A court in India has reportedly given the OK to an atheist organization to hold a “rationalist festival” in the city of Chennai in September, after being denied permission by local police. The particular organization is unnamed in the media about the event that I’ve seen.
It doesn’t sound like your run-of-the-mill egghead convention that we are familiar with here. As reported by the Times of India, the event would have included “walking on burning coal and piercing sharp objects through cheek and tongue.” I mean, maybe that happens after hours at our conferences, but come on.
Apparently, organizers had to promise that the festival would not be used to change or denigrate anyone’s existing religious beliefs, but rather raise awareness of their own constituency (maybe that’s what the piercings are for).
Opposition to the event, expressed by the state advocate-general A L Somayaji, rings with a recurring theme in all justifications for silencing nonbelief:
Strongly opposing any indulgence for the organization, advocate-general Somayaji said the organizers hurt the religious sentiments and beliefs of believers and it would infringe the fundamental rights of worshippers.
Yeah, I’m not sure how a festival infringes on anyone’s rights, unless of course we now all have the right not to be offended, or the right to not have to think too hard.
Of course, India is home to a great deal of anti-atheist and anti-skeptic sentiment, exemplified by the arrest of novelist Yogesh Master (which I blogged on just yesterday), the persecution of skeptic Sanal Edamaruku, and the recent murder of skeptic activist Narendra Dabholkar. The fact that this festival is apparently allowed to go on (though this report is obviously less than comprehensive) is at least something.