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A skeptic faces possible charges for debunking Mumbai’s miracle statue (slate.com)
57 points by suprgeek on July 8, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 60 comments

I'm not sure why this man's investigation is being treated the way he says it is. Catholicism is not only open to having purported miracles investigated; it's, in fact, a requirement. Every year, many such investigations are conducted, and the vast majority find that nothing miraculous has occurred. The Church is fine with that; it's just as happy to weed out "imposters" as anyone else.

For instance, here's a story about a U.S. archdiocese declaring a "bleeding" consecrated host to be nonmiraculous: http://www.startribune.com/local/blogs/135600233.html

And here's the quote that sums up the Church's position: "While the Catholic Church fully recognizes the possibility of miracles and remains open to their possibility, it does so with extreme scrutiny, investigation and care. This incident was the result of natural biological causes and should not be considered in any other way."

So I'm surprised that some in the the Catholic community in Mumbai are resistant to this finding.

Ah, just as I suspected, there's more to this story than the Slate article suggests, and it makes the Catholic community's response a bit more understandable:


tl;dr: The Catholics aren't mad because he revealed a natural explanation for the dripping cross; they're mad because he alleged, apparently without offering any evidence, that it was all a scam set up by priests to bilk people out of their money.

He had facts which supported his assertion that the water was mundane rather than miraculous; he used those facts as an excuse to accuse priests of being scammers, and all religious people of being gullible, regressive, and irrational.

If he had stopped with a mere debunking, he'd be the "good guy" here. But he followed it up with defamation and attempts at provocation, which makes him something more akin to a troll.

I have noticed this sort of behavior elsewhere: someone will make a series of statements, including some that are provocative and defamatory (accusing others of major character flaws, criminal activity, etc.) and then, when faced with backlash, will act as though they're being silenced or criticized over the most factual, least controversial part of their statement. IMO it's important, even for those who support their overall point, to call out this sort of behavior because it does not promote rational discourse.

Maybe he just had faith it was all a scam.

According to his website, the police came to arrest him a few days ago, and if he hadn't been out at the time, he would be in jail now. So, this has gone beyond "possible charges". The church is dead serious about charging this man with the crime of letting them know that they were drinking sewage.

And christians all over the world sit on their asses and not saying anything against arresting people for that bullshit.

I guess a sizable portion of these are actually happy about the incident.

I just never see them standing up and saying: I am against this as a christian, this is not what the Christ died for.

Thus I consider all christians to have their small part in being morally responsible for that crap around the world (see also Pussy Riot scandal in Russia where I am from)

Did you know about this incident before it was posted here?

Most people live their daily lives, go to work, come home, have no idea what is happening in India.

Certainly there is plenty of Christian charity in India but it is unlikely even they know about this incident. Here is one for example: http://www.networknorwich.co.uk/Articles/196169/Network_Norw... they have their mission, it has nothing to do with policing Christianity.

A leaky drain, going through walls, and ending up through a nail hole in a statue could be a miracle to someone else. I can't tell someone else it's not even though it doesn't appear to me to be a miracle but just happenstance.

There is no Christianity police and you wouldn't want any because you need a certain number of Christians to vote for gay rights.

I just never see people sacrificing their mental comfort and beliefs to save human beings. I do see people sacrificing human beings to save their mental comfort and beliefs. A lot.

That mismatch is a problem for me. So I want everybody have no mental comfort to preserve and no beliefs.

There are tens of thousands upon thousands of people out there right now sacrificing an easy life to save others.

You don't see it on the news because "child doesn't starve" is not a news story. People who do great things are often not promoting themselves because they do these things not for a slap on the back or a congratulations but to improve lives.

I like this guy, usually people do things as groups but he is able to on his own find where he can do the most, moves there until it is done, and moves to the next place.


Sacrificing your life is easy and noble.

Sacrificing your beliefs is much harder and less common.

