Friday, December 20, 2013

Rationalist journal announcement

Sanal Edamaruku is launching the Rationalist magazine

Embarking on a great journey

You are invited to join me and embark on this journey as a Founding Subscriber.

With 2014 just around the corner, it is time for an exciting announcement. One of the first things the New Year is going to bring will be a new magazine!

I am pleased to inform that we are launching - with great thrill and anticipation - an English language quarterly journal namely "Rationalist".  It will come as Internet magazine as well as tactile and tangible object printed on good old paper. 

I like to see this magazine as a ship starting out to new horizons.  As the captain, I am joined by an international crew of brilliant and committed rationalist thinkers and writers spanning over several continents. We are striving for a world without borders where reason, science and human rights come out on top and chase away the shadows that superstition, fundamentalism and intolerance that are still casting over human lives. 

Welcome to everyone sailing under the same wind. Let us forget about nomenclatures. We believe in openness and cooperation and in the power of dynamic individuals to change the world. 

Join us now and help us setting sail.

- Sanal Edamaruku

Exploring a wider base

The idea behind Rationalist magazine is to create an open forum of intellectual honesty beyond different names that individual groups use for the broad movement - Rationalism, Freethought, Secularism, Humanism, Skepticism, Atheism, Scientific Temper and many others. These names are dear to us based on our history, tradition or culture, and our focus of activities. Rationalist magazine wishes to explore our common objectives and common lines. World-class articles, well known columnists, in-dept studies, reports from around the world, announcements and reports of conferences and activities of all major organizations. Representing every branch of our movement, the Rationalist magazine will have an inclusive and participative approach - beyond borders.

How to join this historic venture?

We invite you to join the Rationalist magazine as a Founding Subscriber. Your support will stabilize the foundation of this venture. All Founding Subscribers will be acknowledged in the journal. There are other levels of subscriptions also. Subscribe here.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Sanal Edamaruku will speak at London’s Free Word Centre
on Wednesday, 21 Nov 2012, 1:00 pm

The event is hosted by Index on Censorship, British Rationalist Association and New Humanist magazine. Sanal will be joined by a panel of experts, discussing the implication of his case for the future of blasphemy in India and beyond. The panel includes High Court Judge Sir Stephen Sedley, historian Professor Richard Sorabji, journalist and novelist Salil Tripathi and free speech campaigners.

It is a free event, but you have to register here in advance to secure your ticket.

Last week, Sanal Edamaruku spoke in the “Humanist Days”, organized by the Finnish Humanist Union at the Swedish Cultural Centre in Helsinki. In his lecture, he focused on the “Conflict between traditionalism and modernism in India” and discussed future perspectives.

The Humanist Days were dedicated to the memorial of Alan Turing, the British mathematician, cryptanalyst, and computer scientist who is considered to be the father of computer science and Artificial Intelligence. Sanal also attended a special event on occasion of Alan Turing’s birth centenary, hosted by the British ambassador to Finland at his home. On 15 November he delivered the key-note address at the UNESCO Philosophy day symposium held at the Helsinki university.

After London, Sanal will visit Ireland. Speeches are scheduled in Dublin, Cork, Galway and Belfast.

To sign the Petition against Sanal’s case, click here.

To donate to the Sanal Edamaruku Defense Fund, click here.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Delhi police attempt to arrest 

Sanal Edamaruku

By Ophelia Benson

July 4. This morning, officers of the Delhi Police reached Sanal Edamaruku’s house to arrest him. They came upon directions of a Delhi court to execute an arrest warrant issued by a Mumbai Metropolitan Magistrate Court (second highest Criminal Court). If Sanal had been at home, he would be in jail now….
The officers were informed that Sanal is presently out of Delhi and traveling. They insisted on details of his whereabouts, addresses and contact numbers. Some hours later, they came again to press for information, to no avail.

What will happen next?

