Indian Rationalist Association

India's largest rationalist organisation. Founded in 1949. Fights for scientific temper, secularism, freedom of thought and expression. Defends reason and science. Exposes superstition, blind belief, obscurantism, paranormal claims caste-based social divisions and guru-politics nexus. Strives for a post-religious society. President: Sanal Edamaruku Contact: Phone: + 91-11-6569 9012, +91-11-64630651

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The secret of Prahlad Jani

Indian holy man Prahlad Jani claims that he did not eat food or drink water since around World War II. Indian Defence Research & Development Organisation took this claim serious. What is the truth behind this holy man? Sanal Edamaruku explains. Click the following link to view the clipping on YouTube:

Monday, May 10, 2010

Sanal Edamaruku in The Times of India on Black Magic

Chicken bones and black magic cannot harm you

The Times of India - 2 May 2010

Sanal Edamaruku
(President, Indian Rationalist Association)

I have campaigned against superstitions for several decades now and am convinced that it is the single most destructive force in India’s development.

Let me start with a small piece of advice, just in case. If one fine day you get to know that some tantrik, generously paid by your arch enemy to kill you, has managed to lay his hands on a used handkerchief or a strand of hair or yours, don’t panic. Here is the counter spell that can save your life: just laugh. For whatever mantras he may chant over a midnight fire in the local burial ground and whatever cruelties he may commit to your handkerchief, it cannot harm you as long as you are not afraid. If you are afraid, yes, you could die - out of fear that is.

In March 2008, I had an opportunity to prove my point. During a panel discussion live on India TV about “tantra power versus science” my opponent Pandit Surinder Sharma, a well-known TV-tantrik, boasted that it would take him just three minutes to kill whomever he wanted by the sheer power of his mantras. “Then kill me!” I challenged him. And he tried. That was the beginning of an unprecedented experiment. When I survived two exhausting hours of “Om lingalingalingalinga, kilikilikili….”, the show was continued in an open air midnight special with the “ultimate destruction ritual”, in which the tantrik fired off the full stock of his black magic arsenal. Finally he furiously crucified, massacred and burned the little clot of wheat dough that was meant to represent me. But all the tantra and mantra could not harm me. Of course not! How should abracadabra and chicken bones spell death?

Fear from freedom is looming large

We are living in a time where scientific and technological revolutions are dramatically changing the way we live and the way we think. With the fast and easy flow of information at our fingertip and the whole world just a call away, borders are opening, old monopolies and privileges breaking and social prisons crumbling. It’s a good time to do away with the last balance of age old superstition and tribal rituals in our mind and to try to understand the world in its complexity. To take control of our lives and develop our own capacities, to be efficient, strong, confident, responsible – and happy. This is not only a personal affair, it is also the best way promote India growing into a developed country and unfolding its strong potential to take a leadership position in tomorrow’s world order.

Many are ill prepared to cope with the challenging situation. For them, all changes create a feeling of insecurity and fear. People who could not overcome their childhood fears and weaknesses tend to remain trapped lifelong in a bizarre world where ghosts and spirits are lurking behind every shadow. They are the ideal customers for tantriks and babas, who unscrupulously exploit fear and insecurity.

Blisters and a flush of enlightenment

I have been a spirited campaigner against superstition for several decades now, as I am convinced that it is the single most destructive force in people’s lives and India’s development. My encounters with “supernatural” charlatans enlist much more colourful figures and more dangerous situations than the “Great Tantra Challenge” on India TV. There were people like the fiery Balti Baba, who performed his fire tricks allegedly for the benefit of a top politician’s re-election, when I exposed him. He got so furious that he tossed a huge burning mud pot on my face. Running TV cameras recorded my narrow escape. I got some minor blisters, but the baba burnt his hands down to the bones and hasn’t been seen in public ever since.

