Category Archives: News

India’s god laws fail the test of reason by PRAVEEN SWAMI

From: www.thehindu.com

Police investigation of Sanal Edamaraku for debunking a “miracle” at a church is a crime against the Constitution.

Early in March, little drops of water began to drip from the feet of the statue of Jesus nailed to the cross on the church of Our Lady of Velankanni, down on to Mumbai’s unlovely Irla Road. Hundreds began to flock to the church to collect the holy water in little plastic bottles, hoping the tears of the son of god would sanctify their homes and heal their beloved.

Sanal Edamaruku, the eminent rationalist thinker, arrived at the church a fortnight after the miracle began drawing crowds. It took him less than half an hour to discover the source of the divine tears: a filthy puddle formed by a blocked drain, from where water was being pushed up through a phenomenon all high-school physics students are familiar with, called capillary action.

For his discovery, Mr. Edamaruku now faces the prospect of three years in prison — and the absolute certainty that he will spend several more years hopping between lawyers’ offices and courtrooms. In the wake of Mr. Edamaruku’s miracle-busting Mumbai visit, three police stations in the capital received complaints against him for inciting religious hatred. First information reports were filed, and investigations initiated with exemplary — if unusual — alacrity.

Real courage

Mr. Edamaruku isn’t the kind to be frightened. It takes real courage, in a piety-obsessed society, to expose the chicanery of Satya Sai Baba and packs of lesser miracle-peddlers who prey on the insecurities of the desperate and gullible. These actions have brought threats in their wake — but never from the state.

India’s Constitution obliges all citizens to develop “scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform”. India’s laws, though, are being used to persecute a man who has devoted his life to doing precisely that.

Like dozens of other intellectuals and artists, Mr. Edamaraku is a victim of India’s god laws — colonial-era legislation obliging the state to punish those who offend the faith of others. Section 295 of the Indian Penal Code criminalises the actions of “whoever destroys, damages or defiles any place of worship, or any object held sacred by any class of persons”. Its sibling, Section 295A, outlaws “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class”. Section 153B goes further, proscribing “any act which is prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony between different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities”. Alarmingly, given the sweeping generalities in which these laws are written, truth is not an admissible defence.

In the decades since independence, these laws have been regularly used to hound intellectuals and artists who questioned religious beliefs. In 1993, the New Delhi-based progressive cultural organisation, Sahmat, organised an exhibition demonstrating that there were multiple versions of the Ramayana in Indian culture. Panels in the exhibition recorded that in one Buddhist tradition, Sita was Ram’s sister; in a Jain version, she was the daughter of Ravan. Even though the exhibits drew on historian Romila Thapar’s authoritative work, criminal cases were filed against Sahmat for offending the sentiments of traditionalist Hindus.

Punjab has seen a rash of god-related cases, mainly involving Dalit-led heterodoxies challenging the high traditions of the Akal Takht. In 2007, police filed cases against Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, the head of the syncretic Saccha Sauda sect, for his purportedly blasphemous use of Sikh iconography. Earlier, in 2001, similar charges were brought against Piara Singh Bhaniarawala, after he released the Bhavsagar Granth, a religious text suffused with miracle stories.

Islamic chauvinists have shown the same enthusiasm for the secular state’s god laws as their Sikh and Hindu counterparts. Earlier this year, FIRs were filed against four writers who read out passages from Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses — a book that is wholly legal in India. Fear of Islamic neo-fundamentalists is pervasive, shaping cultural discourse even when its outcomes are not as dramatic as Mr. Rushdie’s case. In 1995, writer Khalid Alvi reissued Angaarey — a path-breaking collection of Urdu short works banned in 1933 for its attacks on god. The collection’s most-incendiary passages were censored out. India’s feisty media didn’t even murmur in protest after the magazine India Today was proscribed by Jammu and Kashmir in 2006 for carrying a cartoon with an image of the Kaaba as one among a metaphorical pack of political cards.