With this dramatic turn of events, Sanal Edamaruku’s persecution has reached a dangerous new level. Exposing the “miracle” of the water-dripping crucifix at the Velankanni church in Mumbai as a plumber’s problem, he incurred Catholic fury beyond all trademark forgiveness. Highly alarming is the fact that the Catholic side has managed to secure considerable support from Indian government agencies. The Catholic Church is representing only a small minority of believers in India. But it is backed by a powerful worldwide apparatus, driven by great ambitions to conquer India and make up for its losses in the western world. I don’t want the Dark Ages to come to India! Sanal says in the controversial TV program, drawing the battle lines
In the ongoing conflict, Sanal has the evidence-based factual truth on his side – regarding capillary action as well as regarding church history. Moreover, he enjoys the full support of the Indian Constitution that explicitly obliges all citizens to develop “scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform”. And then, of course, there is the right to Freedom of Expression (Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.) on his side of the balance tray.
The revengeful local Catholic leaders, on the other side, have the tacit support of another heavy weight: the powerful Catholic Church. The Pope is keeping mum, ignoring thousands of contemporaries from various parts of the world who are calling upon the Vatican via an Online Petition of the Rationalist Association (UK) to take a stand in this case. But his Mumbai representative, Bishop Agnelo Gracias (whom Sanal encountered in the TV-9 program), does all the talking. Unstinting in his public praise for Sanal’s prosecutors, Gracias “rejoices” about their courage!
It is obvious that the Catholic Church is trying to pull the strings to silence its most vocal and courageous opponent in India. If there is one person who could cross their ambitious plans, it is Sanal Edamaruku. So there is much at stake, for both sides. How far will they be able to go? That cannot be foreseen. We have to be prepared for the worst.
Please help us to spread the information about this case! Forward this Bulletin, translate it, put in into blogs and discussion sites and write articles about it in the media. Sanal is available for interviews also (though maybe not always in person).

The Star, Malaysia reports about Sanal Edamaruku

Sunday August 19, 2012

The rationalist’s Olympic quest


If there were a ‘clear thinking and myth debunking’ game, one man would stand out as an obvious winner.
OUR dive darling (as dubbed by one newspaper), Pandelela Rinong, has captured the imagination and hearts of Malaysians. I am one of those who followed her sporting path to Olympic glory, not least because of the musicality of her name, Pandelela Rinong, which has fascinated me since I first heard it.
It is like this, isn’t it? Some names resonate with us more than others.
Another name that I roll off my tongue with delight and admiration is Sanal Edamaruku. If you don’t believe me, say Sanal Edamaruku aloud. Say it as if you read it. There are no tricks. Say it as if you were speaking Bahasa Baku, the world’s simplest and most logical language. Phonetically speaking that is.
In my books, Sanal Edamaruku is also a medal winner of the highest calibre. If ever there is a prize for publicly defending science, reason and rationality, I would nominate him for it.
Rationalist Edamaruku has written many books and articles, and made numerous television appearances, which deal mainly with rationalist thought and anti-superstition.Rationalist Edamaruku has written many books and articles, and made numerous television appearances, which deal mainly with rationalist thought and anti-superstition.
Edamaruku is the founder-president of Rationalist International, president of the Indian Rationalist Association, and honorary associate of the UK Rationalist Association.
Edamaruku obtained a Master’s degree in Political Science from the University of Kerala, and a Master of Philosophy degree in International Studies from the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.
The eponym is fitting as, Nehru, the first prime minister of India, was as secular and scientific as they come. I cannot think of any other prime minister in modern times who is as committed to modern science, reason and technology as Nehru was. And this was 65 years ago!
Thirty years ago, Edamaruku went to work full-time for all the “reason” NGOs, and my, what a rollicking, fruitful and exciting 30 years it has been. He has written many books and articles, and made numerous television appearances that deal mainly with rationalist thought and anti-superstition.
He has carried out many investigations to expose frauds, mystics and “godmen”. Last year, he was elected as a fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry.
However, to me, the greatest accolade ever bestowed on Edamaruku is honorary associate of the Rationalist Association of UK (formerly Rationalist Press Association). Among the good and the great to have been honorary associates were Bertrand Russel, HG Wells, Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud and Francis Crick.
This, to me, is like winning the gold medal of the “clear thinking and scientific inquiry” event.
In March 2008, while appearing on a TV show panel, Edamaruku challenged a tantric to demonstrate his powers by killing him using only magic. The tantric chanted mantras and performed a ceremony to kill Edamaruku on live TV.
India TV received a large boost in ratings while this was going on.
After his attempts failed, the tantric said that Edamaruku must be under the protection of a powerful god, to which Edamaruku responded that he is an atheist.
Pandelela’s path to fame, honour and glory was paved with hard work, discipline and perseverance. It was the same with Edamaruku.
Fortunately in Pandelela’s case, there was no threat of a criminal or civil suit.
A house of worship in Mumbai was promoting the idea that water dripping from the feet of the deity’s statue could cure all ailments. This is in some way like the rhinoceros horn myth, which is touted to cure all diseases, including cancer, and has led to the indiscriminate killing of the endangered and protected rhinos for their horn. (Trying to debunk the myth of rhinoceros horn as a cure-all has taken up a good bit of my time and resources.)
Edamaruku was recently invited by a television station in Delhi to comment on and investigate this phenomenon in Mumbai. The authorities agreed. Our intrepid and industrious sceptic had a close look at a nearby washroom and found that the drainage system was blocked. Sewage water from the clogged drainage pipes had been transmitted via capillary action into the adjacent walls at the base of the statue.
As a result of this expose, charges were filed against Edamaruku by two lay religious organisations under Section 295A of the Indian penal code. This charges a person with “deliberately hurting religious feelings and attempting malicious acts intended to outrage the religious sentiments of any class or community”.
That is, of course, truly absurd. If anything, Edamaruku should be thanked for preventing diarrhoeal diseases and septicaemia that may have been caused by drinking bacteria-laden sewage water.
If it comes to a trial, I hope the ghost of Nehru will be there to exert a steadying and rational influence on the court proceedings.
We have the summer and winter Olympics where participants who excel in sports and games are rewarded with medals, cash, sponsorships and endorsements.
There soon will be medals awarded at the “clear thinking and myth debunking” games.
Do you think we can then bag that elusive gold medal?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Sanal Edamaruku on the rain puja in Karnataka state in india