Among all those sinister creatures, Pandit Suriner Sharma deserves a special place. As a somewhat sedate thinker he understood the consequences of our experiment in a nationally broadcast live programme too late. Killing nothing but his own career, he helped me – though against his will – to spark a flush of enlightenment in the minds of millions of viewers. I still receive touchy mails from people of all wages of life who found their way out of superstition that night. In case you missed the programme: you can see some clippings on YouTube.


The Times (London) on Indian Rationalists

Times Online

March 19, 2010

Sceptic challenges guru to kill him live on TV

A Tantrik tries to kill Sanal Edmaruka in a live TV program with his magical powers

Pandit Surender Sharma tries to kill Sanal Edamaruku live on television: the rationalist didn't look too worried

When a famous tantric guru boasted on television that he could kill another man using only his mystical powers, most viewers either gasped in awe or merely nodded unquestioningly. Sanal Edamaruku’s response was different. “Go on then — kill me,” he said.

Mr Edamaruku had been invited to the same talk show as head of the Indian Rationalists’ Association — the country’s self-appointed sceptic-in-chief. At first the holy man, Pandit Surender Sharma, was reluctant, but eventually he agreed to perform a series of rituals designed to kill Mr Edamaruku live on television. Millions tuned in as the channel cancelled scheduled programming to continue broadcasting the showdown, which can still be viewed on YouTube.

First, the master chanted mantras, then he sprinkled water on his intended victim. He brandished a knife, ruffled the sceptic’s hair and pressed his temples. But after several hours of similar antics, Mr Edamaruku was still very much alive — smiling for the cameras and taunting the furious holy man.

“He was over, finished, completely destroyed!” Mr Edamaruku chuckles triumphantly as he concludes the tale in the Rationalist Centre, his second-floor office in the town of Noida, just outside Delhi.

Rationalising India has never been easy. Given the country’s vast population, its pervasive poverty and its dizzying array of ethnic groups, languages and religions, many deem it impossible.

Nevertheless, Mr Edamaruku has dedicated his life to exposing the charlatans — from levitating village fakirs to televangelist yoga masters — who he says are obstructing an Indian Enlightenment. He has had a busy month, with one guru arrested over prostitution, another caught in a sex-tape scandal, a third kidnapping a female follower and a fourth allegedly causing a stampede that killed 63 people.

This week India’s most popular yoga master, Baba Ramdev, announced plans to launch a political party, promising to cleanse India of corruption and introduce the death penalty for slaughtering cows. Then, on Wednesday, police arrested a couple in Maharashtra state on suspicion of killing five boys on the advice of a tantric master who said their sacrifice would help the childless couple to conceive.

“The immediate goal I have is to stop these fraudulent babas and gurus,” says Mr Edamaruku, 55, a part-time journalist and publisher from the southern state of Kerala. “I want people to make their own decisions. They should not be guided by ignorance, but by knowledge.

“I’d like to see a post-religious society — that would be an ideal dream, but I don’t know how long it would take.”

His organisation traces its origins to the 1930s when the “Thinker’s Library” series of books, published by Britain’s Rationalist Press Association, were first imported to India. They included works by Aldous Huxley, Charles Darwin and H.G. Wells; among the early subscribers was Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister.

The Indian Rationalist Association was founded officially in Madras in 1949 with the encouragement of the British philosopher Bertrand Russell, who sent a long letter of congratulations. For the next three decades it had no more than 300 members and focused on publishing pamphlets and debating within the country’s intellectual elite.

But since Mr Edamaruku took over in 1985, it has grown into a grass-roots organisation of more than 100,000 members — mainly young professionals, teachers and students — covering most of India. Members now spend much of their time investigating and reverse-engineering “miracles” performed by self-styled holy men who often claim millions of followers and amass huge wealth from donations.

One common trick they expose is levitation, usually done using an accomplice who lies on the ground under a blanket and then raises his upper body while holding out two hockey sticks under the blanket to make it look like his feet are also rising. “It’s quite easy really,” said Mr Edamaruku, who teaches members to perform the tricks in villages and then explains how they are done, or demonstrates them at press conferences.

