Monday, July 23, 2012

The Heresy Club article on Sanal Edamaruku

The Heresy Club

Sanal Edamaruku: The Miracle Man

Edamaruku, the head of the Indian Rationalist Association, is facing jail over his debunking of a “miracle” at a Catholic Church in Mumbai. He pointed out that “miraculous” water dripping from a statue of Christ at the Catholic Church of Our Lady of Velan Kanni in Vile Parle, Mumbai in fact originated from a leaky pipe. This led to widespread condemnation by the Catholic authorities in Mumbai, with the Auxiliary Bishop of Bombay, Agnelo Rufino Gracias calling on him to apologise for “hurting” the Catholic community. Formal complaints about Mr Edamaruku were then made to the Mumbai police by three local Catholic groups, the Catholic Secular Forum, the Association of Concerned Catholics and the Maharashtra Christian Youth Forum.
Edamaruku was at risk of being held in custody ahead of any trial, and was forced to avoid his home whole he filed for anticipatory bail with the High Court in Mumbai. The request for bail was denied which means arrest will lead to certain imprisonment for an indeterminate period. In early July police turned up at his home in Delhi twice with an arrest warrant. He wasn’t there as he is in Europe at an undisclosed location. Had Edamaruku been at home though, he would have been imprisoned for debunking a miracle.
The New Humanist today reported that  Indian Catholics have demanded Sanal Edamuaruku apologise for debunking miracle at a Mumbai church, and in return they will drop the complaints and the call for his arrest. Sanal says No.
They reported that 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. Dyal, a respected figure in India’s Catholic community, 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 and wrote:
“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…
…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.”
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. Sanal Edamaruku refuses to apologise and I can only applaud him. It is incredibly brave of Sanal to stand by reason and now cower to religious bullying. It must be incredibly tempting to relieve himself of the burden imposed by the Catholic Church but he didn’t. It’s heroic.
I implore any reader of The Heresy Club to go and sign the petition ‘calling on the Catholic Archdiocese of Bombay to encourage the withdrawal of complaints against Indian Rationalist Sanal Edamaruku’. Share it with your friends and family and show that people from all around the globe – religious and non religious – donot approve of religious privilege being used to silence criticism.
Crying statues are nothing amazing. Religious relics and miracles have been debunked time and time again. A brilliant book on the subject would be ’Looking for a Miracle: Weeping Icons, Relics, Stigmata, Visions & Healing Cures’ by Joe Nickell. To try to imprison someone for speaking the truth because it would convenience you if people continued to think it was miraculous is sneaky, dishonest and manipulative – then again, it IS the Catholic Church

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