Indian James Randi Gets Great Press

There’s a lot of religious nonsense that takes place in India. A lot of times, it’s just a petty scam and people lose only money as a result. Sometimes, it’s much more tragic and lives are lost.

Last week, it was reported that an Indian couple couldn’t conceive a child, so they went to a tantrik who told them they needed to kill 11 children to fix the problem. They went to work immediately:

Between December 13 and March 4, five boys aged between two and four years were poisoned.

Even though I’m sure there were scientific reasons they couldn’t conceive, they ignored or were unaware of them. Why? Maybe because of a lack of education or a misguided trust in religious superstition. In any case, they instead looked to a deranged hack who told them murder was the solution to their dilemma.

Some Indians are fighting back against this pervasive woo taking over the country.

Sanal Edamaruku has been a leader in this field as head of the Indian Rationalists’ Association, which now has over 100,000 members.

In 2008, a “famous tantric guru” said he could kill someone using only his mind. So Edamaruku took him up on the offer. On live television, Pandit Surender Sharma was given the opportunity to kill him.

First, the master chanted mantras, then he sprinkled water on his intended victim. He brandished a knife, ruffled the sceptic’s hair and pressed his temples. But after several hours of similar antics, Mr Edamaruku was still very much alive — smiling for the cameras and taunting the furious holy man.

When the guru’s initial efforts failed, he accused Mr Edamaruku of praying to gods to protect him. “No, I’m an atheist,” came the response. The holy man then said he needed to conduct a ritual that could only be done at night, outdoors, and after he had slept with a woman, drunk alcohol and rubbed himself in ash.

The men agreed to go to an outdoor studio that night — all to no avail. At midnight, the anchor declared the contest over. Reason had prevailed.

“The immediate goal I have is to stop these fraudulent babas and gurus,” says Mr Edamaruku, 55, a part-time journalist and publisher from the southern state of Kerala. “I want people to make their own decisions. They should not be guided by ignorance, but by knowledge.

Just watch this video of the event. Watch the smile on Edamaruku’s face as he proves the “master” is indeed a fraud:

The master’s “mental death waves” somehow included the need for an open knife, water, and physically touching Edamaruku. And he still failed.

We need more men and women like Edamaruku leading the way to expose these frauds. Don’t just stop at the obviously crazy people, either. Expose the monks and sadhus and sadhvis. The sooner people realize these “people of god” have no real power, the more quickly the whole country will be enlightened.

(via Skeptic Money)

  • Reginald Selkirk

    India has a long history of atheism and rationalism, including Carvaka.

  • Greg

    I couldn’t have done that. Chllenged the master’s mental death waves live on tv.

    I’d have been too tempted to pretend to have a heart attack, and then say ‘Just kidding’.

  • Roxane

    Every country in the world needs people like this. Woo knows no boundaries!

  • Hugh Kramer
  • http://www.youtube.com/aajoeyjo Joe Zamecki

    Why was that guru so eager to attempt to kill someone? That ought to be a crime…wait…lol

  • hazor

    How much respect for life does the culture(s?) in India have? Someone tell me that things like this killing 11 children idea are uncommon even among the most superstitious parts of the population..

  • mikespeir

    One positive thing about atheism is that it’s so easy to defend.

  • ihedenius

    2008 I thought they should invite him to speak at the next TAM (pay expenses etc). I still like that idea.

  • qwertyuiop

    The knife might have actually worked.

  • Richard Wade

    I remember watching this once before. It was hilarious. Edamaruku was remarkably patient as it went on and on interminably, in more than one session. I finally realized what the tantrik’s ploy was: He was trying to bore him to death.

  • http://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com Sharmin

    Hopefully, people will realize that this guy and others like him are frauds.
    -Sharmin

  • ihedenius

    As I remember it the story it was huge in India. Hundreds of millions of viewers. Live tv. I also thought the condition was no touching and that he had to be told a couple of times. On the contrary the fraud is rubbing him all the time. he could have had poison maybe. E should have slapped him.

  • mike dave

    The guy believes he can actually kill so strongly he is willing to do it on TV, he doesn’t THINK he is a fraud. Yet despite his failure I bet he still believes he can do it (you know if the moon is in just the right phase or something). Unfortunately demonstrations like this will convince few if any deeply religious / superstitious people, the only hope is that children seeing it will being to question the drivel they are being fed..

  • Miko

    Forget the superstition angle. Even if it was true that the couple couldn’t conceive unless they murdered eleven other children, that would still be no justification for doing it.

  • muggle

    I’m with Miko. Add to that is they very definitely shouldn’t be parents. Something about the mother and grandmother in me is cringing at the thought of someone who’d willingly kill young children raising one. Can’t imagine why.

    Edamaruku’s crazy too, man. The video was hilarious and he made his point but I’d be scared to death that the tantric would grow frustrated and resort to more physical methods. I got very nervous when that knife came out and when he had to push the guru’s thumb out of his eye — woah! What was he going to do gouge it out?

    I’m also very glad he didn’t coincidentally have a brain aneurysm or get hit by a truck or anything because, man, the nutcakes would be coming out in droves convinced of the guru’s power.

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  • http://unintelligentlife.wordpress.com Sidi

    hazor Said>>
    “How much respect for life does the culture(s?) in India have? Someone tell me that things like this killing 11 children idea are uncommon even among the most superstitious parts of the population..”

    I reply: Life is immensely valued here. Not just human lives, but animals too. Most Indians are vegetarians after all.

    This case is the rarest among the rare. No wonder it was caught by our national media and it was front page stuff. Everyone was appalled to hear this.

    Having said that, there is a lot of superstition here. And organisations such as IRA, FIRA, and Nirmukta (see nirmukta.com) are doing what they can to fight it.

  • GribbletheMunchkin

    The guys got more guts than i would. Soon as the crazy guru thats trying to kill me produced a knife i’d have been out of there.

    Delusion + trying to kill me + knife = scary

  • Jen

    Let’s say I can kill people with my mind, but in order to do so I have to chant at them and rub their head and hang out with them for several hours doing both. When exactly is this going to be a useful skill? If I were in a fight, they could shank me in the meantime. If we were facing off because I had road rage, they would drive away. The only people this could work on would be the bed-ridden, who presumably already have health issues, and the babies, who die of SIDS.

    Also, how does anyone know they can kill people, unless they have done so? Let’s take this as a confession and throw him in jail for a while.

  • Angie

    “The holy man then said he needed to conduct a ritual that could only be done at night, outdoors, and after he had slept with a woman, drunk alcohol and rubbed himself in ash.”

    Please. If THAT was enough to magically kill someone, frat boys would be hex-killing people left and right!

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