Indian rationalist Sanal Edamaruku set out to debunk Mumbai’s miracle statue. What he did not expect was to be accused of “deliberately hurting religious feelings and attempting malicious acts intended to outrage the religious sentiments of any class or community.”
Sanal Edamaruku is the founder and president of Rationalist International. Which according to the website is:
India’s largest rationalist organisation. Founded in 1949. Fights for scientific temper, secularism, freedom of thought and expression. Defends reason and science. Exposes superstition, blind belief, obscurantism, paranormal claims caste-based social divisions and guru-politics nexus. Strives for a post-religious society.
However when Sanal went to investigate a statue of Christ that is said to weep holy water, Sanal found that there was no miracle at work. Only the inferior workmanship of a careless plumber. The holy water turned out to be from a clogged drain. When Sanal disclosed his findings, he did not see the fierce backlash that the Catholic laity had in store.
What was the so-called miracle you recently investigated in Mumbai?
The priest and the very active Catholic laity organizations associated with the Our Lady of Velankanni Church in Mumbai were promoting the idea that water dripping from the feet of a statue of Jesus was a sign from God. Hundreds of believers flocked to the dripping cross, collecting and consuming “holy” drainage water that they believed would cure all ailments.
What prompted you to intervene?
I was invited to the Delhi studio of TV9, a Mumbai-based national channel, to comment. During the program, I rejected the possibility of a miracle but of course could not give scientific explanations without an investigation. The channel then invited me to come to Mumbai. The church authorities agreed.
What did you find?
I had a close look at a nearby washroom and the connected drainage system that passed underneath the concrete base of the cross. I removed some stones from the drain and found it was blocked. I touched the walls, the base, and the cross and took some photographs for documentation. It was very simple: Water from the washroom, which had been blocked in the clogged drainage system, had been transmitted via capillary action into the adjacent walls and the base of the cross as well as into the wooden cross itself. The water came out through a nail hole and ran down over the statue’s feet.
You now face possible arrest. Why?
Leaders of two Catholic laity organizations have launched charges against me under Section 295A of the Indian penal code. This charges a person with “deliberately hurting religious feelings and attempting malicious acts intended to outrage the religious sentiments of any class or community.” It is absurd to claim that I did anything of the sort.
Full source: Slate.com
Although I do agree with Mr. Edamaruku’s work, he does tend to generalize all unexplained phenomenon. Read this excerpt:
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.
Superstition and paranormal phenomena is not the same thing, therefore it should not be grouped in the same category. Paranormal means something that is outside the norm. Something not explained by science. Like the Hessdalen Lights phenomena. Several theories exist for a possible explanation to these lights, but none have been able to fully explain them. Making those lights a paranormal phenomena. The same applies to several high-profile psychokinetic cases like that of Kulagina and Bither.
Sometimes it seems like the skeptics and believers are both running around in circles.