religious faith?

Why couldn’t we become the kind of people who hold on to religion but at the same time not to circumcising our way of thinking? Many Indonesian great thinkers in the past who fought for our independence comes from strong religious background such as K. H. Ahmad Dahlan, Kyai Haji Mohammad Hasyim Asy’arie, Tuanku Imam Bonjol. They fought the colonialism in the intellectual ways. While when I read news today, it’s only full of religious clowns screaming the name of God while tormenting defenseless people.

By writing this, I only hope that we, as the young generation who holds the future of our country, could learn from history of how fanaticism and arrogance will never bring us anywhere. And we’ve been in 21st century, until when do we have to wait our Dark Ages to pass if it is not now?


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