Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Indian Rationalist Narendra Dabholkar Shot Dead In Pune

Crushingly sad news from Pune, India. Yesterday morning two unidentified gunmen shot dead Dr. Narendra Dabholkar (pictured on left) who for many years had been the public voice of reason, fighting against the superstition and pseudo-science that permeates Indian society. The murder followed a persistent campaign by Dr. Dabholkar to get the Maharashtra state government to pass an anti-superstition bill.

The International Humanist and Ethical Union has a short article  on Dr. Dabholkar and his work.

I often hear people say that differences in belief systems and ideology must be debated peacefully and not result in violent outcomes. I think that really underestimates the power belief systems like religion have over human behavior. Much violence throughout human history has been because people hold what they see as nonnegotiable belief systems which then piggyback and amplify an inherent human tendency to divide people into an "us versus the other". Letting go of such strongly held beliefs becomes a question of self-preservation.

Besides, there is an economic angle to this too. Godmen and clairvoyants in India rake in enormous amounts of money channeled to them by an adoring gullible public. They have dedicated television channels where long distance blessings can be purchased. " Our daughter has been sick for the last 8 months" - "Make sure to  sew buttons of the same color on your husband's shirt.. Your daughter will be cured" is the kind of profound advice I have heard being given and which the believers willingly lap up.

Dr. Dabholkar's work threatened to put the brakes on this lucrative business.

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