The Bible God: Cruel, Savage, Deranged, Evil, Barbaric, Intolerant, Insanely Jealous, Vengeful and Bloodthirsty?

Part Three: What About the Laws Punishing Mediums and Witches?

Unless this is the first part of this you've come across, skip the introduction.

Introduction to the Series

Is the God of the Bible an immoral egotistical arrogant tyrant in his prejudiced demands to be worshiped as the one true God and his condemnation of those who worship other gods? Is he an insanely angry bigot? Crueller than the cruellest earthly dictator in his bloodlust and hatred and barbaric desire for killing and violence? A ruthless baby and child killer? Bursting into enraged childish temper tantrums at the most minor provocation and inflicting deadly punishments on people for trivial offences? Is the Bible a malicious and intolerant book of hate literature which should be treated with contempt by anyone with an ounce of compassion because it incites irrational acts of barbarity? Did it directly incite the "burning times" when Christians in their supposed zeal for biblical commands tortured and killed anyone accused of being a witch? These are all charges commonly brought against the God of the Bible and the Bible itself by many sceptics, with similar vehemence as that just displayed. Are they true?

If you're feeling a bit depressed or anxious today, you may find some of the content on some of the pages here particularly upsetting. Section 1 of this website contains self-help articles that it might be best to visit first. Topics covered include depression, serious worry, panic attacks, phobias and OCD, marriage problems, raising difficult teenagers, self-harm, anorexia, grief, bullying and teasing, coping with a life-threatening illness, and recovery from rape. You can find them here: Free Self-Help to Recover From or Cope With Some Problems.

Note: This series is entirely unsuitable for children. Part of it contains passages of violence and sickening descriptions of cruelty from the news that many might find offensive and distressing. In fact, I recommend that this is only read by the most insistent Bible critics and the Christians most disturbed by the allegations!

Part of the series contains quotations from several news stories. When reading about the harsh way the Bible says God punished the people in his anger, it's easy to get a very one-sided impression of an enraged God pouring vengeance on a people who were actually living fairly decent lives. Although it's true that it indicates that the punishments were to a large extent non-discriminatory and so innocent people would undoubtedly have suffered, the impression the Bible gives is that the societies the punishments were inflicted on were corrupt to the core - societies where violence, murder, ruthless oppression of the vulnerable, sexual abuse and several other varieties of sin were rampant! And according to the Bible, these were societies that refused to police themselves! The quotations from the news stories, though discussing incidents that took place in a different era, that were of course committed by others, and perhaps often in different ways, are meant to bring home to people the kind of impact such crimes would have had on the many victims suffering such things in those societies, and the depths to which societies can stoop. The idea is that they can help people imagine the kind of thing the Bible says was going on in the biblical societies threatened with God's punishment. Thus, the punishments the Bible says were inflicted on the societies in Old Testament times that behaved in such a manner will seem less unjust to the open-minded.

It may be that some of the stories describe things which vary considerably from what was going on then and may be much worse, but apart from anything else, they will be a corrective to the assumption that certain practices must have been harmless, such as the worship of other gods and occult practices, and also a corrective to any glib refusal to take any provocation into account when declaring the God of the Bible truly unjust.

In fact, it seems it's people who persistently commit just such violent and unscrupulous acts that the Old Testament was written for. A New Testament passage claims that certain Old Testament punishments were meant as examples/warnings for future generations not to do evil things. It may be that many who won't be convinced to stop catastrophically harming others by declarations of the love of Jesus and beautiful passages meant to inspire people to do good, as can be found in the New Testament, can be scared into stopping by the descriptions of punishments being meted out to wrongdoers that fill the Old Testament.

The links to the news stories are not provided, because of the high possibility that many will soon be broken. To read the articles in full, you can put the names of the titles or a distinctive phrase from the story you'd like to read more of in quotes in Google, and if it's still somewhere on the Internet, you'll probably find it.

