In recent years, India has been advancing toward becoming a fully industrial country and a world power. Across the country, technology companies are taking root. Indian Universities are improving their engineering and science departments and becoming true world-class institutions. The Indian Space Agency has developed and deployed highly capable indigenous launch systems and is planning ever more ambitious missions.
Still, there is quite a way to go. Many Indians still have not seen their standard of living increase, despite the development of much of the country. The general state of healthcare is still poor for most Indians. Lack of reliable infrastructure remains a problem and has reduced the appeal of India for some business development. Large areas of the Indian countryside have not benefited from technical development.
One of the major issues that has held India back seems to be the enshrinement of superstition in government policy, resulting in some astoundingly bad laws and judgements. Homeopathy is fully embraced by the Indian healthcare system, and courts have ruled astrology to be a “science.” One might expect this kind of thing in an exceptionally backward area of a third world country, such as in Nigeria, where police took a goat into custody, after it was claimed to be an armed robber who had transformed into the animal through black magic. However, for a country which is trying to become a modern, industrial power, such idiocy cannot be tolerated.
One especially absurd and downright dangerous problem is Indian law regarding blasphemy. In India, anyone who attempts to disprove or otherwise openly questions claims made in the area of religion can face stiff punishment.
Such laws offer a great degree of protection for the various scam artists who bilk poor Indians out of their meager savings with a combination of magic tricks and claims of magical cures and rituals. Charismatic gurus, known as Godmen, commonly travel across the country, mostly preying on the poor and amassing fortunes in the process. Although organizations like the Indian Rationalist Association have worked to debunk such scams, blasphemy laws have been used to silence many critics of these and other religious-based scammers.
One recent and exceptionally dramatic example of what can happen when the claims of religious authorities are questioned or shown to be false is that of Sanal Edamaruku:
If you want a more detailed explanation of exactly what was happening that caused the “Weeping Jesus” effect, it can be found here. Basically, what happened is that the local sewage system outside the church had become backed up, resulting in raw sewage being expelled into the local ground. The problem was so severe, that the ground had become waterlogged to the point of saturation underneath the outdoor Jesus statue. The wooden cross of the Jesus statue penetrated the pavement into the waterlogged ground, where a combination of back-pressure and capillary action resulted in some of the water traveling up through the wooden cross. The nail where the feet of the Jesus statue are attached provided a point where the water could drip out from the cross. Thus, water would dribble out from the feet of Jesus (so it wasn’t really “weeping either.)
This is not a religious claim and it’s not an affront against the basic faith of the Catholic Church. You can continue to believe that Jesus died for your sins. You can continue to believe Catholic doctrine in general. You can continue to believe that miracles and signs from god happen. This in no way challenges that. However, this one isolated case was not a miracle, it was a case of extremely poor sewage system design and maintenance.
The fact that this would be prosecuted is absurd, nevermind the fact that such blasphemy laws are ridiculous to begin with. Given the circumstances, I have to question the motives of the authorities and the Association of Concerned Catholics, who filed the charges. If they were indeed honestly looking to express their faith, they should not be so concerned that one particular event would be discovered to not be divine. Indeed, the Catholic church in other parts of the world routinely dismisses claims of miracles after an obvious cause is discovered. The motives in this case are thus very transparent. The statue was making the church money and Sanal Edamaruku threatened that. Moreover, as an unapologetic atheist and vocal critic of faith healers and godmen, Sanal Edamaruku is a thorn in the side of all the scam artists of India. Prosecutions like this are nothing more than an attempt to silence such critics.
Question: Where is the international Catholic Church? Why hasn’t the Pope said anything?
Of course, there is one organization that could easily end this insanity. Although India may be far from Rome, the Vatican has authority over all Catholic churches. Whether or not the “Association of Concerned Catholics” is officially aligned with the international Catholic Church, as self-described Catholics, they would have a hard time not withdrawing the complaint if the Pope told them to. After all, the Pope is infallible. Thus, all that would have to happen is Ben saying “This is ridiculous. It’s not blasphamy to point out that a statue is actually leaking sewage when it clearly is.”
Unfortunately the Catholic Church has stayed quiet on this one. The official position of the church is that they support religious freedom and freedom of speech. The church does not advocate for blasphemy laws like this to be passed in first world countries. (Granted, they were not always so liberal, but now they claim to be.)
So why the silence? My guess is they just don’t care. Hand out condoms in Africa and they will get very upset, but persecute people in their name? That does not draw any attention. Perhaps they just don’t want to risk turning off a sect in India, where they don’t have many followers to begin with. Or perhaps they are not even as enlightened as they would seem to indicate. Could it be that they are only so accepting of freedom in many countries because they have concluded they are stuck with it?
Still, the blasphemy law of India continues to stand and Sanal Edamaruku remains in exile. Neither the Catholic Church nor the Indian government seem to see this as a problem.
This entry was posted on Saturday, December 8th, 2012 at 8:27 pm and is filed under Bad Science, Culture, Misc, religion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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