Even religious belief, ironically enough, can invite prosecution by the pious. Last year, the Kannada movie actress, Jayamala, was summoned before a Kerala court, along with astrologer P. Unnikrishna and his assistant Reghupathy, to face police charges that she had violated a taboo against women in the menstruating age from entering the Sabrimala temple.

For the most part, judges have shied away from condoning criticism of the pious, perhaps fearful of being held responsible for public disorder. In 1958, the Supreme Court heard litigation that grew out of the radical politician, E.V. Ramaswamy Naicker’s decision to break a clay idol of Ganesha. Lower courts had held, in essence, that the idol was not a sanctified object. The Supreme Court differed, urging the lower judiciary “to pay due regard to the feelings and religious emotions of different classes of persons with different beliefs, irrespective … of whether they are rational or otherwise”.

‘Insult to religion’

Earlier, in 1957, the Supreme Court placed some limits on 295A saying it “does not penalise any and every act of insult to or attempt to insult the religion”. Instead, it “only punishes the aggravated form of insult to religion perpetratedwith deliberate and malicious intention” (emphasis added). The court shied away, though, from the key question, of what an insult to religion actually was.

Hearing an appeal against the Uttar Pradesh government’s decision to confiscate Naicker’s contentious Ramayana, the Supreme Court again ducked this issue. In 1976, it simply said “the law fixes the mind of the Administration to the obligation to reflect on the need to restrict and to state the grounds which ignite its action”. “That is about all”, the judges concluded.

That hasn’t, however, been all. In 1998, the Supreme Court upheld Karnataka’s decision to ban P.V. Narayanna’s Dharmakaarana, an award-winning re-reading of the Hindu saint, Basaveshwara. In 2007, the Bombay High Court similarly allowed Maharashtra to ban R.L. Bhasin’s Islam, an aggressive attack on the faith. There have been several other similar cases. In some, the works involved were scurrilous, even inflammatory — but the principles established by courts have allowed State governments to stamp out critical works of scholarship and art.

Dangers ahead

Indians have grappled with these issues since at least 1924, when Arya Samaj activist Mahashe Rajpal published the pamphlet that led the state to enact several of the god laws. Rangila Rasul — in Urdu, ‘the colourful prophet’ —was a frank, anti-Islam polemic. Lower courts condemned Rajpal to prison. In the Lahore High Court, though, Justice Dalip Singh argued that public outrage could not be the basis for legal proscription: “if the fact that Musalmans resent attacks on the Prophet was to be the measure [of legal sanction]”, he reasoned, “then an historical work in which the life of the prophet was considered and judgment passed on his character by a serious historian might [also] come within the definition”.

In 1927, when pre-independence India’s central legislative assembly debated theRangila Rasul affair, some endorsed Justice Singh’s message. M.R. Jayakar likened religious fanaticism to a form of mental illness, and suggested that those who suffer from it be segregated “from the rest of the community”. This eminently sane suggestion wasn’t, however, the consensus: the god laws were expanded to expressly punish works like Rangila Rasul.

Perhaps Indians can congratulate themselves that the god laws have not been used to persecute and kill religious dissenters, as the ever-expanding blasphemy laws which sprang up in Pakistan. Mr. Edamaruku’s case ought to make clear, though, just where things are inexorably headed. If Indians wish to avoid the fate of the dystopia to the country’s west, its citizens desperately need to accept the right of critics to attack, even insult, what they hold dear.

In 864 CE, the great physician, Abu Bakr Muhammad Ibn Zakaria al-Razi, wrote: “The miracles of the prophets are imposters or belong to the domain of pious legend. The teachings of religions are contrary to the one truth: the proof of this is that they contradict one another. It is tradition and lazy custom that have led men to trust their religious leaders. Religions are the sole cause of the wars which ravage humanity; they are hostile to philosophical speculation and to scientific research. The alleged holy scriptures are books without values”.

Following a rich scholarly life, and a tenure as director of the hospital in Baghdad patronised by the caliph Abu al-Qasim Abd ‘Allah, al-Razi died quietly at his home in Rey, surrounded by his students. In modern India, his thoughts would have led him to a somewhat less pleasant end.

