The campaign against Indian rationalist Sanal Edamaruku is hotting up. Edamaruku, you may remember, was the man who pointed out that the water miraculously dripping from the feet of a statue of Jesus in Mumbai, and which the faithful were consuming in the belief that it could cure their ailments, came in fact from a blocked drain. Far from working miracles, the holy water was a health hazard.
For this, the local Catholic Church accused him of blasphemy, and the local police tried to arrest him for "hurting religious sentiments". Edamaruku has been forced to stay away from his home, and has filed for "anticipatory bail", to avoid immediate incarceration. That plea failed:
Unfortunately, the situation has now worsened – his appeal for anticipatory bail with the High Court has been tossed out again (the higher court insists it goes through the lower courts first), which means arrest will lead to certain imprisonment for an indeterminate period. In the last two days police have turned up at his home in Delhi twice with an arrest warrant. He is currently in Europe (at an undisclosed location) but is worried that the Indian authorities will insist he returns to India to face the charges.
There's an excellent interview with the man at New Scientist:
What do you fear might happen to you?
If it comes to a trial, I have nothing to fear. I would welcome the opportunity to throw some light on the role that the Catholic church played and is still playing today, here in India. The possibility of arrest is threatening, however.
Do you have any regrets about intervening?
Why would one not intervene when somebody gives gullible people sewage to drink? But my reason is broader. The promotion of superstition and belief in paranormal phenomena dulls people's minds and establishes dangerous misconceptions about reality in our society. Such efforts have to be countered.
Why do people so readily believe in miracles?
For many, the regressive belief in superstitions and miracles is an escape from the hardships of life. Once trapped into irrationalism, they become more incapable of mastering reality. It is a vicious circle, like an addiction. They become vulnerable to exploitation by astrologers, godmen, dubious pseudo-psychologists, corrupt politicians and the whole mega-industry of irrationalism.
More at Rationalist International.