|James Randi: A Critique|
I like James Randi. I really do. I look forward to his weekly articles on his website, the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF). Few people have the time, resources, desire, intelligence and wit to look into, challenge and even debunk the absurd claims of the charlatans and con-artists that plague this world. From “psychics” such as Sylvia Brown to “mediums” like John Edward - who is featured on the Sci-Fi Channel, appropriately enough - to people who hawk devices with advertised abilities that are too good to be true, and usually are. James Randi can smell their doody a mile away. Perhaps even two.
Sadly, Mr. Randi views religion - specifically Christianity, which is what he really means - with as much disdain as he does the rest of the chicanery he typically encounters. However, he does not do this with the same level of critical thinking and logic he uses with everything else. Case in point, his recent tirade entitled, “Why I Deny Religion, How Silly and Fantastic It Is, and Why I'm a Dedicated and Vociferous Bright.”
First off, since a lot of people reading this may have never heard of it before, the word “Bright” is an arrogant and ham-fisted attempt by a couple of Kalifornia Kooks (and whole-heartedly supported by the likes of James Randi and Richard Dawkins) to round-up the diverse group of people who have “a naturalistic worldview” (atheists, agnostics, skeptics, “rationalists,” “objectivists,” “igtheists” - whatever the heck they are, “free thinkers,” “naturalists” - not the kind that study plants and animals, “secularists,” humanists and anyone else they feel is on “their side”) and try to unify them under one name. If they want to call themselves “Brights,” they are welcome to it. The rest of us will go on calling spades “spades.” Of course, the unmentioned “joke” is that those who aren’t “Brights” - those who don’t have “a naturalistic worldview” - are “Dims.” Har har har. Obviously, though, the real reason behind this misuse of the adjective “bright” is that the regular terms for those with “a naturalistic worldview” are stigmatized by the very people that they describe! If “Brights” want to blame someone for giving them a bad rep, they should look to themselves instead of us “Abrights.” (Hey, if they can make up a new word, so can I!)
Now, that bit of frivolity aside, let’s move on to Mr. Randi’s article. I will be using a point/counterpoint format:
This week's page will be devoted entirely to religion. I've reached the point where I just have to unload on this subject that until now I've felt was just outside of the matters that the JREF handles.
A strange statement to make, considering many of the psychics and whatnot he criticizes claim to have gotten their powers from God - something he admits in the very next sentence. It’s interesting to note that this whole article comes shortly after he declared himself to be a “Bright.”
Since religion shows up as a part of so many arguments in support of other fantastic claims, I want to show you that its embrace is of the same nature as acceptance of astrology, ESP, prophecy, dowsing, and the other myriad of strange beliefs we handle here every day.
Mr. Randi is contradicting himself. First he claims that religion was “outside of the matters that JREF handles,” but then turns around and it is the same as believing in the things that JREF does handle. There obviously hasn’t been a sudden change in religion to make it the same, so it always has to have been the same as those things. So then why the previous statement about religion being outside of JREF matters?
Previously, I've excused myself from involved discussions of this pervasive notion, on grounds that it offers no examinable evidence, as the other supernatural beliefs actually do — though those examinations have always shown negative results.
The “no examinable evidence” canard is an old skeptic excuse to dodge having to actually use their brains in regards to the subject of religion. Nevermind that countless people - myself included - profess often daily evidence of God’s existence all the time. Skeptics typically dismiss such professions as “merely testimony” at best and “delusions” at worst. Again, this is to dodge having to actually use their brains (and risk being wrong). To add to the evidence are the myriad examples of miracles that have happened to people. For example, healings - not bogus televangelist faith healings - that medical doctors simply cannot explain. These things are dismissed by skeptics as easily and mindlessly as everything else, and we already know why.
Religious people can't be argued with logically, because they claim that their beliefs are of such a nature that they cannot be examined, but just "are."