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Christianity and Homophobia: Pastor Sean Harris

Pastor Sean Harris, a senior pastor at the Berean Baptist Church, is one of the many examples of homophobia in the Christian community.

Excerpts of his sermon:
Can I make it any clearer? Dads, the second you see that son dropping the limp wrist, you walk over there and crack that wrist. Man up. Give them a good punch. OK? You’re not going to act like that — you were made by God to be a male and you’re going to be a male.

And when your daughter starts acting too ‘butch,’ you rein her in. And you say, ‘Oh no. Oh no, sweetheart. You can play sports. Play ‘em, play ‘em to the glory of God, but sometimes you’re going to act like a girl and talk like a girl and talk like a girl, and smell like a girl, and that means you’re going to be beautiful, you’re going to be attractive, you’re going to dress yourself up.

Here’s the audio clip: [http://www.goodasyou.org/player.swf]

After the sermon went viral on the internet, Pastor Harris, the homophobic hate-monger, is claiming he was only joking, would never even touch a child, “would never ever advocate” hitting a child, and says his parishioners — many of whom shouted “Amen!” when Harris said to punch a four-year old – know he would never advocate child abuse. Harris also claims there was ”not an ounce of hate being communicated” in his remarks in church on Sunday, focused on the evils of homosexuality in hopes of ensuring parishioners vote for North Carolina’s Amendment One, which would write anti-gay discrimination directly into the constitution, and would define as the only legal relationship a marriage between one man and one woman. Amendment One would also  immediately make domestic violence victims ineligible for protection orders and would even remove children from their unmarried parents’ health insurance.

However, being a man of god and faith, he defended his homophobia, saying,”If I had to say it again, I would say it differently, no doubt,” Harris said Tuesday. “Those weren’t planned words, but what I do stand by is that the word of God makes it clear that effeminate behaviour is ungodly. I’m not going to compromise on that.

Yes, folks, this is what they teach the sheeps at church. And let’s not be fooled by the hoards of moderate Christians who would claim that Pastor Sean Harris isn’t a true Christian. No, read the bible, that holy book is a hateful, homophobic, ancient scripture that does nothing but promote persecution and oppression.

Pastor Sean Harris is a man of god indeed, a man created in the image of god.

Religious authorities must be held responsible for promoting child abuse, this isn’t a LGBT rights issue, this is a human rights issue. The blanket of immunity the government give religious leaders must be removed for humanity to eradicate unfounded hate and persecution.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Atheism, is it a religion?

A federal court of appeals ruled yesterday Wisconsin prison officials violated an inmate’s rights because they did not treat atheism as a religion.

“Atheism is [the inmate’s] religion, and the group that he wanted to start was religious in nature even though it expressly rejects a belief in a supreme being,” the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals said.

The court decided the inmate’s First Amendment rights were violated because the prison refused to allow him to create a study group for atheists.

Brian Fahling, senior trial attorney for the American Family Association Center for Law & Policy, called the court’s ruling “a sort of Alice in Wonderland jurisprudence.”

“Up is down, and atheism, the antithesis of religion, is religion,” said Fahling.

The Supreme Court has said a religion need not be based on a belief in the existence of a supreme being. In the 1961 case of Torcaso v. Watkins, the court described “secular humanism” as a religion.

Fahling said today’s ruling was “further evidence of the incoherence of Establishment Clause jurisprudence.”

“It is difficult not to be somewhat jaundiced about our courts when they take clauses especially designed to protect religion from the state and turn them on their head by giving protective cover to a belief system, that, by every known definition other than the courts’ is not a religion, while simultaneously declaring public expressions of true religious faith to be prohibited,” Fahling said.

Taken from WND.com.

Is atheism a religion?

According to Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, “Atheism is the position that affirms the non-existence of God. It proposes positive disbelief rather than mere suspension of belief.”

I am sure there are long, drawn out arguments regarding the issue, often with the semantics being manipulated to suit the case.

