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James Randi's Latest Debunking Operation 498

An anonymous reader writes "The pair of documentarians behind An Honest Man — The Story of the Amazing James Randi will not only talk to the likes of like Adam Savage, Bill Nye, Richard Dawkins, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Penn and Teller about the life of the famous magician/skeptic, but they'll also follow Randi's latest operation as he assembles 'an Ocean's Eleven-type team for a carefully orchestrated exposure of a fraudulent religious organization.'"
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James Randi's Latest Debunking Operation

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 17, 2012 @05:22AM (#39071963)

    [blocked by lawsuit]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 17, 2012 @05:37AM (#39072021)

    The problem with exposing religious frauds is that True Believers will ignore the evidence and carry on believing in them and sending money anyway. They will see it as a chance to "strengthen their faith" and ignore the evidence even harder.

  • by Erect Horsecock ( 655858 ) on Friday February 17, 2012 @05:41AM (#39072033) Homepage Journal

    Randi has gone after a lot of pseudo-religious organizations and they're still lots more to go before you can narrow it down to Co$. [] - An entire city and school bought and controlled by Maharishi Mahesh's Transcendental Meditation organization

    The Mormon Church - Self explanatory

    Raëlism - Wacked out UFO cult founded by a Frenchman in 1974 with anywhere from 2000-5000 followers globally

    Moonies - Sun Myung Moons private church where he claims to be Christ (and about every other major religious character) that owns The Washington Times, Kahr Firearms, and many other companies. Personal audience has been given to a few POTUS

    Harold Camping's Family Radio - The guy who predicted the rapture a few times in the past couple of years

    Lots and lots of possibilities. Co$ would be interesting for Randi to take on but it would be cool to see him deal with any of the above as well

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 17, 2012 @06:26AM (#39072239)

      You've left out patriotism.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      And Christianity.

      Actually, what's the difference between a pseudo-Religion and a Religion?

      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 17, 2012 @09:14AM (#39072937)

        A sudo religion doesn't have root.

      • by dkf ( 304284 ) <> on Friday February 17, 2012 @09:26AM (#39073041) Homepage

        Actually, what's the difference between a pseudo-Religion and a Religion?

        Number of adherents, especially relative to overall population size.

      • I should've explained that. Excluding the Mormon Church (I could be wrong about it since I've just really started learning about it in the past few months) the others on the list aren't really a religion, a buisness, or anything really. Maybe you could apply religious movement to one or two but the rest are just kinda these groups that mix god/aliens with their lifestyle and recruit others into it.

        Where as a RELIGION I would state has a dogma, a leader, followers, and have no requirements to join other than

        • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Friday February 17, 2012 @11:41AM (#39074839) Homepage Journal

          Where as a RELIGION I would state has a dogma, a leader, followers, and have no requirements to join other than maybe a ritual.

          Many religions are like that, probably all the real ones. In a real Christian church (and Bhuddists and Hindus are probably the same) you can walk right in, be greeted with a smile, maybe get a free cup of coffee and donuts, watch the show (music and sermon, a good preacher will have you laughing), and not be required to contribute a penny or do anything else. When they pass the collection bag you're not required to put anything in at all. Even the rituals are voluntary (baptism and communion).

          If you have to pay to get in, it isn't a church. If it doesn't give almost all the money that's donated to it away it probably isn't, either.

          BTW, don't worry about the meds, you're perfectly lucid.

      • by Fished ( 574624 ) <> on Friday February 17, 2012 @10:09AM (#39073567)

        Meh. Randi has a couple of youtube videos attacking the Bible, and as a trained professional in the field (Ph.D. in New Testament from University of Virginia) i was not impressed. His opening attack in one of the youtube videos I watched is to attack the location of Nazareth, with lots of chuckles about the tourist industry there and the implication that the town didn't exist. What this really demonstrates is that Randi doesn't have any understanding about the ancient world or the challenges presented by the paucity of evidence for things in the first century. The funny thing is that skeptical claims regarding the New Testament keep being disproven by subsequent archaeological evidence. For example, 100 years ago skeptics told us that Quirinius was never governor of Judaea (or was it Licenius? Can't remember and too lazy to look it up) because there was no extra-Biblical attestation. When extra-Biblical attestation was found, they switched up and started attacking something else. What skeptics generally ignore is that the books of the New Testament are themselves first-century documents, offering compelling evidence for many elements of the first-century, from people enormously better prepared to separate "truth" from "fiction" than we are 2000 years later. They want to dismiss the evidence offered by the New Testament out of hand, because the documents are "religious" and therefore not trustworthy even in very ordinary claims (there was a town called Nazareth, for example) without external verification. If questioning the existence and location of Nazareth is the best Randi's got, I'm not at all impressed.

