(My latest book God vs. Darwin: The War Between Evolution and Creationism in the Classroom has just been released and is now available through the usual outlets. You can order it from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, the publishers Rowman & Littlefield, and also through your local bookstores. For more on the book, see here. You can also listen to the podcast of the interview on WCPN 90.3 about the book.)
Religious thuggery and silliness of the kind I described in earlier posts earlier (see here and here) is not limited to the Abrahamic religions of Islam, Judaism and Christianity. When people’s religious beliefs warp their sense of proportion, let alone their senses of logic and reason, absurdities are sure to abound. It is not hard to find examples in all religions of people who think that their beliefs must be shielded from any mockery or even criticism, and Hindus and Buddhists are no exception to the rule.
For example, we have Hindus so upset over what they perceive as slights to their religion that an Indian culture minister had to offer to quit. What was the issue?
Hindu devotees believe the area between India and Sri Lanka – now known as Adam’s Bridge – was built millions of years ago by Lord Ram, supported by an army of monkeys.
But scientists and archaeologists say Adam’s Bridge, or Ram Setu, is a natural formation of sand and stones.
On Wednesday the Archaeological Survey of India told the Supreme Court that the religious texts were not evidence that Lord Ram ever existed.
Hardline Hindu opponents of the government accused the administration of blasphemy and protesters carried out demonstrations in the area and in Delhi, Bhopal, and on a number of key highways.
The next day the report was withdrawn.
Two directors of the Archaeological Survey of India were actually suspended for their role in preparing a report that said that religious texts were not evidence for the existence of god and that an army of monkeys did not build a bridge between India and Sri Lanka.
Meanwhile Hindus in England got upset over the euthanasia of a ‘sacred’ cow that vets had determined was suffering from multiple ailments. Hindus were also upset over the film Love Guru, saying that “the film will hurt the religious sentiments of millions of Hindus worldwide.” Someone called Bhavna Shinde of the Sanatan Society in the US was upset that the main character wears sacred Hindu saffron robes and carries holy prayer beads, and said that “They should draw a line when it comes to people’s faith.”
Really? Why should we draw a line when it comes to people’s faith? What gives her the right to decide when and where lines should be drawn when it comes to public speech? In fact, the very silliness and sensitivity of religious people cries out for mockery. If they try to draw such lines, they are practically begging people to cross them.
In a much nastier case, Muslim widows in India were beaten and paraded naked through streets and forced to eat excrement because they were branded as witches. How were they fingered as being witches? Apparently some ‘holy’ women in the village have this power of identification.
Buddhism does not get much in the news in the US but you can rest assured that they are as hypersensitive and prone to taking offense over the most ridiculous thing as any other religious group. I am proud to say that the Buddhists in my own country of origin (Sri Lanka) can match any religious group in the world when it comes to hyperventilating over the most trivial of supposed slights. I already wrote how Buddhist clergy in Sri Lanka actually managed to get the time zone of the country changed because their ‘spiritual plane’ had got out of whack with the old time zone., resulting in the terrible tsunami of 2004 and other events.
Then a singer named Akon had to cancel his visit to Sri Lanka after protests about a music video that occasionally showed a Buddha statue in the background. The Sri Lankan government, always obsequious and eager to pander to the Buddhist majority, refused to grant him a visa. In another case, dozens of Buddhist monks (yes, monks) stormed the Sri Lankan Buddhist Affairs Ministry (yes, the government actually has such a ministry if you can believe it) in protest over a poster advertising the film Hollywood Buddha.
And people really want religion to be taken seriously?
POST SCRIPT: Indian skeptic debunks mystic live on TV
A well-known ‘tantric guru’ boasted on Indian TV that he could kill people using only his mystical powers. “Go on then – kill me” was the response of Sanal Edamaruku who is head of the rapidly growing Indian Rationalists Association. The guru agreed to perform a series of rituals to kill him. An Indian TV station cancelled its regular programming and staged the event live watched by millions of agog viewers. Eat your heart out, American Idol.
Of course, nothing happened. During the whole process, Edamaruku looked alternatively amused and bored, and livened up the proceeding by laughing and taunting the guru. After a while, he objects to all the manhandling which apparently should not be part of a ‘tantric process’, whatever the hell that is. What surprises me is that the guru agreed to this deal at all, since it would reveal him to be a fake in front of a huge live audience and for perpetuity on YouTube. Did he actually think that he had this power? If so, it is a tribute to his power of self-delusion.
It struck me that Edamaruku should have, at one stage, pretended to die suddenly, to see if the guru was himself shocked that his mumbo-jumbo actually worked.