I am a staunch believer in Occam’s razor, which states from among competing hypotheses, selecting the one that makes the fewest new assumptions usually provides the correct one, and that the simplest explanation will be the most plausible until evidence is presented to prove it false. My stance on religion is rather simple and straightforward: Religion refers to the belief in a supernatural being, which in and of itself has some form of afterlife may it be the Abrahamic heaven and hell concept, or Hinduism-Buddhism reincarnation cycle. These are all elements I reject, without having the need to dwell on the semantics and the complexities of the definitions.

Religion: The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, esp. a personal God or gods.

Belief: An acceptance that a statement is true or that something exists.

Atheism: The belief that God does not exist.

As an anti-theist, I follow no specific philosophical creed or code, and almost every aspect of my life principle stems from my humanistic journey in life thus far. Granted, there are plenty more out there for me to experience – it’s a work-in-progress.

Therefore, I reject any notion that atheism is a religion, or remotely close to anything resembling it.

As the famous line goes,”Calling Atheism a religion is like calling bald a hair colour.”

What do you think? Atheism, is it a religion?

Tagged , , , , , ,

The Struggle of Hamza Kashgari

Saudi Arabian writer and journalist, Hamza Kashgari has been arrested in Malaysia (on Wednesday, 8th of February 2012), while attempting to flee to New Zealand where he was seeking political asylum. He has become a criminal in his own country for comments he made on Twitter deemed insulting to the Prophet Muhammad, despite apologizing and explaining his comments.

On your birthday, I find you wherever I turn. I will say that I have loved aspects of you, hated others, and could not understand many more,” read one of his three tweets that was later deleted.

Another reads: “No Saudi women will go to hell, because it’s impossible to go there twice.

In an interview with the Daily Beast, a US website, Kashgari said: “I was demanding my right to practice the most basic human rights – freedom of expression and thought – so nothing was done in vain.”

Blasphemy is a crime punishable by execution under Saudi Arabia’s strict interpretation of Islamic sharia law.

Malaysian authorities have yet to comment on whether Kashgari would be extradited to Saudi Arabia, but if the decision is made to extradite, death awaits him.

Read more here.

Yet again, religious fanaticism rears its evil head. The persecuted writer merely expressed his personal thoughts on Prophet Muhammad’s teachings, expressing admiration, displeasure, and doubt, while recognizing the misogynist nature of Islam. This is not an issue of atheism versus religion; this is a human rights issue. Is it wrong to express doubt? Aren’t we all merely humans? Is it punishable to stand up for women’s right in a country which treats mothers, sisters, daughters like second-class citizens?

Freedom of speech is at war with religion, unfortunately, the retarded religious masses seem to be winning at the moment.

Tagged , , , , ,

Religious Fanaticism

Excerpt from The Economic Times:”First Salman Rushdie, now Taslima Nasreen – end of cultural tolerance?” 

KOLKATA: The cancellation of the release of controversial author Taslima Nasreen’s autobiography at the famed Kolkata Book Fair has thrown the spotlight on the destructive clout of religious fanatics in a city once known for savouring cultural pluralism.

Last week’s incident, coupled with the Salman Rushdie controversy – when the Booker awardee had to call off his visit and then his much-anticipated video address at the Jaipur Literature Festival following security threats triggered by some Islamic groups’ protest – would go down as another instance of Indian authorities and parties kowtowing before religious rabblerousers.

While the Rushdie episode saw the political parties and the government, in the words of novelist Vikram Seth, “knuckling under” an “enforced disgrace because of power and politics”, the only difference here was that publishers went ahead with the launch of the book at the fair, despite the hostile attitude of organisers.

The seventh volume of Nasreen’s book ” Nirbasan” (Exile), which deals with her life after exile from Kolkata in 2007 and which almost nobody had read before the release, saw religious fundamentalists protesting against the launch.

Hours before the release function, the organisers telephoned the publishers, People’s Book Society, asking them to cancel the programme due to “logistical problems”. But later it transpired that some Islamic groups had approached the authorities and the city police against the book release.

