Indian Skeptic Charged with Blasphemy for Rationally Explaining a ‘Miracle’

You might remember Sanal Edamaruku — the “Indian James Randi,” if you will — from when he gave famed “tantric guru” Pandit Surender Sharma the chance to kill him using only his mind, something the guru claimed he could do:

I love how Edamaruku laughs during the entire exchange :)

For Edamaruku’s latest debunking, he went to the site of a “miracle cross” where water was seen trickling down Jesus’ feet…

Turns out there was a perfectly logical explanation:

Sanal Edamaruku identified the source of the water (a drainage near a washing room) and the mechanism how it reached Jesus feet (capillary action). The local church leaders, present during his investigation, appeared to be displeased.

It sounds funny, but this is very serious. Edamaruku has been charged with blasphemy:

Yesterday (10th April,2012) Sanal received a phone call from a Police official of Juhu Police Station in Mumbai directing him to come to the said police station to face the charges and get arrested. He also said that FIRs have also been filed in Andheri and some other police stations u/s 295 of Indian Penal Code on the allegations of hurting the religious sentiments of a particular community. Mumbai police has announced that they were out to arrest him. It is apprehended that he can be arrested any moment.

I’m still waiting to hear if there’s anything we can do on his behalf. I’ll keep you all updated if I find anything out.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • http://twitter.com/bertiebirdman Albert Yome

    India is such a paradox. A space program, regional superpower, economic powerhouse and this nonsence. ‘Blasphemy’ is a victimless ‘crime’. A religion’s rules should only be borne voluntarily by its adherents, but cannot be imposed on a secularist or believers in another creed. Shame on India.

    • Pcranny

      Blasphemy is not a victimless crime; it isn’t a crime.

      Here in the UK “obtaining money by false pretences” is a crime.

      • http://codemonkeybryan.com Bryan Elliott

        In india, it is a crime (I.e., a violation of criminal law). It’s also not victimless – the victims being those holding the beliefs in question.

        What blasphemy is, however, is a necessary result of the misalignment between religious faith and reality. And a whole country, with a bustling economy, has laws enforcing people’s claimed right to stick their fingers in their ears.

    • LutherW

       Actually the crime is the charge of Blasphemy. Not only is it a crime against the innocent accused, it hurts all that believe the charge or or led to believe a myth.

    • Troy Truchon

      Blasphemy isn’t a crime, its called “education” by sane people. 

  • http://twitter.com/iml3g3nd Aman Dhaliwal

    I had no idea that even India has a blasphemy law. Have never really heard about it in past. 

    • Rohit Ajitkumar

      Aman, there is immense contradiction in the Indian constitution when it comes to freedom of speech. This article reveals the absurdity of it all and how only lip service is paid to freedom of expression in India 
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hate_speech_laws_in_India

  • Santiago

    I think I understood “cross” and “Jesus” but I am not sure….

    I hope they drop the charges.

  • Jett Perrobone

    I bet this guy can sympathise with Galileo.  Don’t upset Christians by telling the truth or you will suffer.

  • http://wading-in.net/walkabout Al Denelsbeck

    “Discovering a curious manifestation of the laws of physics” ruled harmful to religious folk – film at eleven.

    Good thing religion gives us such great moral guidance – otherwise we all might have missed the opportunity for new doctrine regarding jesus’ sweaty feet…

    Hey! I have stigmata!

  • Annie

    The Indian constitution is such a paradox.  Under Fundamental Duties (Article 51A), you see one clause (e) stating it is the duty of citizens to promote harmony that transcends religious diversity, but then in (h): “to develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform;”.  I would think it may often be hard to do both of those things at the same time.

    http://lawmin.nic.in/olwing/coi/coi-english/coi-indexenglish.htm

    • http://www.facebook.com/maik.both Maik Both

      Very good, I was going to mention the same thing as had seen this written about the issue on another site.

      I would hope the Vatican doesn’t let this go too far, although as most religions tend to discourage critical thinking I wouldn’t want to be in Edmaruku’s shoes… 

      • Annie

        I had been trying to locate the actual “blasphemy law”.  Someone posted this on google+ (on IrreligiousIndian’s post about this).

        Indian Penal Code

        1[295A. Deliberate and malicious acts, intended
        to outrage religious feelings or any class by insulting its religion or
        religious beliefs.— Whoever, with deliberate and malicious intention of
        outraging the religious feelings of any class of 2[citizens of India],
        3[by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible
        representations or otherwise], insults or attempts to insult the
        religion or the religious beliefs of that class, shall be punished with
        imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to
        4[three years], or with fine, or with both.]

        • jdm8

          It seems the real crime is speaking truth to power.

          It’s possible that this law was made with the best of intentions, because India has had significant religious strife in the last century, but this is ridiculous.

  • IndyFitz

    Hemant — can you control what kinds of ads Google serves up with the videos?  I’m guessing not, but I noticed while watching the video that an ad for those who “need prayer” was coming up.  I’m sure religious folks would be annoyed with atheist ads!

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

      I have no control! Sorry!

