Friday, March 6, 2015

“Religion is all magical thinking”

"Religion is all magical thinking": Professional skeptic The Amazing Randi has a moral duty to debunkJames "The Amazing" Randi (Credit: Flim Flam FIlms)
Magician. Escape artist. Exposer of faux psychics and trickster preachers alike. For over half a century James “The Amazing” Randi has been all this and more, charming the audiences of Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show” while simultaneously invoking the wrath of folks like the (self-proclaimed) faith healer Peter Popoff and (self-proclaimed) psychokinesis-abled Uri Geller.
In Justin Weinstein and Tyler Measom’s extraordinary documentary “An Honest Liar,” we get an up-close and personal look at this legendary showman whose greatest lesson in deception may lie closer to home. Salon spoke with the razor-sharp octogenarian prior to the film’s theatrical release (in New York and Los Angeles on March 6, with a national rollout to follow).
So what was it about Tyler and Justin that convinced you to allow them to make a documentary about you? You’ve led (and continue to lead) such an incredibly unique life I’m surprised a film hasn’t been made before.
I was approached by them to do the film, and I asked to see samples of their previous work. After seeing “Sons of Perdition” and “Being Elmo,” I was convinced that these were the right people to do my documentary. They treated their subjects with respect, care, and had a real vision to tell their stories properly. I felt they could do the same for me.
It’s difficult to find the proper match in creative endeavors, but we understood one another almost immediately. Just hours after my expression of dismay [during filming Randi learns that he himself may have been personally deceived] I contacted Tyler and Justin and told them, “Warts and all was what I said, and I have to honor that. Tell it all.”
Does it ever frustrate you that you’ve spent most of your career engaged in a Sisyphean battle? After all, there will always be tricksters – because there will always be people who need to be deceived. Magical thinking and denial just seem to be an inherent part of our makeup.
Well, a bit, but just because we — as a species — will always be affected by a disease, it doesn’t automatically mean that we are going to stop monitoring or treating it. It goes without saying that it’s our civil and moral duty to stand up for the less fortunate and the victims in our society. It’s our duty to provide them with tools so they can arm themselves properly in life.
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