Myth-Busters of Mohali

Interesting article in about Tarksheel, the Punjab Rationalist Society, which is a chapter of the larger Indian Rationalist Society. Its members try to combat superstition by using logic and skeptical inquiry. After reading the article, it sounds like they have an uphill struggle ahead of them. Some highlights:

The head of the Indian Rationalist Association, Sanal Edamaruku, spent close to 23 hours in a studio in New Delhi last year, while a sadhu invited by the news channel pranced around, muttering a curse that would supposedly end Edamaruku's life on air. This April, he faced the ire of the Organisation of Concerned Catholics when he unravelled a 'miracle' at a church in Mumbai. Edamaruku discovered that the droplets of water trickling from a statue of Jesus Christ in Vile Parle were, in fact, from a nearby drainage system, and is currently facing arrest for 'blasphemy'.

And also:

THE LION'S share of cases on Tarksheel's investigative roster involves 'possessed' women. Rora says the easiest way to discourage women from moving around freely or mingling with the opposite sex is to instill fear in the form of supernatural repercussions from an early age. The myths that proliferate in villages are centred on feminine virtue and its containment. Oft-repeated ones include djinns love women with open hair, or those who wear perfume, or new brides. Walking under a peepul tree at midnight or when everyone is asleep in the afternoon is a sure way to get possessed.

Paranormal Religion

Posted on Fri Apr 20, 2012


Yay! More power to them! It's a hard fight against such ingrained superstition, but with any luck, they'll manage to put a dent in some of the more ludicrous beliefs.
Posted by Robin Bobcat  on  Fri Apr 20, 2012  at  10:06 AM
Well, a lot of people seem to be somewhat twisting this thing with Edamaruku and the blasphemy charges around a bit (what a shock, people making less-than-entirely-accurate propaganda where religion is involved!). I've been seeing this popularly described as the sceptic exposes the miracle as being mundane, and then the religious people press charges against him because of that. But that's not really the case.

Yes, Edamaruku said that the statue wasn't miraculous. But that's not really the basis of the charges that are being brought against him. Rather, there are apparently some other things that he publicly said about the Pope and Vatican and Catholicism in general being criminals and liars that got people upset. I watched the Indian television show segment that involved some of the fuss, but. . .it is a bit hard to follow the arguments in it, what with five people shouting at once and in several different languages simultaneously. But it seems that among other things he said that the Catholic church was mainly concerned with scamming people. And the members of the Catholic church in India are charging him with publicly and maliciously making untrue statements about the Catholic church. Which would be illegal by Indian law:

"295A. Deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage
religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious
beliefs.--Whoever, with deliberate and malicious intention of
outraging the religious feelings of any class of 6*[citizens of
India], 7*[by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by
visible representations or otherwise] insults or attempts to insult
the religion or the religious beliefs of that class, shall be punished
with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to
8*[three years], or with fine, or with both."

It's fine if he scientifically shows that a possible miracle isn't really miraculous. The problem comes from whether or not he lied about other stuff in order to hurt the Catholics. I'd hope that both religious people and atheist sceptics would agree that the latter is a wrong thing to do. So now I suppose we'll get to see if the Indian courts decide that there is enough substance to the claim that he slandered the Catholic church.
Posted by Accipiter  on  Fri Apr 20, 2012  at  11:39 PM
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