Sanal Edamaruku, the president of the Indian Rationalist Association today condemned the Karnataka government’s pledge to support prayers for rain, which could cost Rs 18 crore of public funds.  The report appeared on The Telegraph. 

On 23 July evening news show on NDTV 24x7 channel, Sanal Edamaruku participated over skype and condemned the rain puja.

The Telegraph

Rain puja that was passed off as weather test

People visit the Taj Mahal on a cloudy Saturday. (PTI)
New Delhi, July 21: Scientists have decried the Karnataka government’s decision to spend public funds for rain-invoking prayers that comes 24 years after the Union science and technology department had supported a similar effort in Mathura during a hot and dry summer.

The Karnataka government, responding to the state’s worst drought in 42 years with rains in its southern interior 50 per cent below normal, has pledged Rs 5,000 to each of 37,000 temples across the state to support prayers for rains between July 27 and August 2.

“This has absolutely no basis in science,” said Ajay Sood, president of the Indian Academy of Sciences, and professor of physics at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. “Such decisions are usually driven by faith, but an elected government has taken this decision.”

Another senior scientist said the decision merely highlights the unfinished task of promoting scientific thinking across the public arena. “Science can never support something like this but then we live in a land of contradictions,” said Krishan Lal, a senior physicist at the National Physical Laboratory, New Delhi, and president of the Indian National Science Academy.

“Somehow, such things continue to catch the public’s imagination,” Lal said.

In the summer of 1988, the Union department of science and technology (DST) had supported a yagna for rain conducted during a weekend by an 86-year-old priest at a temple in Mathura.

The priest, Har Prasad Sharma, poured herbs and ghee into a giant fire, chanting hymns from the Vedas while scientists from the India Meteorological Department stood on a terrace trying to determine whether the soots from the flames would in any way change the ambient atmosphere.

Senior DST officials had at that time declined to share details of the proposal for the yagna that it had agreed to support and observe but explained that such an experiment could be “viewed” as an attempt to seed clouds through the particles from the fire rising into the air.

Sections of the scientific community had criticised the DST decision.

The IMD team in Mathura did not record any fire-related changes in the atmosphere, and the DST quietly pulled out support, never discussing the episode in public.

The president of the Indian Rationalist Association today condemned the Karnataka government’s pledge to support prayers for rain, which could cost Rs 18 crore of public funds.

“The government should not even spend Rs 18 on something like this,” said Sanal Edamaruku, the association’s president. “This is abuse of public funds. Under the constitution, all citizens need to promote scientific temper.”

Rain kills nine

Nine persons, including two women and three children, were killed in rain-induced accidents in Hyderabad this morning.

All the deaths occurred because of wall collapse. The Andhra Pradesh capital received over 15cm of rainfall in four hours, which threw normal life out of gear as all low-lying areas got water-logged, disrupting traffic.

New Humanist update on Sanal Edamaruku

As regular readers will be well aware, we have been campaigning in support of Sanal Edamaruku, the head of the Indian Rationalist Association who is facing jail over his debunking of a purported miracle at a Catholic Church in Mumbai. For a summary of the how the case came about, read our petition, which you can also add your name to if you haven't already.


Last time we provided an update on Sanal's situation, the High Court in Mumbai had refused him "anticipatory bail", which would have enabled him to fight the case without fear of pre-trial custody, and police officers had begun seeking his arrest in his home city of Delhi. In order to avoid jail, Sanal had left India for Europe.

In terms of the potential for arrest, the situation remains the same – he still faces arrest if he returns to India, and as a result he remains in Europe. But in the meantime, details have emerged as to what those who reported Sanal to the police over his debunking of the dripping crucifix in the Church of Our Lady of Velan Kanni in Mumbai are demanding in return for withdrawing their complaints.