A small child in some remote corner of Africa is being hunted and killed for reasons unknown. I consider you (and all of humanity) being morally responsible for allowing that to take place. (<- example to make a point)

Point 1: We all choose our own battles.

Side-point 1: Making totally unfounded accusations isn't helpful unless you're trying to spread additional misinformation. (E.g. "I guess a sizable portion of these are actually happy about the incident.")

Side-point 2: I do agree that there is excessive complacency.

I'm not sure about that. Neither me nor my ancestors crossed paths with this child or his/her ancestors which could result in this child suffering.

If they did, then yes, I am.

The same thing can be said for your argument, can't it? 99.999+% of Christians have never crossed paths or had any interaction what-so-ever with this Indian town or church.

But they share the faith don't they?

And then the Church proceeds to say: "You see, there are gazillions of christians in the world! Respect my authoritah!"

And bashes whoever they want over the head with a stick.

Share the faith? I think a better question is if they share the same beliefs. Which the answer to that question is no, there are a million denominations with different beliefs, many of which would completely disagree with the actions of this particular organization. That's what makes it so hard -- if a Christian felt responsible for all supposedly-Christian actions taken by other Christians, that Christian would spend every millisecond of their life and a thousand more responding in disagreement to the actions of the other Christians.

When they need the world to do something for them, they are like "But look, we're the world's biggest faith, so you should take our wishes into account."

But when the world needs something of them, they are like "There are a million denominations with different beliefs, so we can not take our part in doing anything"

Not good.

Just curious, when have "they" needed the world to do something for them?

Well, now they want world to hit people who hurt their "religious feelings" over the head with a stick.

I've wondered about this before, and I think that sharing beliefs with someone who commits evil results in moral ressponsibility only to the extent that a. your beliefs are wrong, and b. that your beliefs influence or enable their behaviour.

A. is pretty obvious; if I believe that the sky is blue and someone who also believes the sky is blue commits murder, I have no responsibility for merely sharing a true belief.

B. I think is sometimes underestimated. Even if you're not hurting anyone yourself, you could be legitimizing a belief that harms others. I think there is moral responsibility in this case, although I'm not sure I could argue it convincingly. A good example is how Catholics legitimize witholding contraception in Africa, even if they're not the ones witholding the contraception themselves.

The issue in practice is A. If you believe that something is true, you don't feel the need to take responsablity for the actions of others who believe it. So nobody believes that they are morally responsable for their beliefs, tautologically.

But if you believe something is true, you have to stand up when other people with similar beliefs do horrible things.

If you don't, I feel free to assume you do quietly support doing horrible things.

I think you should stand up, whenever someone do sth horrible, no matter what this person believes.

If I see man beating up another, I should help the victim, no matter if the attacker is christian, muslim or atheist. And I don't think just because you share some beliefs with him, you bear more responsibility for his deeds. I don't understand, why should all atheists be responsible, if one of them does sth wrong.

I also don't think that moral responsibility of all (people beliving in X) is to search news every day to know where other (people believing in X) did sth horrible, to be able to stand up againist that.

If you don't do this with respect to your own beliefs, I think you shouldn't judge others for not doing it.

Atheism is very different. You don't see atheists having fancy churches. You don't see athists demanding hurting over people over their "religious feelings".

This is true if you consider Marxism-Leninism a religion.

Which many do; in former Yugoslavia you can find obituaries posted on the walls, and they're marked either by black cross, or by green crescent, or by red star: meaning that communist beliefs are on the same page with islam and christianity.

But then again, most atheists would stand up and announce they don't like communism (at least in its violent early-soviet form) at all, and they're against persecution of christians under such regimes. I do. Early soviet regime sucked a big time. Not a good example for anyone to follow.

Still, I don't think there's terribly many communists who claim their religious (or whatever other) feelings were hurt by other people.

Of course they are quiet. Religious moderates always quietly support the extrimists.

