Saturday, July 14, 2012

Burn the heretic!

Didn't the Inquisition end a few centuries ago? Not for some Catholics in India.
In brief: The public assertion that a religious statue isn’t actually crying has put prominent rationalist Sanal Edamaruku in peril. Arrest warrants have been sworn out and Edamaruku could be picked up at any time — merely for stating the obvious, in the world's most populous democracy.
This isn’t about India-bashing — far from it. The contributions of this enormously layered (and oppressed) nation are countless, and indisputable. But the hounding of Edamaruku, at the behest of religious groups using a law that is a remnant of British colonialization, threatens to return their democratic system of justice back to medieval times.
And a man’s liberty, to say the least, hangs in the balance.
This is about as patently ridiculous as it gets. Someone points out that the water dripping from a statue of Jesus was not a sign from God but drainage from a washroom, and for that he gets charged with "deliberately hurting religious feelings and attempting malicious acts intended to outrage the religious sentiments of any class or community?” If I didn't know any better, I'd say the local archdiocese didn't want some nosy rationalist taking away its new cash cow.

Sanal Edamaruku is no stranger to controversy. He has poked holes in the mythos surrounding Mother Teresa, and he withstood a religious charlatan's attempts to kill him on live TV with tantric rituals. (If you have a few minutes, watch Part 2 and Part 3 of the challenge -- it's quite the show. I won't spoil the ending for you.) He's also spoken out against another woo-peddler who claimed he could cure HIV infection, cancer, tuberculosis or any known disease by splashing the afflicted with a bowl of fresh water.

Now, though, the local Catholic leaders are trying to silence Edamaruku by sending the police after him to answer for this victimless "crime." The Rationalist Association is mustering support for him while this works its way through the courts. If like me you are a supporter of free speech and the need for rational thought to triumph over fear and superstition, please sign the Rationalist Association's petition and, if you can spare a bit of cash, donate to Edamaruku's defense fund. With the deep pockets and political connections of the Catholic church, he'll need every bit of support he can manage.

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