Last weekend, a piece appeared in the Sunday Indian newspaper by the Christian journalist John Dyal, who is well known for his civil rights activism on behalf of India's religious minorities. As a former president of the All-India Catholic Union, Dyal is a respected figure in India's Catholic community, and he used his Sunday Indian column to call on the Catholic groups that reported Sanal to withdraw their complaints. While Dyal is critical of Sanal's approach to debunking religious complaints, he does not believe that legal action is justified:
"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.
The faithful of Mumbai think they are defending faith when they go on hunger strikes against books of fiction or films from Hollywood and Bollywood. But in reality they are defending their own positions and constituencies and do not want them to be exposed to the sunlight.

Christ does not have to drip water from crucifixes to prove the love he has for each one of us. His healing is deeper and needs no instruments. I have experienced this in my own life. Catholics of Mumbai possibly realise the controversy is not getting the Church any new friends, nor is it adding to its lustre.

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. The police case against Sanal Edamaruku should be withdrawn as a sign that a mature Church in India needs no props for the depth of its faith in God."
Sanal has been in touch with us this week, and informed us of correspondence between Dyal and himself following the publication of the Sunday Indian piece. Dyal has been in touch with those behind the complaints (three local Mumbai Catholic groups with close connections to the Archdiocese of Bombay complained to the police), and through this correspondence we now know what they expect from Sanal in exchange for dropping the complaints.

The Mumbai-based Catholic Secular Forum was one of the groups that complained, and its founder Joseph Dias has told Dyal that he will drop the complaint in exchange for an apology from Sanal. Unsurprisingly, Sanal refuses to apologise for exercising his right to free speech in criticising religion:
"I can understand that Joseph Dias might be inspired by the stories of Inquisition and Witch-Hunting in the Middle aAges. We live in the 21st century. There are courageous people who would defend the right to speak what they are convinced about, even if stakes are invoked against them. I am one amongst them. I would not apologize or succumb to any pressures."
Our petition calling on the Catholic authorities to withdraw the complaints has now acquired more than 10,000 signatures, but clearly this has not been enough to convince them that this legal action against Sanal is misguided. We need to keep up the pressure – we are looking at passing the petition on to Catholic authorities here in Europe, including the Vatican, but in the meantime, the more signatures it gets, the better.

Please take the time to sign if you haven't already, and pass it on to anyone you can.

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Showing 9 comments

  • James Pickett
    Surely it is the Catholics who should apologise, or are bogus miracles OK..?
  • Aroup chatterjee
    On 12 August 2011 my wife and I were ejected from a symposium at Calcutta University (happens to be my alma mater) because I am the author of 'Mother Teresa the Final Verdict' a fatal expose of the late nun. Indians defend Catholicism not because they love the faith but bec they suck up to fair skin:they equate Christianity with white races.But you can insult the majority Hindusim pretty much as much as you like (unless you are a Muslim). 
  • Nick_ellis
    So lying to people is acceptable but if someone points out you are lying they must apologise to you?
    This seems to violate one of the Ten Commandments: Thou shalt not bear false witness.
    Or am I being unnecessarily literal in my interpretation?
  • " Joseph Dias has told Dyal that he will drop the complaint in exchange for an apology from Sanal"
    ... maybe I'm just slow, but I still haven't worked out precisely what it is Sanal DID for which he must apologise. Save them from worshipping a false idol? Save them from DRINKING not-actually-holy sewage?
    Or just for contradicting the holy morons who got it wrong in the first place?
  • Lola
    I would think that the church feels they win either way.  If he apologizes, great.  If he stays in exile, no trial, and what a relief that would be because they will never be able to prove that he was wrong.
  •  Unless Sanal's public statement is... well, pretty much exactly what I said above. Put it back to them to explain exactly what it was he did that was so terrible.
  • Nick_ellis
    Allow me to suggest this text for Sanal's 'apology': "I'm sorry the church cannot tell the difference between a leaking pipe and a miracle, or between my justifiable statements and their lies"
  • "Christ does not have to drip water from crucifixes to prove the love he has for each one of us."
    That's very nice but did anyone else notice John Dyal is insane? Jeebus is dead. Dead people can't love.
    What happened to India? When did they make free speech illegal?
    The "Catholic authorities" can demand apologies all it wants. They can be ignored because they're idiots. But why does the High Court in Mumbai suck up to morons? That's the real problem. India has a government that's out of control.
    What India needs is ridicule and relentless insults. They are living in the Dark Ages and they are never going to grow up until someone tells them they have a mental problem.
  • I believe that the glowing object on my ceiling is a miracle.   Anyone who says it's a light bulb powered my electricity should either apologize to me or be arrested.