In many parts of the world, the debate over what constitutes a religion is just a matter of semantics, whereas the words “faith” and “religion” are often used interchangeably. As the old saying goes, one’s superstition is another man’s religion.
But in Indonesia, the subject has long become a contentious political issue that could determine whether or not one could be elected president, or to any kind of public post.
Great scholars on religion, like Reza Azlan, would argue that “faith” and “religion,” or “organized religion,” are two different things. Faith, they say, is constant, deeper and way more personal, while religion is changing, typically superficial, if not banal, and more impersonal.
But the debate over what makes one’s belief a religion or a superstition is far less scholastic in Indonesia, where religious beliefs are a major f...