Sanal Edamaruku Update

The disgusting situation in India, where skeptic Sanal Edamaruku is facing criminal charges for daring to offend a group of Catholics by showing that their “miracle” is nonsense, continues to simmer. The court where the charges were filed, in Mumbai, denied him “anticipatory bail,” which would have allowed him to be released upon posting bail, so he has now fled to Europe.

He still faces arrest if he returns to his home country, but one prominent Christian writer in India is trying to broker a peace between Edamaruku and the group that filed the charges, the Catholic Secular Forum. But that group is demanding that Edamaruku apologize for daring to prove them wrong. He is quite rightly refusing to do so. But that writer who is trying to mediate the conflict, John Dayal, is creating a very obvious false equivalence by declaring both Edamaruku and the Catholics trying to imprison him to be “fundamentalists” and “extremists.”

As someone who is in touch both with the Mumbai church and Sanal Edmaruku, I am pleading the return of a sense of proportion in this issue. It would seem a clash of two fundamentalist groups. It also comes in the context of a satellite TV and Internet social media environment in which many prominent Hindu temples, seminaries and their leaders have been exposed, often in what are called “sting operations”.

Unlike the violence and hate campaigns unleashed on the Christian community by Hindutva strategists and cadres in many states, and by Muslims mullahs in the Kashmir valley and a few other areas in East and South India, Sanal’s is neither “persecution” nor “communalism” as we understand those terms. A section of the Catholic community is embarrassed and therefore enraged. Sanal is an extremist in his own way, especially in the manner in which he believes in his rationalist theories. To that extent, he is a bit of a social maverick. But he is “catholic” in his approach, and confronts all mythology and superstition irrespective of which group propagates it or how powerful those who believe in these superstitions and miracles are.

Oh, bullshit. The only ones acting like extremists in this case are those who want to use the law to punish someone who proved them wrong. That’s not just wrong, it’s utterly barbaric.

I believe Christ is absolutely capable of defending Himself, if perhaps not the church in India. These statements by Sanal or the probe by his Rationalists must not be taken as an attack on the church or on the community. It certainly is not an attack on the faith in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Wrong answer. The right answer is that it doesn’t matter in the least whether it is an “attack on the faith” or not. Your beliefs are not immune from criticism and disproof, and if being proven wrong bothers you, that’s just tough. Get over it.

It is time the church leadership really forgave Sanal. He has learnt his own lesson – not to mock at genuine faith of the people and not confuse a passing popular fancy for a “miracle”, however untenable, to say the community is being taken for a ride by the church.

I highly doubt he has learned that lesson because that lesson is bullshit. There is no equivalence here whatsoever. The Catholic groups who want Edamaruku punished for disproving their idiotic claims are simply following in the long history of their church in punishing dissent and the use of reason (ask Galileo, or Giordano Bruno). It’s time for the church leadership to be put in their place in no uncertain terms and shown that they no longer have the power to bully those who refuse their authoritarian assertions.

16 comments on this post.
  1. theschwa:

    But surely the Catholic group will turn the other cheek and forgive Sanal.
    (The Catholic group will NOT forgive him. And do not call me Shirley)

  2. iknklast:

    Great column, Ed. For Edamaraku to apologize would so totally send the wrong message. It would send the message that threats can effectively silence rational discourse, and that science should take a backseat to “honest belief”. There is nothing extremist in the old canard “Just the facts, ma’am.”

  3. iknklast:

    theschwa:

    Of course they’ll forgive him. In about 400 years, he’ll be “pardoned” by the church for his “wrongdoing”. Like Galileo.

  4. Sastra:

    I think the church has a lesson to learn: never, ever, say anything about a religion which has enough effect on the world to be testable. Not out in public, at any rate. Make it all vague and non-specific until you get to “truths” of the supernatural.

    The secular world does not think that anything goes as long as it’s connected to faith. On the contrary. We love it when you jump out of philosophy and run into empiricism because that makes it even easier.

    I’m so proud of Edmaruku.

