A rationalist martyr in India

Reason has its martyrs, just as faith does.

Narendra Dabholkar

Narendra Dabholkar

Dr. Narendra Dabholkar, a brave rationalist who devoted his life to exposing fake faith healers and miracle workers in India, was murdered Tuesday.

His organization, the Maharashtra Blind Faith Eradication Association, offered a prize of 500,000 rupees to any diviner who could prove he or she could summon spirits.

At the time of his death, he was pushing for a law in Maharashtra state outlawing the practice of black magic.  My own belief is that rationalists should restrict themselves to the rational method, and not try to enforce their beliefs through government power.  There is a subtle but important difference between outlawing fraud and outlawing beliefs and practices which can be a mask for fraud.

Dabholkar didn’t see it that way.  He said his proposed law never mentioned God or religion, and did not touch the doctrines of Hinduism or any other religion.  Whatever the merits of that argument, it can be said that he never went outside the law or threatened his opponents with death.

And it also is true that religious believers in India have used the law to suppress rationalist criticism.  Sanal Edamaruku, the president of the Indian Rationalist Association, fled India to escape arrest for blasphemy because he investigated a weeping statue of Jesus in a Catholic church in Mumbai and concluded it was the result of a plumbing problem.

Dabholkar’s proposed anti-magic law, which was opposed by conservative Hindus, was in fact enacted a few days after his death, but needs approval of Parliament before it can become law.


India anti-superstition activist Narendra Dabholkar shot dead by Maseeh Rahman for The Guardian.

Dr. Narendra Dabholkar Has Paid the Ultimate Price for Challenging Irrationality by Hemant Mehta for Patheos.

India’s Maharashtra state bans black magic after killing by the BBC.

India’s second freedom struggle by Sanal Edamaruku of the Indian Rationalist Association.

Jesus wept … oh, it’s bad plumbing. Indian rationalist targets ‘miracles’ by Henry McDonald for The Guardian, on the blasphemy charges against Sanal Edamaruku.

Narendra Dabholkar entry and obituaries in Philosopedia.  [Added 8/26/13]

Hat tip to Jack Clontz.

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2 Responses to “A rationalist martyr in India”

  1. pradiprawat55 Says:

    Dr. Narendra Dabholkar’s contribution to Indian society can be aptly described by this Jerry Coyne quote

    We’re in a war not for science, but against superstition, which enables nonscientific views.


  2. Kill Rationalist & Rationalism Will Flourish | Wandering SOul Says:

    […] A rationalist martyr in India (philebersole.wordpress.com) […]


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