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Mainstream, Vol.

XLIX, No 14, March 26, 2011

Miracles or Hoax by the Clergy?

by Pushpa M. Bhargava
In the Catholic Church, for anyone to be canonised, the person must have performed two miracles, a miracle being an action or an effect which can be explained only by direct intervention of a divine power that can defy all reason and laws of science. So we now hear of the late Pope John Paul II being canonised as he is believed to have cured a woman of Parkinsons Disease. This is reminiscent of two miracles said to have been performed, in retrospect, by Mother Teresa to support her candidature for sainthood after her death. I had met her and there is no doubt that she was a model of service to mankind, but neither she nor any of her colleagues ever claimed during her lifetime that she had performed a miracle. The doctors in the city of Calcutta also vehemently denied that there was any evidence of her having effected a cure that could be considered a miracle. Yet she is on her way to sainthood. Coming back to John Paul IIs so-called miracle, it is only the word of the woman who claims to be cured of Parkinsons Disease. Unfortunately, we are not living in a world where no one tells a lie or mislead people. Did a doctor who is not an ardent follower of the Catholic religion and committed to scientific methodology, certify that she was actually suffering from Parkinsons Disease and was cured by John Paul II without any medical intervention, and if so, this cannot be just a rare but natural regression of a disease generally considered intractable. Such cases are known and have a scientific explanation. And why was the cure never talked about during the life-time of John Paul II? The fact is that all miracles are inventions of the clergy or of godmen in which our country abounds. There is not a shred of reliable and irrefutable evidence that any miracle has ever occurred or been performed. Why, then, have miracles been institutionalised as an integral part of all religions? The reason is that there would be no religion without miracles. It is the dogma of a religion and not the values it preaches (which are, by and large, universal) that distinguishes it from other religions, and the dogma is largely based on the particular religions unique perception of the supernatural of which miracles are an integral part. It is, in fact, the institution of miracles that has made man believe in the supernatural, including divinity. If the clergy did not invent miracles, they would not have survived. They have always belonged to the upper echelons of our society (Brahmins in Hinduism) and have been more educated than an average member of their society. The leaders of the clergy all through history have believed that if a lie is repeated often enough and forcefully enough, it acquires the quality of truth, and there would always be enough gullible people to believe it, especially if they were brought up amidst a host of superstitions and irrational belief. Let us not forget the hoax of Ganesh drinking milk or Ramar Pillai producing petrol out of ordinary plants, in both of which millions of people in our country, including many of our so-called scientists, believed in to begin with. Let me give you an example from personal experience, from the most affluent country of the world.
NFIFWI, Tirunelveli Division

In the mid-1950s, I walked into a furniture store in the university town of Madison, Wisconsin, in the United States. The owner of the shop, identifying me as an Indian, asked me which city I came from. When I said, Hyderabad, he was intrigued. He said he knew Bombay, Madras and Calcutta from where I could have taken a boat to go to the United States (at that time, air travel was not common) but he did not understand how I got to any of these ports from Hyderabad; I had told him that all these cities were over four hundred miles from Hyderabad. So when I answered that I walked all that distance, he didnt question me. A few months later, when I had forgotten this incident, he introduced me at a lecture on India that I was invited to give to a civil society organisation and at which he presided, as a bright young man who was so keen to come to the US that he walked over four hundred miles! He would not have believed if I had told him that India had (even then) the second largest system of railways in the world. In our own country we have a godman from Puttaparthi whose enormous following is based almost entirely on his performing the so-called miracles which have been repeatedly shown to be nothing but mediocre trickery that any good magician in the country can replicate. GOOD public relations play an important role in establishing a large following of such people. The occasional incursion of a distinguished scientist into their fort is fully exploited. I remember Mahesh Yogis claims around 1975 that transcendental meditation can make one fly about in a room, cross-legged. When I challenged him at a meeting to which he had invited me in the Lal Bahadur Shastri Indoor Stadium in Hyderabad in 1975, in the presence of over seven thousand people, to demonstrate in the evening the above-claimed effect of TM, he backed out. But he managed to convince Brian Josefson who won a Nobel Prize in Physics when he was in his twenties. My correspondence with Josefson did not lead us anywhere. However, I am sure that the above streak of irrationality in him was responsible for his virtually disappearing from the scientific scene after his Nobel Prize at a very young age. Inventing miracles has not been the only sin of the clergy. Some of the other sins are the following: (1) They survive on misinterpretation of the teachings of the founders of their religion or its other leaders. Todays Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism is a direct consequence of the ideology of Wahabism-Salafism. The way in which the Wahabis and Salafis have misinterpreted the Quran is well-documented in the book, Terrors Source: the Ideology of Wahabism-Salafism and its Consequences, authored by Vincenzo Olivetti, a pseudonym of Prince Ghazi of Jordan, one of the most illustrious of the fortythird-generation descendents of Prophet Mohammed. (2) The clergy invented the concept of divinity, which implies that ones life is totally controlled according to what has been ordained by a divine power (whatever that may be), and since the clergy represent this divine power, they and they alone can help you change the course of your so-called destiny. Most Gods are bribable, and the clergy tell you how and what to give as a bribe. In fact, it is the clergy that made a God of Buddha in spite of his following saying which is rarely quoted: Believe nothing, merely because you have been told it Or because it is traditional Or because you yourself imagined it Do not believe what your teacher tells you
NFIFWI, Tirunelveli Division

Merely out of respect for the teacher But whatever, after due examination and analysis You find to be conducive to the good, the benefit The welfare of all beings That doctrine believe and cling to And take it as your guide. (3) The clergy everywhere have played a major role in distortion of history and making people believe that legend is history; if this was not so, we would not have the problem with Ramas janmabhoomi. Rama is not a historical figure. So, how can one quarrel over his birth-place? (4) Science has been the biggest enemy of the clergyperhaps all through history but certainly from the beginning of the Renaissance in Europe from which time organised science began to evolve. Thus Bruno was burnt at stake and Galileo incarcerated for stating a truth arrived at by using the method of science. Opposition to abortion and renewed efforts in the USA to give equal status in school teaching to creation and evolution to explain the origin of man, are other, contemporary examples. It is, therefore, not surprising that the Government of Kerala under the influence of the priests of the Sabarimala temple, does not want to reveal the fact that the Makarajyothi that caused the death of over a hundred people recently is not divine but made by man. Such man-made miracles are economic goldmines, both for the clergy and the State. We should remind ourselves of Article 51A of our Constitution which says that to develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform shall be the duty of every citizen of India.
The author, a former Vice-Chairman of the National Knowledge Commission, is a distinguished molecular biologist and was for several years the Director of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology in Hyderabad.

NFIFWI, Tirunelveli Division