Other simple tricks include walking on hot coals (the skin does not burn if you walk fast enough) and lying on a bed of nails (your weight is spread evenly across the bed). The “weeping statue” trick is usually done by melting a thin layer of wax covering a small deposit of water.

Some tricks require closer scrutiny. One guru in the state of Andhra Pradesh used to boil a pot of tea using a small fire on his head. The secret was to place a non-conductive pad made of compacted wheat flour between his head and the fire. “I was so excited when I exposed him. I should have been more reasonable but sometimes you get so angry,” he said. “I cried: ‘Look, even I can do this and I’m not a baba — I’m a rationalist!’.”

Another swami — who conducted funeral rites for Indira Gandhi, the Prime Minister who was assassinated in 1984 — used to appear to create fire by pouring ghee, clarified butter, on to ash and then staring at the mixture until it burst into flames. The “ghee” was glycerine and the “ash” was potassium permanganate, two chemicals that spontaneously combust within about two minutes of being mixed together.

Exposing such tricks can be risky. A guru called Balti (Bucket) Baba once smashed a burning hot clay pot in Mr Edamaruku’s face after he revealed that the holy man was using a heat resistant pad to pick it up.

The chief rationalist was almost arrested by the government of Kerala for revealing that it was behind an annual apparition of flames in the night sky — in fact, several state officials lighting bonfires on a nearby hill — which attracted millions of pilgrims. Despite his efforts, he admits that people still go to the festival and continue to revere self-styled holy men.

One reason is that Indian politicians nurture and shelter gurus to give them spiritual credibility, use their followers as vote banks, or to mask sexual or criminal activity. That explains why India’s Parliament has never tightened the 1954 Drugs and Magic Remedies Act, under which the maximum punishment is two months in prison and a 2,000 rupee (£29) fine.

Another reason is that educated, middle-class Indians are feeling increasingly alienated from mainstream religion but still in need of spiritual sustenance. “When traditional religion collapses people still need spirituality,” he says. “So they usually go one of two directions: towards extremism and fundamentalism or to these kinds of people.”

Since richer, urban Indians have little time for long pilgrimages orpujas(prayer ceremonies), they are often attracted by holy men who offer instant gratification — for a fee. The development of the Indian media over the past decade has also allowed some holy men to reach ever larger audiences via television and the internet. “Small ones have gone out of business while the big ones have become like corporations,” says Mr Edamaruku.

But the media revolution has also helped Mr Edamaruku, who made 225 appearances on television last year, and gets up to 70 inquiries about membership daily. Thanks to his confrontation in 2008 with the tantric master, the rationalist is now a national celebrity, too.

When the guru’s initial efforts failed, he accused Mr Edamaruku of praying to gods to protect him. “No, I’m an atheist,” came the response. The holy man then said he needed to conduct a ritual that could only be done at night, outdoors, and after he had slept with a woman, drunk alcohol and rubbed himself in ash.

The men agreed to go to an outdoor studio that night — all to no avail. At midnight, the anchor declared the contest over. Reason had prevailed.

Young Turk TV discussion on Indian Rationalists

A discussion on The Young Turk TV of the USA about Indian Rationalist Association and the Tantra Challenge of Sanal Edamaruku

New Humanist article on Indian Rationalists


India's rationalists are on the frontline of the battle between science and superstition. Caspar Melville reports on their fight to debunk "holy men"