I have never heard of nor encountered any Christians who have claimed that their beliefs “just ‘are,’” but perhaps such people do exist. If so, they are woefully ignorant, lazy or misinformed. There are plenty of Christians who can discuss their beliefs quite logically. (Also, nevermind that the “Bright” concept of the universe centers around the belief that it just “is.”)
Rather than argue or try to reason by their standards, I'll settle for pointing out, briefly, how unlikely, unreasonable, bizarre, and fantastic their basic claims are, dealing for the most part with those I'm more familiar with, from personal experience.
Unfortunately for Mr. Randi, the majority of his personal experience does not equate to reality, as we shall see.
I frequently receive criticisms from offended believers in psychic matters and religious dogma, accusing me of being one of those dreaded "materialists," or of being unable to accept the wonders they choose to embrace because I'm "locked into" a world-view that accepts only the "unyielding" and "orthodox" scientific version of how the world works. These words in quotation marks are taken directly from recent scoldings I've been offered.
Such an assessment would be right on the money. Despite Mr. Randi’s following attempts to dismiss these accusations, the basic truth still remains: no matter what, his belief in how the world works really is locked into an unyielding and orthodox scientific view. If it weren’t, he wouldn’t be a “Bright.”
First of all, the word "unyielding" cannot possibly be applied to the genuine scientific view.
Yes, it can. A scientific view of the world can be extremely unyielding. If it couldn’t be, no one could claim to be a “Bright,” which is a concept based upon an unyielding scientific view.
My favourite concise definition of science, one which I admit I invented, is:
Science is a search for basic truths about the Universe, a search which
develops statements that appear to describe how the Universe works, but
which are subject to correction, revision, adjustment, or even outright
rejection, upon the presentation of better or conflicting evidence.
This is nothing more than a red herring. No one is arguing about the position of science itself, which obviously cannot have any kind of position, but of people. Mr. Randi obviously has mistaken challenges to his world-view as challenges to science itself, which simply is not true.
I shall skip a large paragraph from his rant at this point, since it has no relevance to this article.
The structure of Science itself is also in a constant state of development; ideally, it does not have an "orthodox" state into which it settles down comfortably and complacently. It only takes something like a new statistical standard or an observational innovation to change its approach to any event or decision with which it was formerly — tentatively — satisfied,
No one is arguing against any of that. It’s not a question about the workings of science or the continuous alterations in various minutiae, but of the overall attitude that science is the end-all and be-all of everything. If you are close-minded to anything other than that, how can you possibly know if it is or isn’t?
but the true scientist does not regret nor refuse such improvements in approach or technique, rather embracing them and adjusting to the new-and-better understanding of the world that is now available.
That may be true for “true scientists” (ironically, many atheists tend to severely chastize Christians for daring to refer to “true Christians”) but what of the regular, run-of-the-mill, everyday scientists? You know, the ones who are stuck in neutral, unable to give up their comfortable beliefs?
Religion, in contrast, is repelled by honest doubt, preferring naïve, unquestioning acceptance.
If this is true, then why have the greatest men of God both in the Bible and throughout history been doubters and questioners? It’s pretty clear from the Bible that God absolutely does not mind all doubts and questions when they are used for the purpose of learning about Him. Without at least some doubt, people could not judge the way God instructs us to. Without doubt, mindlessly accepting anything and everything that came along would be the standard fare among Christians. Now, it is true that some people have been fooled into the idea that any doubt is wrong, and these people tend to be preyed upon by any number of velvet-tongued hucksters out there. They are not the standard among Christians and neither are the hucksters.
It is the willingness to adjust that provides a genuine glory to Science, in my amateur opinion.
Science can adjust, yes, but scientists too often do not.
It is in distinct contrast to the axioms of religions, which proudly flaunt their inflexible "truths" to demonstrate that they "know" certain things with certainty.
An interesting statement from a “Bright” who is certain that there is nothing more to the universe than that which can be naturalistically explained. The phrase, “Do as we say, not as we do,” comes to mind here.
