Religious Pluralism Discourse in Public Sphere of Indonesia: A Critical Application of Communicative Action Theory to Inter-religious Dialogue

Main Article Content

Sung Min Kim
J.B. Banawiratma
Dicky Sofjan


This paper examines religious pluralism discourse in post-Reformasi Indonesia. Though there is general consensus about the importance of maintaining inter-religious harmony, there are still various perspectives and arguments on the idealization of dealing with religious diversity in society. The differences are found not only between the advocates and opponents of religious pluralism but also among proponent groups of religious pluralism. This paper looks at how religious organizations for inter-religious harmony struggle for legitimating their religious pluralism ideals in society. In this context, this paper, by using Habermas’ theory of communicative action, focuses on the characteristics of their efforts to communicate with others in the public sphere. It examines inter-faith dialogue done by NGOs’ activities and arguments, focusing on their validity claims for justifying religious pluralism. This paper argues that some conceptions and presuppositions of this theory need to be critically assessed and modified in analyzing these NGOs’ discourse so that it can be appropriately applied to the Indonesian context in which religion has substantial power to influence people’s thoughts and behaviors. Particularly it will point out 1) the problem of universalized rationality, 2) power relation and strategic action, and 3) the role of religious reason in public discourse.

[Artikel ini mengkaji diskursus pluralisme agama di era pasca-Reformasi Indonesia. Meski ada kesepakatan akan pentingnya membangun harmoni lintas agama, tapi pada tataran praktiknya masih ada pelbagai perspektif dan argumentasi dalam menyikapi keanekaragaman agama dalam masyarakat. Perbedaan ini tidak hanya ditemukan di kalangan mereka yang kontra, tapi juga di kalangan mereka yang pro pluralisme agama. Artikel ini bermaksud meneliti bagaimana organisasi agama yang memperjuangkan harmoni lintas agama berjuang memancang ide-ide ideal mereka terkait pluralisme agama di masyarakat. Dalam konteks ini, penelitian ini mengacu pada teori communicative action-nya Habermas dan fokus memantau karakteristik organisasi-organisasi tersebut dalam berinteraksi satu sama lain di ruang publik. Artikel ini bermaksud menguji sejauh mana dialog antar-agama dilakukan oleh organisasi-organisasi ini, terutama validitas klaim mereka dalam menjustifikasi pluralisme agama. Artikel ini berargumen bahwa konsepsi dan asumsi dari teori-teori tersebut perlu ditinjau ulang secara kritis untuk bisa diterapkan dalam konteks Indonesia, di mana agama masih memiliki kekuatan potensial untuk mempengaruhi pemikiran dan perilaku masyarakat. Secara khusus artikel ini akan membahas 1) problem rasionalitas universal, 2) relasi kuasa dan aksi strategis, serta 3) peran logika agama di ruang (diskursus) publik.


Download data is not yet available.

Article Details



Adeney-Risakotta, Bernard. “Indonesian and Western Social Imaginaries.” In Dealing with Diversity: Religion, Globalization, Violence, Gender and Disaster in Indonesia, edited by Bernard Adeney-Risakotta, 91–130. Geneva:, 2014.

———. Living in a Sacred Cosmos: Indonesia and the Future of Islam. New Haven, CT: Yale Univ Southeast Asia Studies, 2018.

Arifianto, Alexander R. “Explaining the Cause of Muslim-Christian Conflicts in Indonesia: Tracing the Origins of Kristenisasi and Islamisasi.” Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations 20, no. 1 (2009).

Beckford, James A. Social Theory and Religion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

Bertrand, Jacques. Nationalism and Ethnic Conflict in Indonesia. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

Boase, Roger. Islam and Global Dialogue: Religious Pluralism and the Pursuit of Peace. Burlington: Ashgate, 2005.

Bruinessen, Martin van (ed.). Contemporary Developments in Indonesian Islam: Explaining the “Conservative Turn.” Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2013.

CRCS. Laporan Tahunan Kehidupan Beragama Di Indonesia Tahun 2008. Yogyakarta: Center for Religious and Cross-cultural Studies, 2008.

Enns, Phil. “Habermas, Democracy and Religious Reasons.” The Heythrop Journal, (2010).

Esack, Farid. Quran, Liberation & Pluralism. Oxford: Oneworld Publications, 1997.

Fernandes, Clinton, and Damien Kingsbury. “Terrorism in Archipelagic Southeast Asia,” in Damien Kingsbury (ed.). Violence in between: Conflict and Security in Archipelagic Southeast Asia. Singapore: Monash University Press and ISEAS Publications, 2005.

Foucault, Michel. Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings 1972-1977. Edited by Colin Gordon. New York: Pantheon Books, 1980.

Gadamer, Hans-Georg. Truth and Method. Second edition. London and New York: Continuum, 1989.

Habermas, Jürgen. “From Kant’s ‘Ideas’ of Pure Reason to the ‘Idealizing’ Presuppositions of Communicative Action: Reflections on the Detranscendentalized ‘Use of Reason.’” In Pluralism and Pragmatic Turn: The Transformation of Critical Theory, edited by William Rehg and James Bohman, 11–39. Cambridge, London: The MIT Press, 2001.

———. Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 1990.

———. “Questions and Counterquestions.” In Habermas and Modernity, edited by Richard J. Bernstein, 192–216. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 1985.

———. “Religion in the Public Sphere.” European Journal of Philosophy 14, no. 1 (2006): 1–25.

———. The Theory of Communicative Action, Volume 1: Reason and the Rationalization of Society. Translated by Thomas McCarthy. Boston: Beacon Press, 1981.

———. The Theory of Communicative Action, Volume 2: Lifeworld and System: A Critique of Functionalist Reason. Translated by Thomas McCarthy. Boston: Beacon Press, 1987.

Hasan, Noorhaidi. “Post-Islamist Politics in Indonesia.” In Post-Islamism:The Changing Faces of Political Islam, edited by Asef Bayat, 157–84. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.

Hick, John. An Interpretation of Religion: Human Responses to the Transcendent. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989.

Knitter, Paul F. “Introduction.” In The Myth of Religious Superiority: Multi-Faith Explorations of Religious Pluralism, edited by Paul F. Knitter, vii–xi. New York: Orbis Books, 2005.

———. “Is the Pluralist Model a Western Imposition?: A Response in Five Voices.” In The Myth of Religious Superiority: Multi-Faith Explorations of Religious Pluralism, edited by Paul F. Knitter, 28–44. New York: Orbis Books, 2005.

Menchik, Jeremy. Islam and Democracy in Indonesia: Tolerance without Liberalism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016.

Meyer, William J. “Private Faith or Public Religoin? An Assessment of Habermas’s Changing View of Religion.” The Journal of Religion 75, no. 3 (1995).

Mujīburraḥmān. Feeling Threatened: Muslim-Christian Relations in Indonesia’s New Order. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2006.

Rahman, Fazlur. Islam and Modernity: Transformation of an Intellectual Tradition. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1982.

Ritzer, George and Smart, Barry (eds.). Handbook of Social Theory. London: SAGE Publications, 2003.

Saeed, Abdullah. Interpreting the Quran: Towards a Contemporary Approach. Oxon: Routledge, 2006.

Taylor, Charles. Modern Social Imaginaries. Durham: Duke University Press Books, 2003.

Zayd, Nasr Abu. “Rethinking the Quran: Towards a Humanistic Hermeneutics.” Presented at the Human Rights and Renewing of Religious Discourse: How Can the Arab World benefit from the Experiences of the non-Arab Islamic World?. Alexandria, April 18, 2005.