No Need to Believe: Indonesia's Atheists
At first glance, Karl Karnadi may look like any other 20-something trying to find his place in the world. It doesn’t take long, however, to realize there is something positively different about him.
Consciously argumentative, eagerly opinionated and thoroughly knowledgeable, Karl stands for something many Indonesians still find utterly unfathomable: He is an outspoken atheist, and the founder of the rapidly growing Indonesian Atheists community.
Karl, 29, does not keep his beliefs private, something many other Indonesian atheists have chosen to do in the face of frequent hostility. He makes no bones about his rejection of what he refers to as supernaturally infused beliefs, and he is passionate about fostering a fundamental change in Indonesia while remaining realistic about the challenges.
Furthermore, Karl promotes tolerance, and is far less hostile toward religion than some of the world’s most recognized scholars of nonbelief such as Sam Harris, Daniel C. Dennett and Richard Dawkins.
Established in 2008, Karl’s IA has 677 active members on its Facebook page who discuss the profusion of religiously related topics around the country.
The IA community has also taken part in a variety of scientific and philosophical seminars and gatherings, and has expanded its ties with similar groups outside Indonesia.
“We’ve built a network with other nonbelievers and humanist organizations in Southeast Asia,” Karl says.
With other atheist associations in Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore, IA has established a joint Web site called Southeast Asian Atheists, or sea-atheists.org, which hopes to broaden the discussion among atheists from different backgrounds.
“Starting last year, we have also affiliated ourselves with a global network called Atheist Alliance International, through which we build close contacts with similar communities around the world,” Karl said. “From Pakistan, Brazil, Ireland and Afghanistan, there are atheists and agnostics everywhere.”
Karl’s road toward becoming one of the country’s most outspoken atheists was both unique and lengthy. Born in a country where faith takes a strong hold beginning at birth, he grew up religiously in a Christian home.
By his own account, Karl, who now lives in Germany, was brought up in a very religious setting. “My childhood was filled with church activities,” Karl said.
He was even a church pianist up until only two years ago. “I knew nothing about science, about skepticism,” he said. “I wasn’t a rebellious kid compared to others the same age. I accepted all religious teachings and never questioned it in the slightest.”
But his family was also very religiously tolerant. He would often pay visits to acquaintances from other faiths during religious holidays, instilling a sense of open-mindedness, something that would eventually help to shape his atheism.
“I went over to our Muslim neighbors every Idul Fitri to congratulate them. Eventually, every Christmas, our Muslim neighbors would also do the same,” he said. “This very valuable experience has stayed with me, and taught me that religious tolerance is not only possible, but also worth fighting for.”
Karl’s acceptance of his religious upbringing, however, would undergo a crucial change after a move to Germany, where he went to study in his early 20s.
He noticed a change in how many of his Indonesian peers began addressing themselves. Instead of identifying themselves according to a specific Indonesian ethnicity (such as Javanese or Balinese), they referred to themselves as strictly Indonesian. All the different levels of wealth, culture and regional identity that seemed so important back home were suddenly irrelevant.
Continued here: http://www.thejakartaglobe.com/editorschoice/no-need-to-believe-indonesias-atheists/492147