Yet, the Earth is round, not flat,
Randi keeps on irresponsibly swallowing atheistic nonsense, this time the myth of the flat earth. He is probably gullible enough to believe that Columbus really had to fight against prevailing flat-earth belief, although that is a myth started by Washington Irving and promulgated by the dishonest anti-Christian 19th century writers Draper and White. This was thoroughly refuted by Jeffrey Burton Russell in this book Inventing the Flat Earth: Columbus & Modern Historians, highly praised by none other than the late atheistic evolutionist Stephen Jay Gould. Russell showed that the vast majority of Christians who wrote on the topic affirmed a round earth, including the Venerable Bede and Thomas Aquinas, while flat-earth believers were obscure writers who could be counted on the fingers of one hand. See Russell's summary http://id-www.ucsb.edu/fscf/library/RUSSELL/FlatEarth.html. Not even the Bible says that the Earth is flat.
nor is it the center of the Universe;
Another idea that was borne of scientific observation, not religion.
those revelations were promptly accepted, absorbed, and applied by science — as primitive as it was at that moment in history — and no pain was felt by those who incorporated it into their world-view, though in many cases there must have been some discomfort and surprise, followed by delight.
And yet - at that moment in history - scientists were, as always, stuck in their world-view of unyielding, orthodox science. No, the scientists of the day were anything but delighted at Galileo’s discovery.
"Eppur, si muove." Even if he didn't say it, I'm sure he wanted to....
And here Mr. Randi desperately clings to an old urban legend by stating, ironically enough, that he is sure or certain (more irony) that Galileo wanted to say something under his breath at the end of his forced retraction of his discovery. It is a legend that many people so very badly wish were true that they often fail to doubt and question its validity, and formulate creative ways of not letting it go. Just like Mr. Randi has done.
The entire premise behind Mr. Randi’s rant so far is that science is somehow at odds with Christianity. That is nothing more than a modern myth borne of prejudice, intolerance and ignorance. In fact, people with Mr. Randi’s view of “science vs. religion” would do well to reflect upon the fact that many of the greatest scientists in history were not only Christians, but viewed science as being complementary to their faith. As Johann Kepler stated, his work - science - was simply “thinking God’s thoughts after him.” Imagine the outcry if a modern scientist had made that proclamation! No doubt that Mr. Randi would be jockeying to be first in line to condemn such a person as “naïve” and illogical. One wonders how Mr. Randi and all those like him can possibly view historic scientists and their work with anything other than complete disdain and disgust.
Yes, I'm a materialist.
For those who are wondering, materialism is the belief that matter is the only reality and that everything in the universe - including time, thought, emotions, consciousness, etc. - can be explained by it. It is claimed to be a theory, but all it really is is an assumption.
I'm willing to be shown wrong, but that has not happened — yet.
Considering that Mr. Randi is close-minded to any possibility outside of materialism, it is unlikely that he will ever be shown wrong. His beliefs preclude anything but materialist conclusions, so for him to say that he is willing to be shown wrong is the height of hypocrisy. He admits as much in the following paragraph:
And I admit that the reason I'm unable to accept the claims of psychic, occult, and/or supernatural wonders is because I'm locked into a world-view that demands evidence rather than blind faith, a view that insists upon the replication of all experiments — particularly those that appear to show violations of a rational world — and a view which requires open examination of the methods used to carry out those experiments.
Which is just a verbose way of saying, “If it doesn’t fit into my materialist preconceptions, I automatically reject it.”
The decision to be a materialist is my own, I made it after many years of consideration of what I observed, and after reading Bertrand Russell and others.
Mr. Randi apparently denies that people decide to be Christians on their own. I and countless other Christians who did decide on our own would beg to differ, but I’m sure that fact would be meaningless to Mr. Randi. To him and those like him, all Christians are in the same category: we only believe because of fear and ignorance. And Mr. Randi claims to be a fan of facts? One has to wonder when he is going to use them.
Since it was not a mere reaction to incoming information, but the result of examining that information, I'm proud of my decision.
Yet Mr. Randi “merely” reacts to incoming information about Christianity with nothing but contempt and vitriol. He doesn’t even attempt to examine the information. He’s proud to have decided to be close-minded.
