Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Sathya Sai Baba
Sam Harris has referred to an Indian mystic by the name of Sathya Sai Baba on more than one occasion. Sathya recently died on April 24th, 2011, about five years short of his predicted death of ninety and on Easter Sunday of all days. Sai Baba had legions of followers and was known for his miracle working powers. He purportedly performed all of the miracles that Christ did and then some. Yes, he has even resurrected people from the dead. Sai Baba wasn’t trying to convert people to Hinduism or anything; He encouraged people to continue with their own religious faith that they were brought up with and find their own pathway to heaven. It was more of an “all roads lead to heaven” sort of accomodationalism.
Sai Baba is an interesting figure for many reasons, but I’m just going to focus on one point as Harris has aptly stated on many occasions. These millions of people actually believed that this guy was performing miracles in an age of scientific enlightenment and advancement. People came in droves from around the world to see this guy and to get healed. Upon his death, devoted followers were having heart attacks and others were in complete shock because, like so many other gods, their god died. If there was a Jesus, which is actually a disputed point among scholars, would it really be that much of a stretch to believe that he was deceiving followers as well? This was a time when there was no such thing as empirical research or video recording. The people who were said to be his most devoted followers were the uneducated and illiterate underbelly of society. On a slight aside, the god of the N.T. isn’t even the same god as the O.T.! Things aren’t even consistent. The god of the N.T. was comingling with sinners while the O.T. god was saying “kill those motherfuckers!” Sorry, couldn’t help myself.
Sai Baba, not entirely unlike Benny Hinn, has managed to deceive more people than even existed in the ANE at the time of Jesus’ supposed sojourn. As far as I know, Hinn is still doing his “miracle” crusades around the globe despite being exposed for fraud and his adulterous affair with another minister. People are just gullible and credulous beyond reason. It’s the goal of science to bring reason and logic back into societies psyche and to better understand the world in which we really live in; not the world that made sense before the development of scientific theory.
In the days that follow, it would not be surprising to me if we started hearing reports of Sai Baba’s bodily resurrection being witnessed by masses before he and his giant afro ascended into the starry skies above. People will make shit up just to keep his legend and mystic intact. The question is as David Hume once similarly proposed: What’s more likely, that Sai Baba really performed all of these miracles or that there’s deception at hand? We’re talking about the more likely scenario in light of the greater understanding we have of how the world and sentient beings work given the groundwork science has made.
In the case of Christ, we have weak historical evidence to rely on. We have no contemporaneous eye witness testimony and contradiction between the gospel writers that were not present to witness the events. In the case of Sai Baba, we have legions of followers that insist on the validity of this man’s supernatural powers, but I seriously doubt that a single Christian would believe likewise. This mostly has something to do with the fact that they weren't raised as Hindus but as Christians within a society which greatly accomodates Christianity. The billions of Hindus may struggle to believe in televangelists like Benny Hinn for similar reasons; although, I suspect that Hindus are more open minded than Christians as Christians generally believe that Christ is the only way. When it comes to Christianity, it seems like it’s the one time where parents forgot to tell their children that Jesus isn’t real, unlike Santa Claus. I don’t mean to simplify religion or even pretend that I understand the reason it captivates the masses like it does. I do know that people are credulous when they want something to be true. Death and the fear of the unknown have always scared humanity and I suspect that this is at least a fragment of the answer.