lMartin Rowson's drawing for Unmasked

In 2000 journalist Ritu Sehgal witnessed a modern miracle in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. This is how she set the scene: "It is a sleepy Sunday afternoon in Makkanpur, Old men sit in front of the village shop in the shadow of the Neem tree playing cards and drinking tea. Suddenly they raise their heads. Two unusual guests approach.... Clad in saffron robes, a sadhu comes nearer, followed by his disciple. Barefoot through the mud the holy man and his companion move with measured steps. The sadhu lifts his hand for a blessing and enters the premises of the sarpanch's (village head's) house. Some young men run and bring a charpoi (traditional bed) and place it in the middle of the courtyard. The holy man sits and folds his legs ceremoniously. Eyes fixed in the clear blue afternoon sky, he does not move. The news of the sadhu's arrival spreads fast.... Within minutes the whole village is present. All eyes are fixed on the holy man. The sadhu rises. Through his disciple he lets the villagers know that a curse is lying on Makkanpur. He makes them see the bad omen with their own eyes. He throws a coconut on the stony ground: it breaks, blood squirting out and splashing all around. The audience is awestruck. He has come here, the sadhu lets them know, to use his magical powers to free them from threatening disaster and misfortune."

What follows is an extraordinary display of those supernatural power: the holy man causes a pot to burst into flame and produces eleven lemons from his mouth. He pierces his cheek without drawing blood, reclines on a bed of nails, and appears to levitate under a sheet. The crowd are enraptured. Having proven his power he can now be relied on to cure the town of its curse.

It's all too easy to be seduced by this portrait of the mystical East, to assume that its rich spiritual heritage brings a meaning and beauty to life so lacking in the materialist, sceptical west. Attracted by the notion of gurus, sadhus, babas and tan-tricks roaming the land, selflessly curing the masses of affliction, politicians and film stars flock to receive blessings from super-gurus like Sri Sathya Sai Baba.

But on this occasion, the village witnesses a rather different kind of miracle. Just as the performance is reaching its climax, with the sadhu hovering above the ground, a man leaps up from the crowd and shouts "Stop! This is no holy man". He tears down the sheet under which the guru is 'flying', to reveal the two hockey sticks he is using to raise it.

"We are rationalists" declares the intruder, Sanal Edamaruku, secretary general of the Indian Rationalist Association. "We have come here to show you how sadhus and god-men are using simple tricks to cheat you." The sadhu himself is divested of wig and beard and revealed as a completely ungodly rationalist volunteer. He's no guru – just very skilled at conjuring, and well-schooled in the basic chemistry which dictates that certain fluids will ignite on contact, that lit camphor won't burn the skin, that weight evenly distributed on nails won't puncture. The miracle is that the spell has been broken. Once the crowd have absorbed the shock, and broken into laughter, this poor, remote village has been liberated from superstition. Perhaps for ever. As Edamaruku says "what may look like Sundayentertainment for children, is in fact nothing less than breaking the little hook on which the god-men's enormous power, and the fate of their victims, hangs."

Despite a tenacious western orientalism which overemphasises and overvalues Indian religiosity, reinforced by the homegrown 'Hindutva' movement propagated by the BJP, India has a long and distinguished rationalist tradition which is considerably older than that of the west. According to Nobel prize-winning economist Amartya Sen, the seeds of rationalism were planted many thousands of years before the Enlightenment, and centuries before Jesus Christ. Buddha himself, or at least Siddharta (who may or may not have been the first Buddha), could lay claim to being the first rationalist, and even the Hindu sacred text the Ramayana contains the character of Javali who advises the god-king Ram that "there is no after-world, nor any religious practice for attaining that…[religious] injunction have been laid down in the [scriptures] by clever people just to rule over [other] people." This tradition also includes practical political rationalism such as that of Buddhist Emporer Ashoka (273 - 232 BC) who declared religious tolerance and equal human rights with the aim of unifying all India.

Contemporary groups like Edamaruku's Delhi-based Indian Rationalist Association (IRA) and the Satya Shodhak Sabha (Society of Truth Seekers) based in Gujarat, are direct descendents of this tradition. More immediately, they build on the work of the founding fathers of modern Indian rationalism: Mahatma Phule (1827-1890), Periyar Ramasami (1879-1973) and Gora (1902-1975).

