Friday, April 25, 2008

Prove dat mumbo-jumbo, man!

I love it!

LONDON (Reuters) - Fortune-tellers, mediums and spiritual healers marched on the home of the British prime minister at Downing Street on Friday to protest against new laws they fear will lead to them being "persecuted and prosecuted".

Organizers say that replacing the Fraudulent Mediums Act of 1951 with new consumer protection rules will remove key legal protection for "genuine" mediums.

They think skeptics might bring malicious prosecutions to force spiritualists to prove in court that they can heal people, see into the future or talk to the dead.

Psychics also fear they will have to give disclaimers describing their services as entertainment or as scientific experiments with unpredictable results.

. . .

With the changes expected to come into force next month, spiritualists have faced a barrage of headlines gleefully suggesting that they should have seen it coming.

I think such legislation is long overdue. What the news report doesn't specify is that it applies, not to those who participate in (or conduct) such activities as a voluntary activity, but those who offer such services for money.

I've never met a medium, or spiritualist, or 'psychic healer', who could convince me that they were genuine. Not even close. They could never produce any verifiable, empirical evidence of healings or 'manifestations' that could be measured scientifically. Unfortunately, there are many gullible people out there who've been taken to the financial cleaners by such charlatans. I'm all for limiting the opportunity for such fraud.

Of course, there will be those who argue that organized religion might be considered in the same light. You may be shocked to learn that I agree with them. I'm a believer, a retired pastor: but I have to admit, some of the shenanigans of televangelists, preachers of 'miracle crusades' (which seem to come through my part of the country with monotonous regularity), and the like, are stomach-turning. I classify them in the same category as fake psychics and fortune-tellers.

To me, one's religion is something one does, not something one talks about. Action speaks louder than words. If you believe something, live it! I won't call someone a Christian just because he or she verbally professes that belief and goes to church every Sunday. I've known many such people who live the most Godless and sinful lives imaginable once they get home. Similarly, I've known some out-and-out atheists and skeptics whom I regard as fine men and women, more Christian in their behavior and treatment of others than most of those you'll find in church. In my understanding of God and faith, such people will have their reward. So will the other variety.

My faith isn't threatened when others mock it or refuse to share it. I try to show it by the way I live. If that evidence makes some people want to know more, I'm grateful. If they don't like what they see, if it isn't convincing, the fault isn't God's - it's mine, for not living as I should. And I don't think churches should demand an automatic tithe, or a set 'fee' or 'planned giving' on a regular basis. Isn't that a bit like psychic charlatans demanding money up front?

If those churches are doing God's work, their actions rather than their words will convey it. Those who are convinced by the way they see God's word being lived out on a daily basis will contribute, because such contributions are part of living a shared faith. They're voluntary and given from the heart. On the other hand, if people don't see that sort of faith in action, if they don't see the fruits of belief, why should they be asked to pay on the basis of a legalistic formula? Isn't that what a mandatory tithe really is - legalism?

(I'm probably going to be blasted as heretical by many of my minister friends for saying that, but oh, well, . . . )



Dave said...

Peter, this is perhaps the best-reasoned commentary on religion I have read this side of Jefferson. You've cut straight to the heart of my dissatisfaction with the church (small-c) and most nominally-Christian people I know.

fuzzys dad said...

Very Well Said!

Ben said...

Well said, good sir. Well said indeed.