A top official of the organising body, Publishers’ and Book Sellers’ Guild, confirmed the development and stoutly defended its decision to stop the launch.

“We cannot allow any such thing to happen inside the Book Fair premises which can hurt the interest of the common people coming to the fair. We cannot allow anything that may hurt the religious sentiments of any community.”

Be it Jaipur or Kolkata, political parties remained mum or played it safe, ahead of the Uttar Pradesh assembly polls where Muslims will constitute a key vote segment.

Read full article here

How long are we going to allow religious fanatics to dictate what we can or can not do?

Freedom of speech is the freedom to speak freely. The term freedom of expression is sometimes used synonymously, but includes any act of seeking, receiving and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used.

The right to freedom of expression is recognized as a human right under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and recognized in international human rights law in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 19 of the ICCPR states that “[e]veryone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference” and “everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice”. Article 19 goes on to say that the exercise of these rights carries “special duties and responsibilities” and may “therefore be subject to certain restrictions” when necessary “[f]or respect of the rights or reputation of others” or “[f]or the protection of national security or of public order (order public), or of public health or morals”. 

Why is it that we, atheists, humanists, and free-thinkers, must tolerate their religious views, but they won’t tolerate ours?

I am tempted to justify that statement by stating that perhaps they have a lower IQ level, hence making it difficult to form logical and objective analysis. Or maybe, it’s the arrogance of Abrahamic religious texts – Islam, Christianity, and Judaism – that perilously proclaims itself the truth, while mortally condemning all other belief systems.

There is no evidence that this “God” exists – none whatsoever! Religious fanaticism is the equivalent of a child murdering his parents in cold blood because they told him Santa Claus is a fictional character. For governments to give in to such insolence is dangerous, because it provides the fanatics a sense of justification to their lofty beliefs. Religious fanaticism is not a third-world problem, it’s a global issue that’s threatening to silence the intelligent and the rationalist, while celebrating the crazy and the irrational.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

De-Baptism in France

‘Off The Record: A Quest For De-Baptism In France’ by Eleanor Beardsley 

In France, an elderly man is fighting to make a formal break with the Catholic Church. He’s taken the church to court over its refusal to let him nullify his baptism, in a case that could have far-reaching effects.

Seventy-one-year-old Rene LeBouvier’s parents and his brother are buried in a churchyard in the tiny village of Fleury in northwest France. He himself was baptized in the Romanesque stone church and attended mass here as a boy.

LeBouvier says this rural area is still conservative and very Catholic, but nothing like it used to be. Back then, he says, you couldn’t even get credit at the bakery if you didn’t go to mass every Sunday.

LeBouvier grew up in that world and says his mother once hoped he’d become a priest. But his views began to change in the 1970s, when he was introduced to free thinkers. As he didn’t believe in God anymore, he thought it would be more honest to leave the church. So he wrote to his diocese and asked to be un-baptized.

“They sent me a copy of my records, and in the margins next to my name, they wrote that I had chosen to leave the church,” he says.

That was in the year 2000. A decade later, LeBouvier wanted to go further. In between were the pedophile scandals and the pope preaching against condoms in AIDS-racked Africa, a position that LeBouvier calls “criminal.” Again, he asked the church to strike him from baptismal records. When the priest told him it wasn’t possible, he took the church to court.

Last October, a judge in Normandy ruled in his favor. The diocese has since appealed, and the case is pending.

“One can’t be de-baptized,” says Rev. Robert Kaslyn, dean of the School of Canon Law at the Catholic University of America.

Kaslyn says baptism changes one permanently before the church and God.

“One could refuse the grace offered by God, the grace offered by the sacrament, refuse to participate,” he says, “but we would believe the individual has still been marked for God through the sacrament, and that individual at any point could return to the church.

French law states that citizens have the right to leave organizations if they wish. Loup Desmond, who has followed the case for the French Catholic newspaper La Croix, says he thinks it could set a legal precedent and open the way for more demands for de-baptism.