Phule, son of a vegetable vendor and educated through the philanthropy of family friends, was one of India's most influential social reformers, campaigning against the caste system, the subordination of woman and the invested power of the Brahmin. Periyar, the 'Voltaire of South India', was born in Tamil Nadu to an affluent religious family and made his name publicly challenging religionists. Drawing inspiration from the French revolution, he loudly and publicly attacked religion as superstition and exploitation. He was a powerful orator and fearless critic: "It gives me extraordinary pleasure", he wrote, "to fling at the pundits their own contradictions, and thus perplex them."

Gora was a high caste Hindu who became a global symbol for 'positive atheism' as well as a tireless campaigner for human rights, and alongside Gandhi, a protester against colonial rule and godfather of democratic India. Phule, Periyar and Gora can be credited with taking the principles of Indian scepticism, rationalism and humanism to a mass audience, though they rarely appear on western lists of rationalist heroes.
Building on this pioneering work it was the Sri Lankan based rationalist Abraham Kovoor (1898-1978), who innovated and extended the techniques of miracle exposure. Kovoor, the son of a vicar, was a professor of Botany, but it was after retirement that he really made his mark as a campaigner against god-men and supernatural fraud. He travelled widely and wrote copiously, bringing all his scientific training and rhetorical power to bear on the practices of the shaman and supposed magicians. He undertook four 'miracle exposure' tours of India in the early 1970s, organised by the IRA and Sanal's father Joseph Edamaruku, even visiting the ashram of Sai Baba, one of Indian's most prominent and popular holy men who, despite his claims to be a god on earth, was unwilling to meet the professor to prove his supernatural powers.

After Kovoor's death in 1978 his mantle was taken up by Basava Premanand (born 1930). Premanand, probably the most box-office of the miracle exposers, actually started out as a disciple of Sai Baba. Becoming disillusioned in 1975 (having transferred a lot of his property to the guru), and inspired by Kavoor, he devoted himself to exposing Baba's use of (pretty amateurish) prestidigitation to produce 'holy ash' and the cheap trinkets with which he wows his large, and far from exclusively Indian, gaggle of devotees.

It was Kovoor's visit to Gujarat in 1976 which inspired a group of rationalists there to form Satya Shodhal Sabha (SSS), named after Mahatma Phule's original 1870s organisation. Kavoor's demonstrations convinced a new generation of activists – composed, like most of India's activist-rationalists, of volunteers from the ranks of education and academia spiced with disillusioned former-converts – that public demonstrations and exposures were the most effective way of educating the public and undermining the credibility and the power of exploitative faith healers, sadhu and the rag tagholy men who tour the country exploiting ignorance and fear where they find it. Exposures are part of a sophisticated strategy to influence popular opinion against supernaturalism.

"We do not go out and talk about whether God exists or not, or get involved in abstract disputes of that nature," says Professor BD Desai, secretary of the SSS, who have performed over 1500 miracle exposures since 1982. "We are not concerned with showing how clever we are compared to the ignorant masses. We want to talk to people in a language they understand, to expose falsehood and contradictions, and show how the miracles are basically a ploy to distract and misguide people from their genuine problems."

The SSS work on a number of fronts simultaneously. In addition to exposing the fakery of fakirs, they work as a semi-official abuse monitoring service, helping to identify, expose and prosecute sadhus involved in sexual exploitation. "In India male children are highly valued. If a woman cannot conceive a male she will often seek out the help of a sadhu, who claims that using ritual and sacrifice he can heal her. Often such situations end up in rape or sexual abuse. A complaint will be made to us, we will send undercover volunteers to investigate and gather evidence, and if possible go to court to help secure a conviction." In this they are fully supported by the local police and receive a degree of state support.