      Sent from my iPad

      • thebigJ_A

        He also has no control over Apple ads in his comments, apparently. ;)

  • Erp

    I found a site which seems to have the other sides postings

    http://mumbailaity.wordpress.com/2012/03/11/association-of-concerned-catholics-demands-an-apology-from-mr-sanal-edamaruku-and-f-i-r-lodged-against-him/

    The “Association of Concerned Catholics” seem to be out for him.

    The timeline seems to be

    March 5, 6:30am  – water reported to be dripping from the cross
    http://mumbailaity.wordpress.com/2012/03/06/water-flowing-from-crucified-cross-at-irla-gaothan/

    March 5? evening  – Sanal Edamaruku makes a televised statement about the cross and about the Catholic ChurchMarch ? – the archdiocese takes umbrage and issues a statement in reaction to Sanal.  Hedges on the miraculous nature of the crossMarch ? – the Association of Concerned Catholics also reacts and demands an apology. March ? – Sanal Edamaruku is invited to the visit the siteMarch 8  — water reportedly stopped dripping at 1pmhttp://www.asianews.it/news-en/Miracle-in-Irla-brings-Christians,-Hindus-and-Muslims-together-in-prayer-24233.htmlMarch 10 -Sanal Edamaruku visits the site and comes to the conclusion about the causethat evening reports what he found on TV-9By March 12 the Association said it would be filing charges against Sanal.April 10 – Sanal Edamaruku told to visit the police

    • Pcranny

      So, the guy who offered to kill him by the power of his mind on live TV was promoting Community harmony and peace – obviously.

  • http://www.facebook.com/billpg Bill P. Godfrey

    Never mind. I’m sure they’ll apologise in a few hundred years.

  • Paradox

    Meh. Religious BS doesn’t work in the Indian Penal Code. This guy will be cleared of all charges

    • Annie

      But apparently it is enough for the Mumbai police to announce that they want to arrest him.  I’ve never been arrested, but I imagine it is, at the very least,  a slight inconvenience. 

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    This is outrageous, ridiculous, and frightening.

    Some Indian church has leaky plumbing, and it drips off of a statue.  Superstitious bumpkins call it miraculous, and the church gains publicity and profits from all the additional traffic. Then when a sensible man points out that once again, the truth is mundane, the church proprietors resent him for spoiling their lucrative tourist attraction.  So they and holy charlatans from all over the country call for his arrest and conviction of the crime of debunking their lies, because in their country, although spoiling the fun of financial liars is okay, spoiling the fun of RELIGIOUS LIARS is against the law.

    India is a parliamentary republic under a constitution claiming to uphold freedom of speech; a nuclear power with over one billion people, yet it also resembles a backward, primitive, isolated mountain village of 100 insular, credulous, superstitious clodhoppers who have never seen an outsider, and who will live out their short, myopic lives while never going more than twenty miles from where they were born, and believing without question all the tall tales their demented grandparents babbled about.

    In certain ways the United States is similar, differing only in degree.

    • Santiago

      “clodhoppers”

      I had to Google that one :)

    • thebigJ_A

      “India is a parliamentary republic under a constitution claiming to uphold freedom of speech; a nuclear power with over one billion people which has produced some of the greatest mathematicians, scientists, statesmen and progressive leaders in history, yet it also resembles a backward, primitive, isolated mountain village of 100 insular, credulous, superstitious clodhoppers who have never seen an outsider, and who will live out their short, myopic lives never going more than twenty miles from where they were born, and believing without question all the tall tales their demented grandparents babbled about.”

      So it’s just like the US, then?

      • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

        Please read the last line in my comment. 

    • http://profiles.google.com/peterj91 Jijo Peter

      There was another incident, where water was pouring from the ceiling above a crucifix, in a church in India. Devotees gathered and collected the ‘holy’ water , drank it. Later they discovered, it was collected rain water on the rooftop, leaked through false ceiling. They even found dead rodents in the holy  water!

  • http://www.facebook.com/roccim Marlo Rocci

    he would have died of old age before he died of black magic.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Margaret-Whitestone/100001682409207 Margaret Whitestone

    Funny how the ones who whine about “thought crimes” laws never seem to utter a peep about things like this.

  • Keulan

    Blasphemy laws are so stupid. Nobody should ever be arrested for revealing the facts behind ridiculous religious claims.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/FDGYHBEWVNGUG763L5X4TON3JQ Nazani14

    I obviously think blasphemy laws are a stupid idea, but even so – how did he commit blasphemy?  He apparently didn’t say anything about basic Catholic religious teachings,  just made a observation about some dripping water.  He should call one of the Catholic priests that investigate miracles and usually debunk them as a witness.

  • Skippy

    Wow… I am *SO* curious to know what was said by the magic man. It’s also interesting/scary to see his desperation grow as nothing happens to the man he’s attempting to kill. 

  • Som

    Why are you not arresting Jakir Naik when he is hurting the religious sentiments of millions of Hindus by even challenging the existing of Hindu gods? Rules for Hindus are different? Fuck you Sonia and your roman background


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