Originally posted by Robert Allen:
I think people are really misreading the situation quite a bit if they think that the believers can be convinced that there is no life after death. If people subscribe to religion, is subscribing to people who claim they can speak to the dead so much of a reach? And if you wouldn't berate someone for believing in Transubstantiation, or Heaven, or other such things, why berate them for believing in angels, or earthbound spirits?
As much as I disdain anyone who would use guile to prey on someones bereavment, let alone cheat them out of their money, I believe it can be argued that honest palmists, tarot card readers, etc. are providing a service just as a minister provides. By 'honest' I mean those who basically charge you for a reading, not those who encourage you to turn off your life savings for a Gypsy Switch.
I think Robert makes a good point. "Shermerian" skeptics and magicians tend to paint spiritualists, psychics, and "new age" paranormal proponents with a broad brush as if these people are either morons or criminals out to defraud the innocent and gullible with their "mentalist" tricks.
The simple truth is there is no simple truth -- neither side is inherently evil and neither sides' viewpoint can be proven or disproven. Before we condemn certain nonconformist thinkers to psychiatrists or take control of the finances of those whose belief system we do not approve, condone, or completely understand, I suggest that we first recognize their Constitutional right to freedom of religion and personal belief.
Originally posted by AntonioMCabral:
Now, why is there something romantic, enticing and dare I say admirable about the card cheat, while psychics enrage me to the point of graphic violence? I would say it has to do with the nature of the victims.
I think it has more to do with the viewpoint of the conjurer. While a card cheat may be "romantic" and "admirable" to a finger flinging card worker, his crime is no less repugnant to the card-fleeced victim than it is to the victim taken by the fraudulent medium. A rip-off is a rip-off.
I think the magician is naturally enamoured by the card cheat (who has all the moves down pat) and not-so-strangely embittered by the fraudulent medium who often uses more simplistic means to create a mystical reality the cardician could never be able to duplicate with his riffle pass and top change. For this reason, the card cheat may seem less repugnant to the magish than does the medium. And after all, Houdini (the great role model for magis) went after Margery, didn't he?
However, IMO, both the card cheat and fake medium are rather petty low-class thieves that prey on the ignorant and disadvantaged. But just as every card magician is not a low-life card-shuffling thief, neither is every spirit medium a phoney rip-off artist. Many spiritualists are simply practitioners of a belief system that may be off the beaten track for many of us but no less valid than any other organized faith.
I think magicians should be more concerned with mystifying and entertaining people and less concerned with pontificating about how ignorant those lay folks are who might perceive spirit communication as something more than magic tricks.