And, of course, Christians are assumed to never examine information. Yep. We’re just a bunch of mindless simpletons who are completely unable to critically examine anything. Our beliefs just “are” and that’s that!
(Aside: I'm proud of being an American, a skeptic, and a bright. I only take pride in those things that I accomplished, not those that I was born with or was given.
I have no idea what relevence this has. Is Mr. Randi saying that people are either born as Christians or have their Christianity given to them and thus should not be proud?
I chose to be an American, and I earned that distinction, I became and remain a skeptic though it was difficult and still gives me problems,
Perhaps if Mr. Randi had a realistic idea about what he’s being skeptical about regarding Christianity, he wouldn’t be having problems. He might end up not being a skeptic anymore, too.
and being a bright is flying in the face of those millions who label me inferior because I'm not superstitious like they are.
"Millions” of people - Christians, no doubt - have labelled Mr. Randi as “inferior” because he isn’t a Christian? How exactly does he know for a fact that “millions” do this? Perhaps a few misguided people do, but they do not reflect the beliefs of the whole.
I don't care; I know and accept the real world.)
Only as long as what he thinks he knows and accepts fits in with his unyielding, orthodox materialst preconceptions.
As a child, I was told to believe that savages were doomed to boil in molten sulfur if they did not accept the "merciful" deity that was described to me, even if they had no opportunity of knowing about him/it!
This seems to be a bit of hyperbole, but it’s not unbelievable that Mr. Randi was taught something essentially to that effect. That’s unfortunate. The Bible teaches no such thing, of course, but Mr. Randi’s alleged love of examining information doesn’t extend to this and other issues involving Christianity. That’s even more unfortunate.
That deity, from what I was told, suffered from many serious defects that I was told to avoid.
“Serious defects” means stuff that he doesn’t like and that he can twist and misportray. Note that he offers no examples of what he means by any of the following. Not surprising.
He/it was capricious,
Mr. Randi means that he thinks God is unpredictable, though there is no information to back up this claim..
Not sure where he got that idea from.
This accusation once again shows Mr. Randi’s lack of examination of information. Had he bothered to do a little research, he’d have discovered that the Bible uses the words sometimes translated as “jealous” in a positive sense. In the sense that God is jealous, that doesn’t mean He desires the attributes of anyone or anything other than Himself.
Meaning that God does something Mr. Randi doesn’t like: punishes the wicked and sinful.
sadistic, and cruel,
Yes, which is why he provided a way for salvation by sending his only Son to die on the cross for our sins.
and demanded constant praise, sacrifice, adulation, and ego-support,
First of all, God does not need praise, adulation and - as Mr. Randi so petulantly put it - “ego-support.” God does not require anything from us and He is Almighty God either with or without worshippers and worship. But yes, God does command obedience. He has the right and the authority to do so. However, what God commands is not a burden upon those who choose to love and obey Him. If Mr. Randi and anyone else thinks God’s commands were or are burdens upon themselves, perhaps they should re-examine their spiritual lives.
or the penalties could be very severe.
The penalties for not obeying man’s laws are often severe, but does that mean our justice system and those who work for it are “capricious, insecure, jealous, vindictive, sadistic, and cruel?” Of course not. When we break laws, there are consequences, just as there are when we disobey God. If there were no penalties, God would be weak and unworthy of worship and obedience.
I found, early on in my observations, that religious people were very fearful, trembling and wondering if they'd committed any infractions of the multitude of rules they had to follow. They were — and are — ruled by fear. That's not my style.
I won’t deny that some Christians live like that, but they don’t need to and are not the rule. Christianity isn’t about the fear of “committing any infractions” but about freedom from that very fear. This fact is quite obvious from Jesus’ teachings. Once again, Mr. Randi’s observational skills seem to be lacking in light of his prejudice against Christianity.
