I first heard of James Randi, who died on October 20, 2020, back around 1990 shortly after I deconverted from Christianity. He and his skeptical research on Christian “faith healers” like W. V. Grant and Peter Popoff wasn’t directly responsible for my rejecting Christianity, but reading his book “The Faith Healers” (which included a foreword by my childhood idol Carl Sagan) was enough to make me decide to NEVER be Christian again.
But while he could lead people to the truth about religious and paranormal claims being false, he couldn’t force people to give up their delusions.
Randi has been accused of actually using “psychic powers” to perform acts such as spoon bending. According to James Alcock, at a meeting where Randi was duplicating the performances of Uri Geller, a professor from the University at Buffalo shouted out that Randi was a fraud. Randi said: “Yes, indeed, I’m a trickster, I’m a cheat, I’m a charlatan, that’s what I do for a living. Everything I’ve done here was by trickery.” The professor shouted back: “That’s not what I mean. You’re a fraud because you’re pretending to do these things through trickery, but you’re actually using psychic powers and misleading us by not admitting it.” A similar event involved Senator Claiborne Pell, a confirmed believer in psychic phenomena. When Randi personally demonstrated to Pell that he could reveal—by simple trickery—a concealed drawing that had been secretly made by the senator, Pell refused to believe that it was a trick, saying: “I think Randi may be a psychic and doesn’t realize it.” Randi consistently denied having any paranormal powers or abilities.
Maybe some people who believe in such things really are insane. As for me, I will always go where the evidence leads me and not deny clear truth or accept falsehoods for the sake of my personal comfort, just as James Randi did not.
“One day, I’m gonna die. That’s all there is to it. Hey, it’s too bad, but I’ve got to make room. I’m using a lot of oxygen and such—I think it’s good use of oxygen myself, but of course, I’m a little prejudiced on the matter.”
Quoting such humorous wit is a good way to remember him.