      • by Rimbo ( 139781 ) <> on Friday February 17, 2012 @01:55PM (#39076679) Homepage Journal

        Depends on what you mean by the terms. If you're talking about destructive sham cults vs. non-destructive, non-sham cults ("legitimate religions"), a few of the notable differences are:

        • Cults will typically require you to sign up or pay a fee in order to learn their teaching. Legitimate religions are up-front about all their beliefs.
        • Cults typically isolate their members from "non-believing" friends and family members, requiring you to break ties with "unbelievers."
        • Cults require you to believe precisely what the leaders tell you to believe; dissension is not allowed. Legitimate religions have congregations where you may experience a great variety of opinions, sometimes with only a handful of topics where you could find everyone agreeing.
        • Legitimate religions tend to expect their clergy and leadership to be held to a higher standard of behavior than their members, while cult leaders are not to be questioned ever.
        • Cults typically make it difficult, if not impossible, to leave; with religions, you just stop.
        • Cults will typically demand that you give up your "material wealth" to the founders. Religions may point out the value of tithing or pass the hat around, but they'll never kick you out if you show up every week and never contribute a thing.

        The above looks almost like a point-by-point rebuttal of Scientology, but that's just an odd coincidence; Scientology is far from the first or only destructive cult to fit that definition. You can find mainline Christian churches that fit into both categories, although I think you'll find that most of them don't.

        By "pseudo-religion" you could also mean something that has all the trappings of religion but claims to be anti-religion, e.g. Maoism in China.

    • by fermion ( 181285 )
      Either one agrees that people have the right to worship as they will, or you don't. It is not up to us to decide which organizations are religious, and which are not. In the US the only real concern is the IRS and tax breaks. This involves stuff like getting involve in politics.

      Really, there should be no special religious exemption. Churches should be able to apply as a non profit, and get those benefits, but if they are not doing non profit work, they should not be able to have any special dispensatio

    • Do you actually know any Mormans? Their religion in strange, but so is all of Christianity. They are no more "pseudo" religion than any other religion I've encountered, and the vast majority a better people than the average asshole.

  • by Daniel Dvorkin ( 106857 ) on Friday February 17, 2012 @05:44AM (#39072039) Homepage Journal

    As opposed to all the non-fraudulent religious organizations?

    • by crankyspice ( 63953 ) on Friday February 17, 2012 @05:56AM (#39072101)

      As opposed to all the non-fraudulent religious organizations?

      They're out there. I have faith that even you, too, shall one day be Touched by His Noodly Appendage.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Touched by His Noodly Appendage.

        That would be appropriate, but Pastafarians can't keep playing catch up to other religions. At some point you're either full of noodles, or you're not.

        I was touched a few months ago. The message that fell in my lap told about the gradual downfall of all spaghetti on Earth by 711 AP (After Pasta). Of course it's confusing how many years we have left - due to floating point error or something. Because as we know, pasta is the origin of all math symbols, so the years start counting erratically towards the end.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 17, 2012 @06:12AM (#39072171)
      Christianity: The belief that a cosmic Jewish Zombie who was his own father can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree.
    • by DrXym ( 126579 ) on Friday February 17, 2012 @06:27AM (#39072247)
      There are organizations such as Oxfam, The Samaritans, Trocaire etc which have religious origins but offer valuable, impartial, non judgemental aid to people regardless of race, creed or colour.

      Sadly there are a lot of other organisations which are more interested in lining their own pockets or pushing Jesus and less in the whole helping people part. Scientology seems to specialize in such rackets.

      • by ( 1706780 ) on Friday February 17, 2012 @07:23AM (#39072469)

        I have to agree with you there. I know nearly nothing about Scientology, but I agree with you on principle.

        I don't see why it's so popular on Slashdot to hate people who believe in some sort of God. My faith teaches me to do nothing but good things, I may not always live my faith very well though.

        I also strongly disapprove of religions whose teachings include holy wars or science hating or things like that.

        In the absence of that though, I really feel we should all just live and let live. If you don't believe in God? Fine. I don't hate you for it. My best friend is an Atheist. He doesn't hate me because I do though, he realises that it makes me happy, and he's happy with that.

        • by dissy ( 172727 ) on Friday February 17, 2012 @08:07AM (#39072635)

          I have to agree with you there. I know nearly nothing about Scientology, but I agree with you on principle.