But it was the incredible stories I was told, that really made me rear back in disbelief. For examples, they told me, some 2,000 years ago a mid-East virgin was impregnated by a ghost of some sort, and as a result produced a son who could walk on water, raise the dead, turn water into wine, and multiply loaves of bread and fishes. All that was in addition to tossing out demons. He expected and accepted a brutal, sadistic, death — and then he rose from the dead.
It’s ironic that the [primarily secular] opponents of Mr. Randi’s hero of this commentary - Galileo - also “reared back in disbelief” at his “incredible stories” of moons orbiting Jupiter. Like Mr. Randi and countless other skeptics... er, sorry... “Brights,” they were too close-minded to even consider the possibility of anything else. Had they not been “locked into” their “unyielding” and “orthodox” scientific version of how the world and universe worked, they would have been open to Galileo’s discovery. Instead, they stuck to their scientific dogma and convinced the Catholic Church to charge Galileo and force him to recant. It’s amazing that hundreds of years later, we’ve arrived at the same point, but from the opposite direction.
There was much, much, more. Adam and Eve, they said, were the original humans, plunked down in a garden to start our species going. But I didn't understand, and still don't, that they had only two children, both sons — and one of them killed the other — yet somehow they produced enough people to populate the Earth, without incest, which was a big no-no!
Mr. Randi’s ignorance here is simply astounding, especially for a man who prides himself on observation and research! Had he bothered to actually read Genesis (or any other part of the Bible, for that matter), he would have learned that Adam and Eve had more than “only two children, both sons.” In addition to Seth, who is mentioned in the same chapter as Cain and Abel, they had both sons and daughters during their long lifetimes. Also, incest wasn’t “a big no-no” until the time of the Exodus. Why? Adam and Eve were created perfect, but their rebellion from God brought sin, death and imperfection into the world. At first, incest would not have resulted in the problems we associate it with today, but by the time of Moses, it did.
Then some prophet or other made the Earth stop turning,
What?! A skeptic who doesn’t believe that the passage from Joshua about the sun stopping in the sky means that the Bible teaches geocentricity?! I am truly surprised.
an army blew horns until a wall fell down,
a guy named Moses made the Red Sea divide in two, and made frogs fall out of the sky...
Actually, God made those things happen, but I’ve given up on Mr. Randi having any real understanding of these things.
I needn't go on.
Yes, he needn’t, if only to salvage any remaining credibility he has on the subject of Christianity.
And that's only a small start on one religion!
Yes, a small yet enormously misportrayed and misunderstood part.
The Wizard of Oz is more believable. And more fun.
That is nothing more than a cheap dig at Christianity. Whereas Christianity deals with real-world events, places and people recorded in 66 separate books by dozens of authors over hundreds of years, the Wizard of Oz is one book that deals with a fantasy world with fantasy events and fantasy people constructed by one man.
So what have we seen so far? In regards to Christianity, Mr. Randi is not only close-minded, but sorely and willfully ignorant. This is not good for someone so outspoken, as it strains his credibility to the limit. Mr. Randi should do himself a favor and actually learn about what he is being so skeptical about. His current knowledge (or lack thereof) just doesn’t cut it.
Time constraints (I have a new baby daughter, not to mention my rambunctious 2-year-old son) have curtailed my ability to respond to the rest of Mr. Randi’s anti-Christian rant in a timely manner. Of course, the rest of the article is just a more verbose version of the straw man arguments and other absurd or just plain false statements he’s made so far. He goes on and on about how skeptics supposedly are willing to consider all the evidence (they’re not, and he proves it), how their refusal to believe isn’t as strong as the faith of those who do believe (it is, and he proves it), and how they don’t have any degree of metaphysical outlook (they do, and he proves it). He lauds the "merits" of materialism and how it doesn’t need to be tested or proven - it "just is," hypocritically enough. He lambastes religious artifacts as if it is somehow meaningful to do so. He unabashedly tells whoppers like the following (which makes me think that he should get together with Acharya S and go bowling):
Aristotle, upon whose teachings much of Christianity is based...