  5. frog:

    Empiricism is not fundamentalism.

    It is, in fact, the exact opposite. Fundamentalism by definition requires unquestioning adherence to written laws that may or may not be connected to natural physical laws.

    Empiricism by definition requires questioning a situation to figure out what natural physical laws of the universe are creating the situation.

  6. Sastra:

    frog #5 wrote:

    Empiricism is not fundamentalism.

    Exactly. Once they relax and think the natural world provides “evidence” which allows one to have a “reasonable faith” — they’re screwed. Every time.

    Their error is twofold: not recognizing this themselves … and thinking that there’s some sort of special courtesy and deference due to religious belief, so that this won’t be — shouldn’t be — pointed out by others.

  7. Raging Bee:

    I’m sure Catholic apologist and sccomodationist tone-troll frolff will happily agree — as an agnostic who is more on the side fo reason than those mean atheists, of course — that this “compromise” is perfectly fair, and that Edamaruku should stop being such a fundamentalist.

    It is time the church leadership really forgave Sanal. He has learnt his own lesson – not to mock at genuine faith of the people…

    Translation: he’s learned not to shoot off his mouth, so further action is unnecessary.

    NEW RULE: comparing the Catholic Church to the Mafia is no longer an act of bigotry, it’s based on recent facts of Church behavior.

  8. Raging Bee:

    Sorry, that’s “ffrolfe.” Because all tone-trolls deserve to have their handles spelled correctly.

  9. greg1466:

    Raging Bee:

    I wasn’t aware that comparing the Catholic Church to the mafia was ever an act of bigotry. I’ve always viewed it as a simple observation of fact. You run a protection racket, you are a criminal organization, plain and simple.

    But wait, Catholic Secular Forum? I guess that’s the kind of like the Muslim Atheist movement the wingnuts keep saying Obama is a member of?

  10. busterggi:

    Is it my imagination or are all the mainstream religions taking a hard turn to the conservative side?

    Seriously, what with re-enacting blasphemy laws, religious dress codes, shoving creationism into schools – it feels like a backlash against all intellectual progress made in the past few centuries.

  11. tacitus:

    The Pope and his cronies in the Vatican should also be held to account for allowing this to continue. As the autocratic ruler of the Catholic Church, it is within his power to order the Catholic Secular Forum to cease and desist from this punitive prosecution.

  12. Raging Bee:

    busterggi: This is a time when the forces of reason and progress have lost most of the voice and nearly all of the organizational advanteges they had in the late 20th century. All of the churches see an opportunity, and they’re all taking it, sometimes in explicit cooperation, to gain the most advantage the time — and currently prevailing talking-points — allow. They’re turning the clock back as far as they can — even including Pope Palpadict trying to justify the persecution of Galileo.

  13. Ichthyic:

    It would send the message that threats can effectively silence rational discourse

    more accurately, it would give the already long known fact that terrorism works just that much more credibility.

    let’s not say it is anything other than what it is.

    threats of jailing people who challenge your ideology is terrorism, pure and simple.

  14. Ichthyic:

    Seriously, what with re-enacting blasphemy laws, religious dress codes, shoving creationism into schools – it feels like a backlash against all intellectual progress made in the past few centuries.

    it’s all about authoritarianism, and how best to manipulate authoritarian personalities for political gain.

    read this, and understand:

    http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~altemey/

  15. Kamaka:

    tacitus @ 11

    The Pope and his cronies in the Vatican should also be held to account for allowing this to continue. As the autocratic ruler of the Catholic Church, it is within his power to order the Catholic Secular Forum to cease and desist from this punitive prosecution.

    No chance for cease and desist. These miracles are cash cows for the RCC and money is the RCC’s real One True God™.

    Edamaruku is fucking with the $$. They will stop at nothing to shut him up. Mafia indeed.

  16. matty1:

    I believe Christ is absolutely capable of defending Himself, if perhaps not the church in India.

    Christ is not capable of defending the church in India?

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