SCI-ART LAB

Science, Art, Litt, Science based Art & Science Communication

Q: What constitutes ‘hurting religious sentiments’?
 
Krishna: Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings or any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs – Whoever, with deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any class of citizens of India, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise, insults or attempts to insult the religion or the religious beliefs of that class are treated as hurting religious sentiments of people.

Blasphemy refers to an insult that shows contempt, disrespect or lack of reverence concerning a deity, an object considered sacred, or something considered inviolable.

Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code* lays down the punishment for deliberate and malicious acts, that are intended to outrage the religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs. It is one of the hate speech laws in India.

* (The Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS), the Bharatiya Nagrik Suraksha Sanhita (BNSS), and the Bharatiya Sakshya Adhiniyam (BSA), passed in Parliament last December, have replaced the Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860, the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), 1973, and the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 respectively now).

This law prohibits blasphemy against all religions in India.

This hurt is caused by the "insult to religion" any person is following.

Now the word 'insult' is based on perception and can be interpreted in several ways.

When I say something, it need not be with the intention to hurt somebody, but that person can take it another way.

Let me give an example.

One of my relatives' daughters suffered some health issues some time back. Instead of going to a medical doctor, this person, my cousin, went to a 'babaji' (a godman) to tell him about his daughters' condition. This babaji performed some rituals and gave him a tawiz (we call it a tayettu in Telugu, a black thread with a silver locket to tie around peoples' necks and arms ). My cousin tied several of these things to the child's hands, ankles, and neck.

But still, the child suffered as there was no medical intervention to cure the health condition.

As a scientist, I really felt very bad because the child was suffering unnecessarily.

I scolded my cousin and told him to take his child to a medical doctor. "Do your belief in babaji and tying the tawiz he gave cure diseases?" I asked.

Then he said criticizing the babaji and his beliefs hurt his religious sentiments. And that I shouldn't do that. I was taken aback.

What I said wasn't intentional. I was just concerned about the child and her suffering. I was unhappy that my cousin wasn't doing enough to alleviate the suffering of his daughter.

If speaking truth hurts one's religious sentiments, what can you do about it?

I really was very unhappy with this argument.

I told him he was offending  me too. 

I am a scientist. I have some knowledge about a health condition and how it can be tackled. As a highly qualified specialist, when I say something, people should at least consider it. Instead, if they reject it, ignore my knowledge, and continue with their baseless beliefs and allow others to suffer, don't I feel bad? If they give more preference to an ‘uneducated’ man (babaji), as a highly qualified person won’t I get offended? Isn’t there any value to the right knowledge then?

I asked him the same question.

He was shocked and said, he never thought about it from this angle.

If you believe that the Earth was "created" in six days and quote your religious text in this regard over and over again, as a scientist, that hurts my knowledge base.

God created Earth in six or seven days. Genealogical records combined with the Genesis 1 account of creation are used to estimate an age for the Earth and universe of about 6000 years, with a bit of uncertainty on the completeness of the genealogical records, allowing for a few thousand years more.

But science has evidence to show that The age of Earth is (estimated to be) 4.54 ± 0.05 billion years.

This dating is based on evidence from radiometric age-dating of meteorite material and is consistent with the radiometric ages of the oldest-known terrestrial material and Lunar samples (1).

So it is evidence based and, therefore, is a fact.

The age of the universe based on the best fit to Planck 2018 data alone is 13.787±0.020 billion years. This number represents an accurate "direct" measurement of the age of the universe(2).

If you keep quoting your religious texts and stress that only you are right, that causes great inconvenience to me because I know that is not true.

If my stressing that what religious texts say is not correct - because I have evidence to the contrary - hurts you, your belief quoting based on religious texts written in ancient times using primeval thoughts and imagination that have no evidence causes great inconvenience to me. It ridicules my knowledge, education and evidence. Isn't that true?

Don't courts take my scientific evidence into consideration?

But why do our BNS, BNSS, BSA or whatever punish only me and not you? Isn't that discrimination? Can courts or our parliamentarians, or well educated people answer my question?

Your beliefs are yours, and my scientific evidence based facts are mine. You have every right to have your faith. But keep it in your mind and home. Don't bring them into the scientific world, debates and arguments. Because that hurts my knowledge, evidence and perception of the world based on them.

You have no right to offend my scientific knowledge based perception, like I have no right to hurt your religious feelings. Period.

My cousin is highly confused now. 

Footnotes: 

1. Age of Earth - Wikipedia

2. Age of the universe - Wikipedia

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