The interesting thing about Mr. Randi’s rant is that he takes issue with Aristotle’s view of how the universe works, but then praises him the next for being such a great thinker. Of course, the same does not apply to Christians who, according to Mr. Randi, have been, are and always will be the enemies of intelligence, logic, reason, rationality, science and reality. Quite the dogma he follows, no?
And what would an anti-religion/-Christianity rant be without the allegation that "religion is behind so many of the major tragedies of humanity?" The piece just wouldn’t be proper without it. Hey, nevermind that the greatest "tragedies of humanity" occurred under the direction of a(nti)theists like Stalin, Lenin and Pol Pot. Let’s point out the extreme and very rare cases like David Koresh’s Branch Davidians, the nerve gas attack in the Tokyo subway, the mass-suicide Jim Jones’ followers, etc. ad nauseum. Yep. Those are the prime examples of what religion is all about. Forget about all the missionaries and other Christian humanitarians who have saved countless lives. Their example is meaningless. Religion is evil!
Mr. Randi also invokes the name of the current U.S. President:
...and I have faith that George W. Bush will eventually cease appealing to a deity or invoking prayer in every one of his public appearances....
No doubt Mr. Randi also has faith that all the references to God that can be found in and on public buildings and national memorials in the nation’s capitol will be sandblasted away, torn down and destroyed or carted off to an out-of-the-way closet or storage room. And I’m sure he would have no problem with laws completely forbidding any government employees (elected or hired) from expressing any belief in God. I guess only atheists are truly fit to serve in public office.
The piece continues with the false contention that religion and science are complete opposites. Perhaps Mr. Randi should consider the words of one of histories greatest scientists, Johann Kepler, who stated that science is "thinking God’s thoughts after him." Ah, but I’m sure Mr. Randi would consider Kepler with the same contradictory attitude that he does Aristotle.
Next, Randi regurgitates the standard objections of skeptics: the Bible is racist, it justifies slavery, it is full of "perfectly obvious errors and blunders," and that any attempt to explain the Bible is always wrong and will never convince him of anything else. Not suprisingly, this completely contradicts everything he previously stated about skeptics being open to examining all the evidence and not being "locked into" an "unyielding" and "orthodox" worldview! You just cannot make this stuff up, folks. Talk about "perfectly obvious errors and blunders."
Following that rather goofy bit of contradiction, Mr. Randi makes the bizarre claim that all the architecture, paintings, music and sculpture that most sane people attribute to religious inspiration were actually inspired by nothing more than the desire for money and more social or political power. "They were prompted by fear," he claims, as he always does in regards to people of faith. Mr. Randi makes it clear that he believes that all those things would have been "much better" had they been "directed to, and designed for, our species — rather than for mythical beings in the sky or under the ground." Note that we again see the contradictory nature of Mr. Randi’s claims. First he attributes religious artwork to "money, power and fear," but then turns around and attributes them to belief in "mythical beings." Of course, if today’s modern, non- or even anti-religious art (which, ironically enough, actually is inspired by money, power and fear) is any indication of what Michelangelo’s David, the Sistine Chapel, and Da Vinci’s "the Last Supper" could have been, I am very, very thankful for the religious inspirations behind them that Mr. Randi despises. He thanks "the mythology for giving me Handel's ‘Messiah,’ but that doesn't make up for the suffering, grief, fear, and the millions of dead that need not have been...." Was it supposed to?
Mr. Randi moves on to the subject of the rewards and punishments in the afterlife. He claims, "It's a tyranny, a trap, a disaster of infinite size and scope. I'll have none of it." Whether he wants to or not, he will have it. There are no "religious objectors" before God.
We are then implored to:
Examine the notion of a "loving god." This god only loves you if you follow the rules. No questions, no doubts, no objections, are allowed. "Because I said so, that's why." He/she/it loves you as a farmer loves a draft-animal; you're useful, you obey, and you're docile. If you stray, your firstborn will be murdered, if you don't follow a capricious order, you're a pillar of salt. This is "love"? If so, I'll take indifference.