          I don't see why it's so popular on Slashdot to hate people who believe in some sort of God.

          Scientologists do not believe in a god or God (or Gods), they believe in Aliens in space ships who's souls lay dormant in earths volcanoes, put there by Xenu long ago during the great space battle. These souls infecting us humans are the reason for our misery and pain.
          (No, I am *NOT* kidding or making that up!)

          They do not believe in helping others. They believe that if you pay them very large 5-digit sums of money every couple of months, that they will remove these souls from your body, thus ridding you of pain and misery.

          That is why most slashdotters hate and despise scientologists.
          That and their well documented crimes such as kidnapping, torture, and murder.

          If you would like to fix the first line I quoted from you and put in bold, I highly recommend the second link here, or the first to "dip your toes" in this frightening subject:

        • by Tom ( 822 )

          I don't see why it's so popular on Slashdot to hate people who believe in some sort of God.

          Because most people on /. have taken Logic 101 and know that a false assumption is incredibly dangerous. From it, you can conclude whatever you want in a seemingly consistent way. Everything that follows from a false assumption is worse than false, it is meaningless.

          If your core assumption about the world is wrong, then everything you say is suspect, until shown to be free from that particular taint. That is not hatred, that is applied logic.

          And we don't hate you. We despise your faith. Big difference.

          • Dude, did you even bother to read the rest of the stuff that I wrote? What has my faith done to you? What reason do you have to hate it?

            Frankly, I find your assertion that the original premise is false to be offensive. (No, I'm not new here, I know that's par for the course on /.) I believe in God, and I can accept that you don't. What I can't accept is your assertion that my belief is false, when there is in fact no scientific evidence to support either viewpoint.

            Don't come with big bang and evolution

            • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 17, 2012 @11:31AM (#39074691)

              Your "faith" is no problem. Faith is a firm belief in something for which you have no proof either way. Fine, no problem there. You are obviously correct in saying that there is no proof that there is no god. But neither is there proof that there is a god. If we knew for sure either way, then your "faith" and my "scepticism" would be redundant - this would be a 'fact' that we could all subscribe to.

              The problem is that if you start believing in things for which there is no proof (which is what your "faith" is) then there are an infinite number of things that you might choose to have faith in. Why (for example) do you have no faith that there are ten blue piano-playing aardvarks living on the dark side of the moon? There is exactly as much evidence for that idea as there is for your god idea. Why one and not the other? If you had started with a blank slate - why would you have picked on this particular random idea of a "god" to believe in?

              I think the problem here is that the sceptics and atheists here find it irrational (at best) to base your life on one particular unfounded belief when there are a literal infinity of other possibilities. You could never have come up with this god idea on your own - the only possible reason to believe in it is because someone else suggested it to you. Where did they get the idea from? Essentially, this "god" concept is nothing more than a self-perpetuating meme which has passed down the generations as it infects one human mind after another.

              Sceptics (mostly) hate this stuff because it adversely affects our lives. If your randomly-chosen un-provable (and un-falsifiable) belief were just yours and did not impact us - then we'd be OK with it. The problem is that people who are infected with the same meme as you have done unspeakably terrible things. The loony religious wing of our society are behind things like the rejection of evolution - the attempt to suppress valid medical treatments such as stem cell research - the outright rejection of the threat of global warming. Religion is responsible for terrorism - most wars have some kind of religious undertones. Many, many evils can be laid at the feet of religion.

              Sure, YOUR take on this stuff may not be directly evil - but in general, this meme has an evil overall effect and your continued support for it is certainly not helping. The more people who believe in this stuff - the more it'll be passed on to the next generation and the more evil will ultimately stem from it.

  • by Antique Geekmeister ( 740220 ) on Friday February 17, 2012 @08:23AM (#39072719)

    James Randi is in the best of company in his late career. Harry Houdin became furious with people who claimed his feats of escape and stage magic were done with mystical powers such as teleportation. Harry devoted a great deal of effort to debunking the horrible and clumsy stage magicians who were conning people with seances and mystical powers. In the midst of the industrial revolution, this fascination with the miraculous was infuriating to someone like Houdine, and now to people like James Randi, who've mastered their crafts and see clumsy charlatans using them against innocent people.

    This kind of debunking is in the very best scientific tradition: providing an alternative explanation that requires no violation of previous experiment or understood principles is at the basis of how science works, and helps teach us how to verify new claims properly. I genuinely wish more engineers had the time, or made the time, to study debunking to understand better how their own inattention or deceit by other people can confuse their results.

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"