The Danger of Books

Alexander Aan is currently serving 2.5 years in Muaro Sijunjung Penitentiary for asking for proof of God’s existence on Facebook. At the moment, he’s in the process of appealing his case to the Indonesian Supreme Court.

Of all the information in this news article, this may be the most heartbreaking:

The prison officers took away some of the books given by Alexander’s supporters and handed them over to the police,” [Aan] said. “The seized books include a book about the revolution in China and a book on Buddha’s spiritual journey. They were afraid that Alexander would remain an atheist [if he reads the books], whereas the books are widely available at bookstores.”

“There’s nothing I can do [in prison] aside from read books with light content. I can no longer enjoy quality books,” he told The Jakarta Post prior to his trial at the district court in June.

Books?! They won’t let him read certain books because they’re afraid they’ll open his mind up too much?

I’m sure they have a library full of Bibles. But Alexander tries to read books that will actually make him think and they pull the plug on him.

That’s not the only heartbreak:

Aan’s case has received attention from international human rights organizations, which argue that even though Aan has no belief in religion, he should still be protected under religious freedom laws.

Although the Office of Public Policy at the Center for Inquiry attempted to have a petition signed in order to warrant an official response from the U.S. government, the petition fell short of its required signatures.


We’re thinking of you, Alexander. We wish for your safety. And when you are freed, we’re sending a metric shitload of awesome books your way.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Matt Eggler

    this is so sad it’s heart-breaking.

    P.S. Since Indonesia is almost 87% Muslim while less than 9% Christian, they probably have a library full of Qur’ans, not Bibles…

  • smrnda

    I used to work with an organization that did prison literacy, and though the US is often better prisoners here can easily get Bibles or religious literature but not much else. I was very happy to be able to help get non-religious literature for inmates who wanted something else.

    Is there any new petition for Aan? I know the first one fell short of the number of signatures, but you’d think now people might feel there’s a lot more urgency to the case.

  • Stonyground

    If all he did was ask for proof of God’s existence, why didn’t they just give it to him? I presume that they have it. Or could it be that all they have is the pack of non-sequiteurs, unsupported assertions and logical fallacies that they have been using for thousands of years. the kind of stuff that small children are able to refute.

  • OCRazor

    We have a lot of issues in America, but how lucky we are to have the freedoms we do.

  • Kate

    Indonesia is predominantly Muslim, but constitutionally a monotheistic nation (google “Pancasila”). There’s legal protection for people practicing Christianity and other religions that recognize a single godly entity, but not people who profess non-belief.

  • Hermann o

    Do you know if it´s possible to write to him?