“If the justice confirms that the name Rene LeBouvier has to disappear from the books, if it is confirmed, it can be a kind of jurisprudence in France,” he says.

Back at the church in Fleury, LeBouvier stands by his parents’ grave. When asked if the case has ruined his chances of being buried in the family plot, he says he doesn’t have to worry about that. He’s donating his body to science.

Read full article here
Source: www.npr.org 

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Richard Dawkins: Education is the only antidote to religion

Evolutionary biologist and author of The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins believes that education is the only ‘antidote’ to religion. “We need to protect children from being indoctrinated. It goes on to the next generation and then they see that their children get indoctrinated. Children are getting educated into the religion of their parents. We shouldn’t just assume that a child of a Christian becomes a Christian,” he says.

If children are taught, however moderately, that faith is a virtue, they are taught that they don’t need evidence to believe something; that they can believe something just because it’s their faith, then that paves the way for the minority to become extremists. If children are taught that they don’t need to defend their beliefs with evidence, then that does pave the way for extremism.

There seems to be a correlation with education. It’s certainly true within the US — the more educated people are more likely to give up religion. I’m sure that’s true in India as well.” A recent study done supports Dawkins’ statement, suggesting that religion might be extinct in nine countries: Australia, Austria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Switzerland.

Dawkins has often been called an atheist fundamentalist, the other extreme of a religious fundamentalist. His rebuttal: “A fundamentalist is someone who doesn’t change his mind at all. I’m open to any argument that has compelling evidence to support it, Science advances by disproving hypotheses and getting things wrong. In the case of the neutrino experiment — the suggestion that neutrinos may travel faster than light — if that’s true, it’s a revolution in physics. But there’s also a very good chance that that’s an error, not necessarily a deliberate one,” he says.

Tagged , , , ,

Atheism is a crime in Indonesia

BBC: Row over Indonesia atheist Facebook post

 An Indonesian man who said that God did not exist in a posting on a Facebook page for atheists could face jail.

Civil servant Alexander Aan, 31, is now in protective police custody after he was attacked by an angry mob earlier this week.

He may also lose his job over his posting on the social networking site.

Atheism is a violation of Indonesian law under the founding principles of the country.

Indonesia – the world’s most populous Muslim nation – recognises the right to practice five other religions aside from Islam, says the BBC’s Karishma Vaswani in Jakarta.

Local media said a mob attacked Mr Aan when he arrived for work at a government office on Wednesday.

Police said that according to Indonesian criminal law, anyone who tried to stop others believing in a faith could face up to five years in prison.

The Facebook page where he made his comments remains up and supporters have condemned police action against Mr An, calling for him to be released.

It’s ridiculous that a person is forced to believe in something that has no tangible evidence or scientific proof. To impose an imaginary supernatural being upon an individual is criminal in its own right, and to not allow him to tell the truth is an infringement on his freedom of speech. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the face of religion – the irrationality, the insanity, and most importantly, the stupidity. They are consumed with the lies and fantasies they have constructed in their heads, and are perfectly content with shoving their myths down other people’s throat, but challenge them with the faculty of intelligence, they revolt like neanderthals with wooden clubs.

Tagged , , , , ,

Virginia Lawmaker: Disabled Kids are God’s Punishment for Abortion

Republican Virginia State Delegate Bob Marshall said last week that God is taking “vengeance” on parents who have had abortions by making their other children disabled. Speaking at a press conference against state funding for Planned Parenthood. He blasted the organization for supporting a women’s right to choose, saying that God punishes woman who have had abortions by giving them disabled children.

“The number of children who are born subsequent to a first abortion with handicaps has increased dramatically. Why? Because when you abort the first born of any, nature takes its vengeance on the subsequent children. In the Old Testament, the first born of every being, animal and man, was dedicated to the Lord. There’s a special punishment Christians would suggest.”

What an evil and repulsive statement to make; I personally know children with disabilities, and it’s rather saddening to have an imbecile curse these innocent children and their parents on the basis of Christianity.

Tagged , , , ,