When Prayer Fails

Dave Schmeltzer's book Not the Religious Type has many examples of what he calls "napkin stories" (i.e., short enough to write on a napkin), brief anecdotes from people who claim to have experienced miraculous events in their lives when they trusted in God. Here's a typical one:I found out that my aunt and uncle's marriage was unraveling due to an affair. I fasted and prayed for them. After thirty-eight days, I was contacted by my uncle. He was about to sign a lease on an apartment to move in … [Read more...]

Cargo Cult Science

During World War II, American forces fighting in the Pacific set up bases on remote islands whose people had had very little prior contact with other civilizations. These people, with technology at a Stone Age level, were amazed by the strange visitors and the almost miraculous cargo they brought with them - chocolate, cigarettes, radio, steel tools. When the war ended and the soldiers left, some tribes went to desperate measures to summon them back, forming religions - cargo cults - which tried … [Read more...]

Book Review: UFOs, Ghosts, and a Rising God

(Editor's Note: This review was solicited and is written in accordance with this site's policy for such reviews.)If you've been around the atheist blogosphere, you probably know the name Christopher Hallquist, author of the blog The Uncredible Hallq (I've always wondered, does he get more skeptical when he gets angry?).Well, it seems he's come into his own, because last month in the mail I got a copy of his new book, UFOs, Ghosts, and a Rising God: Debunking the Resurrection of Jesus, which … [Read more...]

The Miracle of Fatima

On May 13, 1917, three Portuguese children in the town of Fátima, a small village seventy miles north of Lisbon, claimed to have witnessed a vision of the Virgin Mary. According to the account given by Lúcia Santos and her cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto, Mary had appeared to them, clad in luminous white, above a holmoak tree in a pasture known as Cova da Iria. She urged the children to say the Rosary every day to bring peace to the world, and promised she would return on the 13th day of e … [Read more...]

Black Magic for Fun and Profit

A few months ago, I signed up for the mailing list of a site that has the chutzpah to call itself "Real Magic Spells". Practically every single day since, I've gotten a highly entertaining e-mail from the site's proprietor, one Frank Stevens, who endlessly boasts about how he's the real deal, how his voodoo spells really work (unlike all the other fraudulent sites out there), how much labor and danger he had to go through to learn this, how the powerful elders of voodoo magic are furious with … [Read more...]

Regulate Psychics? Hell, Yes!

Via Reuters, a story out of the U.K. that made me very happy indeed: British "psychics" are protesting a new consumer-protection law which they fear will require them to offer actual proof of their alleged powers.The law currently in force in this area is the Fraudulent Mediums Act of 1951, which does in fact make it illegal to fraudulently claim to possess psychic or clairvoyant powers. But the key word is "fraudulently" - meaning that any enterprising prosecutor would have to prove that not … [Read more...]

Do You Really Believe That? (V)

Anointing the SickThe New Testament's Book of James gives some very unusual instructions on how to treat illness:"Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him."—James 5:14-15In eras when human knowledge was far less advanced, it's not surprising that … [Read more...]

Magic Spell Jesus

A few weeks back, I was looking through my traffic logs and found someone who came across my article "The Power of Christ Compels You" via the following Google search:http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=applying+the+blood+of+jesus+against+evil+peopleI'm guessing my article wasn't what this person was looking for, so I ran the search myself and found the following essay: How to Plead the Blood of Jesus for Deliverance and Protection.This remarkable essay is founded on a deep belief in … [Read more...]

Conflicting Miracles

"Saint Jnanadeva is revered for his Bhagavad Gita translation and commentary in the Maharastrian language. Among several miracles that established this 13th-century saint's reputation, the most famous involved a water buffalo. Challenged by the arrogant brahmins of Paithan that he was not qualified to recite the Vedas, Jnanadeva replied, 'Anyone can recite the Vedas.' He placed his hand upon a nearby water buffalo, which proceeded to correctly chant Vedic verses for more than an … [Read more...]

Georgia’s Rain Prayer Farce

It may be the 21st century, but you wouldn't know it from stories like this:Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue stepped up to a podium outside the state Capitol on Tuesday and led a solemn crowd of several hundred people in a prayer for rain on his drought-stricken state."We've come together here simply for one reason and one reason only: To very reverently and respectfully pray up a storm," Perdue said after a choir provided a hymn.These past few months, the American South has been suffering from … [Read more...]


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