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Posted December 27, 2000
The Dishonesty of the 'Honest Liar'
James Randi would like us to view him as an objective 'skeptic' offended by confidence tricksters using religion as a cover for their scams. However his book advances a far more ambitious agenda; he views religious faith as a 'primitive state' of humanity and would like to see the U.S. Supreme Court change the law to 'protect' those simpleminded enough to adhere to such 'superstitions' (p.s 297, 298 & 304.) The narrative is mostly rhetoric tarring those whose philosophies are not shared by Randi as closed-minded suckers, a view expounded in the introduction but well expressed in chapter 9 when a correspondant admonishes Randi, saying: 'You're not familiar with Christian people... the way they think.' Randi replies: 'It seems there isn't much thinking going on... they'll believe anything.' (p 154) This is part of a steady stream of mean-spirited elitism directed not simply against those Randi sees as frauds but at their 'victims' as well. There ARE accusations of real fraud in the book, especially directed against Oral Roberts, Peter Popoff and W. V. Grant. Yet on page 97, when faith healer Leroy Jenkins challenges Randi to prove his allegations, Randi responds: 'Well, as is usual with most of these challengers, Jenkins got it backwards. It's MY challenge to HIM to prove that he is genuine. I'm not saying, nor have I ever said, that he is 'a phony'. I'm only saying that he has not proved that he's for real.' Had Randi contented himself with his assertions and provided the necessary factual data to support them, his book might have some value. Instead we get a discreditable attempt to cast scorn not only on all faith healing but on all religious belief, using guilt by association, ridicule, unsubstantiated gossip, ad hominem attacks, pop-psychological profiling and pseudo-scientific 'standards for evaluation' to do so. One of the acts of the great magician Harry 'Houdini' Weiss was 'exposing' fraudulent psychics. Although Houdini suggested that fraudulent mediums were preying on the weaknesses of their clients he never implied that religious believers were his intellectual inferiors. James Randi's imitation is no flattery - it's a bitterly bigoted attack inspired by his own fanatical faith in Scientific Materialism, and every bit as manipulative and distorted as his targets' presumed crimes.
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