This guy is smooth. He's threatening "to shed some light on the role that the Catholic Church played and is still playing today here in India"

This is a brilliant defense strategy against getting arrested.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/An_Enemy_of_the_People playing out. The play was adapted into a movie by Satyajit Ray (not one of his best, but it was after his debilitating stroke). In the movie the situation is the same except its hindu holy water. I hope it works out better in reality than in the movie.

According to http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4216637 this article is quite misleading.

Also see http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4216363 for a parallel discussion of this.

I have the impression it is the hackernews post you link to that is misleading. Whatever the post-hoc statements of the bishop or hacker news posters, according to all information I can find, the complaint is based on article 295a, a blasphemy law: http://www.vakilno1.com/bareacts/indianpenalcode/S295a.htm

Op-Ed in The Hindu discussion the issue: http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/article3391109.ece

> "deliberately hurting religious feelings and attempting malicious acts intended to outrage the religious sentiments of any class or community.”

What a bogus fucking law. Pretty much anything can fall under that. Christianity itself hurts my feelings.

You do understand that you are talking about a law in a country where religious riots are pretty common? It is similar to how race-hate or sexism is viewed in the U.S. It better to have laws that disallows picking on people's sensitive sides and causing a blowout than ignoring it. You could do a simple risk-benefit analysis and come to the same conclusion.

They're not riots, they're political parties outsourcing murder for votes.

It is simplistic to assume that it's all the political parties' fault. They can take advantage of these things only if the people let them. They are able to exploit deep seated feelings and insecurities because those exist.

Ok, define "hurting religious feelings", and we'll talk.

Keep in mind that anybody can invent any religion at any point.

Let me throw a similar question at you, define "race hate" or "sexism". Does making a joke about generalized views on race or sex contribute to "race hate" or "sexism"? If not where do we draw the line? When someone makes a remark about their own race or sex, why aren't we up in arms about it but if someone else does it, why do end up in a riot. See its not that easy to define things that are driven by complex emotions.

>Keep in mind that anybody can invent any religion at any point. You are absolutely right.

Religion in it simplistic form is simply a belief that a group of people share and unite under. Within that definition, even atheism is a religion, although an Oxymoron.

I could easily define race hate and sexism. You just dodged the question.

And btw, atheism is not a religion even under that definition, because there's not a single belief under atheism.

We know what the church has done to heretics in the past...

Galileo was threatened with torture (torture was common practice at the time) if he continued to prove to the public that Earth was not the center of the universe.

On a separate note, I don't understand is why no miracle is ever tangible. Restored eyesight? Intangible. Walking again? Intangible. Growing back a missing limb or missing eye? Tangible - therefore, this miracle has never occurred, and never will.

I come from a religious family (a catholic and protestant). Both churches rejected my parents for marrying "the enemy". To this day, I struggle to have any empathy with these entities.

Here's the website of his organisation for anyone interested - http://www.rationalistinternational.net/

"hurting religious feelings" is an arrestable offense. Ouch. I think the western nations often underestimate their own freedoms.

Depends. Try denying the holocaust.

Still, most people would rather live with that restriction than move to Iran where you can have a congress about that but get executed for blasphemy.

The OPs point stands, people in the west are vastly more free in their expression than in most other countries.

Or sending a racist tweet from the pub after a match. When does he get out? Maybe Europe needs a constitution.

You think that pointing out that "holy water" is in fact sewage from a blocked drain is the same thing as claiming that the systematic murder of 6 million people never happened?

You are arguing about a false equivalence. I was responding to the claim about the western "freedom" to offend.

Let's clear something up here. We will never know the truth.

Evidence was burned, paperwork destroyed, the 'responsible' people were trialled in private and executed, propaganda was all over the place, facts are omitted for political gain and people needed to save face. The official story needed to be promoted.

The people who deny the holocaust do not deny, but question whether or not the official story is 100% accurate or not.

However to have any political force disallow questioning the official story is not an acceptable situation. It undermines free speech and it purveys an unacceptable duality of reality and fiction.