What utter ignorance! What a blatant straw man! God loves everyone whether they follow His rules or not, and he absolutely does not mind questions, doubts or objections as long as they are open-mindedly used to come to a greater understanding of Him. One needs only read the stories of some of the greatest figures in the Bible. They often questioned, doubted and objected, but those things led them to a better relationship with God. Of course, if you read the story of the prophet Jonah, you will see perhaps the best example of how his close-minded questions, doubts and objections ultimately brought him into disfavor with God. But even as Jonah did so, God still loved him.
Still, Randi tries to assert what he has proven to be false:
Unlike the religious, who have it all cut-and-dried, predigested and served up to them, I'm willing to be shown.
As I noted above, he’s already stated that he is not willing to be shown anything in regards to religion.
But I will not entertain the argument of threats and fear,
No one said he had to, but he has shown that he views any argument from someone who is religious as "threats and fear."
I will not fall for the "we don't know everything" throw-down,
Even though that "throw-down" is used by scientists all the time to explain the problems with things like the theory of evolution. You’d think that in regards to "we don’t know everything," Mr. Randi could at least agree with religion.
Mr. Randi begins his conclusion by listing things he does believe in: "the basic goodness of my species" (the vast majority of which follow the basic evil of religion - more contradiction) and that aging and dying is an evolutionary process that is the result of an evolutionary process and that promotes the evolutionary process. (And to think that I recently had an exchange with someone who took issue with people arguing for Christianity using Christianity!) Furthermore, he believes in "puppy-dogs and a child's sparkling eyes, in laughter and smiles, in sunflowers and butterflies. Mountains and icebergs, snowflakes and clouds, are delights to me." All of which are the result of sterile, uncaring, random processes, according to materialists. He follows this by stating that he can be human and find patterns in the chaoticness of clouds. Interestingly enough, that is essentially what he is doing with all the things he believes in: finding patterns in the chaos. As with finding patterns in the clouds, it is all essentially meaningless in the materialist world-view.
Finally, Mr. Randi quotes Krakauer:
"Faith is the very antithesis of reason, injudiciousness a critical component of spiritual devotion." That says it all.
Yes, it does. It says that Mr. Randi is a complete hypocrite. [And wrong about the meaning of faith. - Ed.]
I will conclude by sharing a brief email exchange I recently had with Mr. Randi. Like his anti-religion/-Christianity commentary, it is just as bizarre and full of irrational assertions and falsehoods:
To: James Randi
From your recent commentary/rant against religion:
"...in what way does the state acknowledging God, not violate separation of church and state?" (Question from a reader, which you agreed with.)
Had you actually done a little research, you'd have discovered that "the state" acknowledging God is not new, rare or a violation of the First Amendment. (At least, not a violation according to the sensible, traditional standards that this country held up until the mid 1900s.) Almost every state constitution begins with an acknowledgment of God! More often than not, it's even "Almighty God" than just simply "God." Wouldn't that mean that all those constitutions are in violation of the modern misinterpretation of the First Amendment? Perhaps Michael Newdow, the ACLU, Barry Lynn's Americans United, and the Freedom From Religion Foundation can fight to get them declared "unconstitutional" by some whack-job federal appeals court whose standard off-the-wall decisions are nearly always overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. Perhaps those states, with their constitutions declared "unconstitutional," should go back to British law. That'd be fun, wouldn't it? (Incidentally, the "defense" that the preambles to state constitutions have no "force of law" is meaningless. While it is true that they are not laws themselves, they still show the basis on which the constitutional laws are based.)
But I digress...
The author of the phrase "separation of church and state," Thomas Jefferson, would no doubt be appalled by how his words have been misused in this day and age. Remember (or, if you didn't know before, learn) that Jefferson attended Christian worship services within Congress shortly after he penned that phrase. Not only that, but he also allowed Christian worship services to be held in other government buildings. Doesn't sound much like someone who would agree with you and other hyper-separationists and your "separation of church and state" mantra, unless, of course, you want to call Jefferson a liar and/or a hypocrite (and a "credophile" for believing - albeit somewhat differently - in God in the first place).
