We’ve heard from far-right Christian fundamentalists in the United States that God causes hurricanes to punish gays, but this is new: an elected official in India said cancer is “divine justice” caused by “past sins of a person.”
Senior Cabinet Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma taunted those who are already suffering, saying cancer patients suffer from the disease not because of gene mutations, but because they are being punished by God for their past transgressions.
“God makes us suffer when we sin. Sometimes we come across young men getting inflicted with cancer or young men meeting with accidents. If you observe the background you will come to know that it’s divine justice. Nothing else. We have to suffer that divine justice,” Sarma said at a function organised for distribution of appointment letters to teachers here on Tuesday.
Everyone who suffers from cancer deserves it, he implied, and yes, this even applies to babies, who might have to suffer for the sins of their parents.
“In this lifetime or in our previous life, or perhaps my father or mother… perhaps that young man did not do but his father has done something wrong. It is mentioned even in Gita, Bible about the outcome of one’s actions. No point in being sad… all will get the outcome of this life’s actions in this life only. That divine justice always will be there. Nobody can escape the divine justice that will happen,” he said.
You heard him, everyone: there’s “no point in being sad” when a loved one is diagnosed with cancer. You just have to trust that the person deserves it, because God decides who gets it and He knows what he’s doing. God works in “mysterious ways,” and all that.
It’s also important to note that this guy isn’t just some random man shouting these things on the street corner. If that were the case, perhaps we could just ignore him. But Sarma is a part of the Indian government, where he helps shape policies that affect people’s lives. This type of thought process has no room among government officials.
This backward belief about divine justice is caused by one thing: religious fundamentalism. And while the specifics vary from tradition to tradition, it’s common across all the major faiths. If you believe in Original Sin, you deserve negative actions in life because of your ancestors’ sin. But if you believe in karma or reincarnation, you deserve negative actions in life because of your behavior in “past lives.” In either case, you’re wrong.
We should be looking to science and technology — and not religion — to deal with things like cancer.
***Update***: Biswa Sarma has since apologized for his comments, saying he was taken “out of context,” but his statement reiterates that there are some questions about cancer that we can’t answer, and therefore it’s worth looking to the spiritual realm for possible answers.
In other words, yes, karma may play a role in determining who gets cancer. His critics were (and continue to be) right in denouncing his words.
I am pained at the unpleasant controversy created by people wanting to derive political mileage out of it. I tender my apology to all #cancer patients and their families who may have been hurt by this. I am also issuing this statement to clear & reiterate my stand. pic.twitter.com/O19AA5d4HA
— Himanta Biswa Sarma (@himantabiswa) November 23, 2017
(Screenshot via YouTube. Thanks to Scott for the link)