Wars are always recorded in the eyes of the victors and are closed from future investigation (a bad situation).

There's a mountain of evidence that supports the fact that millions of Jewish people were killed in concentration camps.

Are you seriously claiming that the biggest issue that holocaust deniers have is that the "official" version isn't "100% accurate".

Not quite - that's what your history teacher taught you.

There's evidence that an undetermined but quite large number of people sadly died in concentration camps during the second world war. The number, race and cause of death was not entirely determined and is not possible to determine any more. That's all the facts on the table - there are no more concrete facts at all believe it or not (find me a citation which is credible to prove otherwise!).

This is extrapolated into millions of Jewish people were killed in concentration camps which is the "official story" by the victors. The story came before evidence and evidence was destroyed before the story could be verified.

The main issue is that historical revisionism is used to piece together events so we can learn about the past.

When the label and respective charge of "holocaust denial" is placed one something, it is a closed subject where revisionism is no longer allowed.

It's an enforced dark age.

It should always be open for discussion and research. Perhaps one day some clarity will be found? Perhaps more can be brought to justice, perhaps more names could be cleared.

It's not closed, so don't close it is what I'm saying.

Is it really relevant if it was 6 million or 2 million or less. Regardless of the numbers it was mankind at its worst. Not the singular act of depravity, not the only act of genocide, but it does not need to be so to be condemned. I think there are better things to do than nitpick on the numbers.

At least the allied forces had the foresight to document the concentration camps. My first reaction to it when I was reading about it was, go on fight the war, cover more ground, why are you pausing over this "PR exercise".

But then they (Churchill et al) were right, I was wrong, clearly I am not made up for this kind of stuff.

Actually, YOU find ME a credible citation that supports your little tinpot revisionist theory.

Of course, you won't, as that will expose the lunacy of your position.

ps - the moon landings actually happened.

The typical response. The burden of proof is on the inclusive case.

Were you there? If not, all you have is stories passed down built on propaganda. I don't disbelieve, but i expect evidence. I've been to Auschwitz btw - have you?

I dint get the moon landings point. They did happen.

There is in fact a mountain of evidence for the holocaust, much more than for most historical events. As much or more than evidence for the number of soldiers from various armies that died. Accuracy is not as good because estimates are consolidated from lots of sources. But the ballpark figure and the overall picture is very certain, mostly because of the huge number of different sources of information. For example:

A lot of the evidence is comparing population numbers before & after the war. here we have: national census data, synagogue or community records.

For example, in my grandmother's village they know (and documented) pretty much who lived there before. Who survived. Who died. And to a large extent, how. There is lots of speculation to make up the total of course: if someone died in the getto from nutrion related disease, does that count? Suicide? If 30% of the people just are unaccounted for how many do you assume survived and weren't found, died some other way or were gassed? In that case though, that number is around 30% and that is not atypical for local communities.

There are various other evidence sources as well: Nazi records (remarkably good), trial evidence from tens of thousands of witnesses in dozens of jurisdictions, guards, inmates, train drivers, local populations.

From that sort of evidence you can piece together how many people were gassed. For example you know from guards, inmates, locals etc roughly how many people came in a day during different periods. You corroborate that with evidence about how many bodies were disposed of. Stuff like that. This kind of counting is going to undercount significantly relative to the former kind of counting (before & after numbers) because it doesn't account for lots of other causes of death or disappearance, but thats expected.

None of it amounts to perfect accounting. If in Holland 150,000 people identified in a 1941 and 35,000 can be accounted for in immigration to Israel, the US & in the 1950 Dutch census, you have a good idea about how many died. We also know from Nazi records how many were deemed half & quarter Jews (as well as corroborate Dutch census numbers to Nazi records). Put it together and we can estimate a range of "missing persons". You have problems like the US not recording religion or Israel not recording place of residence in 1941 (maybe they were born in Belgium and eventually emigrated from France). Double counting, not counting. Part Jews that didn't identify in census data in 1941 also didn't identify later on so are hard to track. People changed their declared identities. Some assumed new identities altogether. Some immigrated to places that aren't recorded. Assumptions are made about these things. Maybe 150000 were murdered, maybe 75,000.