Furthermore, countless national monuments and other sites in Washington, D.C., and the rest of the country have acknowledgments of God. Do we now move the Washington Memorial because the capstone is engraved with an acknowledgement (in Latin) of God? (I wonder if there are any closets in Washington, D.C., big enough to hide it from offended misotheist eyes.)
How about the U.S. Supreme Court itself? You do know that they begin every session by acknowledging God, don't you? "God save the United States and this honorable Court." Perhaps the Court should be declared unconstitutional, too. (Actually, I seem to recall that super-atheist Michael Newdow might try that tactic before the Court.)
I'm NOT sorry to tell you this, but your position on "separation of church and state" is built on nothing more than sinking sand. The facts are against you, as are the majority of people in this country who disagreed with the decision to remove the Alabama Ten Commandments monument. The history of this country is based on the freedom to acknowledge God, not rampant, look-down-your-nose-with-extreme-contempt-at-believers-whom-you-derogatorily-call-"credophiles", hyper-separationist secularizing.
I used to like your website and commentaries, but in light of your recent and bizarre obsession with trying to prove to everyone how big the chip on your shoulder against religion is, I find that I can no longer enjoy them. I also won't be refering anyone to your website anymore and will urge others to follow my lead.
Finally, a bit of advice: if you wish to criticize the Bible further in the future, try cracking one open and reading it first. Your blatantly obvious lack of knowledge about the simplest of subjects (e.g. how many children Adam and Eve had - clue: it was more than 2) betrays your ignorance and hypocritical stance on the value of research. A Sunday School student could have easily bested your knowledge of it. Perhaps in taking the time to read and research the Bible with an open mind, you might discover that it's not so bad. Who knows? You might even become a dreaded "credophile" yourself.
From: James Randi
You may be right. But then, Richard Nixon may be alive and well and living in Argentina with Martin Bormann.... I regret that the truth so offends you and evokes such fear and resentment. If you're right, then you needn't worry, right? Then why are you so terrified?
To: James Randi
Oh, I assure you that I _am_ right and that I am not motivated by offense, fear, resentment and/or terror. The same cannot be said about you and many others, however. Why get in such a panic over a monument (which is not a law that people are being forced to follow) that is little different from monuments that have been around for decade upon decade? Why irrationally compare Chief Justice Moore to racists of the 1960s? Why not take the time to actually read, research and learn about something you are criticizing? Why invent and continually use obviously derogatory terms like "credophile?"
Why, if not for the reasons you are projecting onto me?
From: James Randi
Oh, I assure you that I _am_ right and that I am not motivated by offense, fear, resentment and/or terror.
Well, something gets you riled up, obviously....
The same cannot be said about you and many others, however.
Why get in such a panic over a monument (which is not a law that people are being forced to follow) that is little different from monuments that have been around for decade upon decade?
No panic, I assure you. I'm amused, irritated, and shocked that a Chief Justice can ignore the order of the Supreme Court. Sound like a good reason?
Why irrationally compare Chief Justice Moore to racists of the 1960s?
I've not done that, and can see no reason for such a comparison.
Why not take the time to actually read, research and learn about something you are criticizing?
Oh, I have done so. It was summarized last week. Had you been less carried away with your own righteousness, you might have read it.
Why invent and continually use obviously derogatory terms like "credophile?"
Wrong. That term originated with author L. Sprague de Camp. I'm surprised that you find it derogatory.
Why, if not for the reasons you are projecting onto me?
....just stand out of the way and the fancied "projection" will pass you by. I now have no further time for you.
Randi obviously confused my general examples of skeptic/atheistic offense, fear, resentment and/or terror as all being examples of things he’s done, despite the fact that I used the phrase "you and many others." What an ego he has! Ah, well. I will echo his final statement: I have no more time for James Randi. When I started this response to his rant, I still liked his work, but since then, he’s continued to babble at least in part about the evils of religion in his weekly commentaries. His descent into offense, fear, resentment and terror have just become too much to stomach. It’s unfortunate, but not surprising. Such is the way of two-bit skeptics.