Then there are the cases of supernaturalism which do not involve shifty sadhus, but more complex and fascinating psychological motives than mere greed. Professor Desai relates the story of a 14 year-old boy in the remote sea side village of Kantiyazad, who was believed to have been possessed by the avatar (spirit) of the god Jalaram Bapa – how else to explain the fact that he had begun intoning verse in Sanskrit, a language he did not know? When rationalist investigators arrived they discovered that the boy, neglected in favour of two smart older brothers, had memorised the verses, which were pasted up in his father's shrine. The apparent possession was an attempt to gain the attention and approval of his father. Or how about the strange appearance of cuts in a young wife's sari every time she was due to leave the house with her husband? On closer inspection, the evil omen turned out to be the result of some nifty scissor work by a frustrated sister-in-law confined to the house. In both cases the investigators made a point not to expose the fraudsters in public, but to work with the families to achieve some kind of settlement which would remove the motive for the false possession.

Each case reveals the deep connection between India's structural inequality – the caste system, gender subordination – and the lure of supernaturalism, the desire to be heard, to escape or to grasp some approximation of meaning apparently offered by the holy-rollers. The crucial skill of the Indian rationalist tacticians is to be able to combine a sense of theatre comparable to that of the most extravagant sadhu, with a recognition of the link between India's social inequalities and superstition. Desire for social transformation, in the west more associated with radical progressive politics, goes hand in hand with the desire to expose fraud. Tactically astute, organisations like the SSS know that miracle exposures, successful as they are, will not of themselves transform Indian social inequality, but they form the conspicuous surface of an underlying strategy: "We are wedded to social change, but to create acceptability we need to make inroads in the thinking of the people. Exposures achieve this, as does our voluntary work of all kinds. We have exposed over 50 frauds, and many mid-level gurus have leftthe state, but our focus is on the people. First and last we want people to think rationally. Once that happens the gurus will not remain anywhere."

Professor Desai is clear that while the forms of Indian activism can be an inspiration for a renewed practical western rationalist project, western traditions of rationalist and humanist thought remain an essential model for India: "Our entire enlightenment depends on the west, and we have a lot more to learn." In his speech at the conference in 1999 which celebrated 100 years of the Rationalist Press Association (RPA), Sanal Edamaruku was explicit about the vital role played by the availability of cheap copies of classic western humanist texts, printed by the RPA, publishers of the journal you are reading now: "The Cheap Reprints and the Thinkers' Library series during the middle of the 20th century reached far-off places and provoked thinking people to come out and plan organised efforts to influence change." One of the most influential successes of Indian atheist publishers was to translate much of the Thinker's Library, and many other classics of humanism, into local languages like Malayalam. "If you happen to come to Kerala one day," Edamaruku concludes "don't be too astonished to meet a teashop boy who has read Charles Darwin's Origin of Species." The influence, in the end, is two-way.

Indian rationalism continues to claim some significant victories: exposing not only dozens of home-grown charlatans but also imported varieties such as evangelical fraudster Morris Cerullo and faith healing huckster Clive Harris; ensuring that astrology was deprived of the status as a legitimate profession and preventing it from being adopted on the university curriculum; and securing the right to register 'no caste or religion' on official forms, are just some of the practical achievements they can claim. But neither Desai nor Edamaruku are complacent about the challenges still to come. To the problems of illiteracy, superstition and sectarianism are added the renewed perils of Islamic fundamentalism and the machinations of imported Christian missionaries.

For the rationalists, the work goes on. Professor Desai, since retirement working harder than ever for the cause, continues to lecture, speak and write (his organisation has published scores of books and pamphlets in Gujarati) as well as appearing as a material witness in abuse cases. Edamaruku runs the IRA with tireless enthusiasm, using all media – TV, the Internet, magazines, public speaking – to get the message out. From exposing 'the prime minister's astrologer' Lachman Das Madan on live TV to running his paranormal investigation centre which exposes contemporary hoaxes such as the photograph of the giant skeleton, reputed to be a Rakshasa (mythical giant), in fact revealed as a fairly clumsy piece of photo trickery, Sanal Edamaruku is probably the hardest working man in the miracle-busting business. His most recent success was on live television across the subcontinent. On October 20th Indians were glued to their TVs watching live as Astrologist Punjilal, who had predicted that he would die between 3 and 4pm on that day, lay down to his fate. Edamaruku had appeared on the 10 o'clock news the night before, confidently predicting that nothing would happen. By the time the astrologist gingerly arose at five past four, and was declared in perfect health by a doctor, Edamaruku had struck another, very public, blow to the credibility of supernaturalism (a feat he repeated with even more drama in 2008).