The real estimate is a range: 3-7 million.

As for the taboo. Thats a problem and its bad for finding truth. Mostly its a problem that Orwell put his finger on. "The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them." Basically, "denial" is a mostly Fascist phenomenon, at least in Europe.

That's some good information. Thank you. This is quality discussion.

The irony of the concept of denial is that those (like myself) who choose not to form an opinion yet are lumped on with the denying group. This very concept itself is a form of fascism / authoritarianism.

Bringing Orwell back into the discussion, this is a form of doublethink i.e. holding two contradictory ideas:

1. Fascism is bad.

2. We'll use fascist tenets to promote that fascism is bad.

Paradox! (I personally aim to be paradox free)

You come off as more then withholding judgement opinion. You come off as challenging the general consensus opinion, including the academic one.

I'm going to give you the benefit of doubt and assume that you are in fact reacting to what you see as a censorship of discussion by tabooing the whole subject. My point with the Orwell quote is that in most cases of European "denial," it was being promoted almost exclusively by Nazi/Fascist sympathizers. Hence the labeling and stigmatization of "holocaust deniers," which incidentally was initiated mostly by the Germans of the 1950s, disgusted by the sins of their fathers.

In the 1960s Palestinians adopted a skeptical-conspiracy "denial" that was part of their conflict with Zionism. IE the holocaust myth was fabricated as an excuse for Zionist colonialism. The current chairman of the PA, for example wrote his doctoral thesis on the subject. Over about 20 years this simultaneously percolated into what has become semi-religious beliefs in the Muslim world on one hand and backed away from by its original proponents as their evidence was strongly and insistently refuted in academia. The aforementioned chairman, for example, no longer promotes these ideas. In the instances that it has merged with religion it has also adopted various medieval anti-jewish mythology and/or 19th century Czarist propaganda. Various Muslim brotherhood affiliates streams, for example, believe in the Czarist "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" document.

This is why I noted European denial separately. A lot of the modern leftist skeptics are influenced by this wave (rather than the earlier fascist one).

I am literally just withholding judgement. The opinion only needs to be challenged if it feels threatened. I do not wish to challenge it personally but would passively accept more information as it becomes available.

Genuine thanks for the notes - very interesting and a good read.

More info available than you could read in a lifetime. This is probably the most studied historical topic of all time.


Actually the burden of evidence is on you. I know it's inconvenient, especially as you have little that you can cite, but they, them's the breaks.

Have you really been to Auschwitz? I don't believe you. I think you may have been near Auschwitz, or perhaps you're read about it. Prove that you've been there. Then explain how it's even vaguely relevant. At this point, I'll tell you I've been to more than one concentration camp, but that doesn't mean anything.

Oh, I just assumed that you didn't believe the moon landings happened. And it's amusing that you're pretending to not understand the point.

You've demonstrated my point entirely. I have been there but I cannot prove it. The idea that going there doesn't prove anything as well is valid.

So it's not possible to draw a conclusion, which is my point. So rather than be a "denier", I simply lack a conclusion and do not take the official one on faith.

What thesis one purports is inconsequential to the freedom of ideas. It stands on its merit or it doesn't. No need for bureaucratic intervention. Down with the idea police.

Hm, not quite. At least in the UK, we've got:

Race Relations Act 1976

Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994

Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006

Also a load of stuff inherited from the EU which is very restrictive.

Unfortunately for us, the intent of the laws was good but when you take a look at how the laws are applied, they are usually used via interpretation to silence and detain people with an opinion, be it valid or not.

It's free speech for all (including the bad stuff), or no speech at all. The latter is all too common.

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