These activists and many others with the same dedication to truth and ability to capture the imagination of the crowd, offer perhaps the best example of how rationalism can be both profound and entertaining. Perhaps, if they have time, some of these practical rationalists might find time to come over to Britain and help us with our superstition issues.

(New Humanist Volume 120 Issue 6 November/December 2005)

Sanal Edamaruku on Mother Teresa

India has no reason to be grateful to Mother Teresa

by Sanal Edamaruku

India, especially Calcutta, is seen as the main beneficiary of Mother Teresa's legendary 'good work' for the poor that made her the most famous Catholic of our times, a Nobel Peace Prize Winner and a living saint. Evaluating what she has actually done here, I think, India has no reason to be grateful to her.

Mother Teresa has given a bad name to Calcutta, painting the beautiful, interesting, lively and culturally rich Indian metropolis in the colors of dirt, misery, hopelessness and death. Styled into the big gutter, it became the famous backdrop for her very special charitable work. Her order is only one among more than 200 charitable organizations, which try to help the slum-dwellers of Calcutta to build a better future. It is locally not very visible or active. But tall claims like the absolutely baseless story of her slum school for 5000 children have brought enormous international publicity to her institutions. And enormous donations!

Mother Teresa has collected many, many millions (some say: billions) of Dollars in the name of India's paupers (and many, many more in the name of paupers in the other "gutters" of the world). Where did all this money go? It is surely not used to improve the lot of those, for whom it was meant. The nuns would hand out some bowls of soup to them and offer shelter and care to some of the sick and suffering. The richest order in the world is not very generous, as it wants to teach them the charm of poverty. "The suffering of the poor is something very beautiful and the world is being very much helped by the nobility of this example of misery and suffering," said Mother Teresa. Do we have to be grateful for this lecture of an eccentric billionaire?

The legend of her Homes for the Dying has moved the world to tears. Reality, however, is scandalous: In the overcrowded and primitive little homes, many patients have to share a bed with others. Though there are many suffering from tuberculosis, AIDS and other highly infectious illnesses, hygiene is no concern. The patients are treated with good words and insufficient (sometimes outdated) medicines, applied with old needles, washed in lukewarm water. One can hear the screams of people having maggots tweezered from their open wounds without pain relief. On principle, strong painkillers are even in hard cases not given. According to Mother Teresa's bizarre philosophy, it is "the most beautiful gift for a person that he can participate in the sufferings of Christ". Once she tried to comfort a screaming sufferer: "You are suffering, that means Jesus is kissing you!" The man got furious and screamed back: "Then tell your Jesus to stop kissing."

When Mother Teresa received the Nobel Peace Price, she used the opportunity of her worldwide telecast speech in Oslo to declare abortion the greatest evil in the world and to launch a fiery call against population control. Her charitable work, she admitted, was only part of her big fight against abortion and population control. This fundamentalist position is a slap in the face of India and other Third World Countries, where population control is one of the main keys for development and progress and social transformation. Do we have to be grateful to Mother Teresa for leading this worldwide propagandist fight against us with the money she collected in our name?

Mother Teresa did not serve the poor in Calcutta, she served the rich in the West. She helped them to overcome their bad conscience by taking billions of Dollars from them. Some of her donors were dictators and criminals, who tried to white wash their dirty vests. Mother Teresa revered them for a price. Most of her supporters, however, were honest people with good intentions and a warm heart, who fall for the illusion that the "Saint of the Gutter" was there to wipe away all tears and end all misery and undo all injustice in the world. Those in love with an illusion often refuse to see reality.