I found it very distasteful to put the quotations from the stories together, but felt compelled to do so because of the virulence of the accusations with which the God of the Bible is condemned by some, and the potential that this could cause Christians to lose their joy in Christianity, and to doubt or lose their faith, - although perhaps some belong to a toxic brand of Christianity that would make losing their faith a good thing. I know of people who say they were once Christians, but who lost their faith in disgust when they learned about the cruelty allegedly inflicted by God in Old Testament times. Some will go on to frequently express strong feelings of contemptuous anti-Christian hostility. A greater knowledge of the provocation that the Bible indicates led to the harsh Old Testament punishments may lead people to a greater understanding of why they were considered necessary, though they seem severe whatever the provocation!

Some food for thought can be had if one considers that every single one of the atrocities reported in the news articles quoted on these pages would not have been committed by anyone who was genuinely dedicated to following biblical Christianity. And every one of the people committing them would stop doing such things if they discovered a new beginning in becoming committed to biblical Christianity. Any atrocities committed in its name have been committed despite what the Bible says, not because of it. To prove it, here are some links to Bible quotations informing Christians on the way they should behave, which not only prohibit such atrocities as the ones described in the news articles quoted here, but indicate that Christians should abide by much higher standards of behaviour. Promoting Christianity, seen as dangerous by some, could actually be at least a partial solution to the world's problems. Whole communities have in the past turned from warlike activity when they have become Christians and started following ideals for the Christian lifestyle like the ones found in the quotations here:

Some people may have been exposed to a brand of Christianity that makes it difficult for them to believe Christianity could be a power for good. But a reading of those quotes will prove that it is benign. Any group that promotes an unhealthy doctrine may well be distorting what the Bible actually says. Here's an example of how it can be done:

Therefore, those who make it their mission to try determinedly to pull the Bible apart by rooting out as many alleged petty contradictions as they can, defaming the God of the Bible as immoral, doing their determined best to convince people that Jesus never existed, and denigrating Christians as delusional and unthinking, etc. are in effect, though probably mostly unwittingly, aiming to destroy something beautiful, something that can be a powerful force for good in the right hands. Christianity can give people a brand new vision of life, offer them a brand new start, feeling that their record of wrongdoing has been wiped clean in God's eyes so they can learn to love themselves, see themselves as worthwhile, and thus can see a point in starting again with renewed dedication to living a good life.

Naturally, other interventions can give people new hope and raise their self-esteem. But Christianity is one with widespread appeal that shouldn't be dismissed.

When people feel God has forgiven them, it doesn't mean, as some would slanderously claim, that they no longer have a responsibility to try to make amends as far as possible for what they did. On the contrary, the Christian faith can often inspire people to do just that, where they had no interest in doing so before.

It can inspire people to transform their behaviour, or stop their behaviour degenerating into behaviour that would hurt others in the first place, partly because they can feel responsible to God - a higher authority they respect enough to want to obey - for the way they live, and not just accountable to themselves. The Christian faith can give them hope for the future, and security and confidence that they are loved by someone greater than themselves, God. The increase in self-worth this can bring can give people the motivation to treat others better. People who believe they are valued can be more likely to be respectful of others and thus less likely to mistreat them.

Christianity can give people a sense of belonging and identity, as a wonderful alternative to the sense of belonging and identity they may have previously sought in gangs or warlike nationalism etc.

It can give them meaning and purpose in life, in that the Bible urges Christians to spend their lives doing good. A sense of meaning and purpose in life can bring a sense of satisfaction that can strengthen people's desire to carry on what they're doing, and if they're doing productive things instead of ones that make them angry and hateful, it can be especially so. Thus, meaning and purpose derived from doing good has its own rewards, and thus can strengthen the desire people may have to continue to do so, and can replace the meaning and purpose gained from belonging to destructive causes, as well as the opposite of meaning - the sense of disillusionment with life that can lead to living selfishly and callously.

Falling in love with the character of Jesus as portrayed by the gospels can bring a desire to please him; and a belief that he loves them so much he was even willing to die so their sin could be cleansed can bring a deep gratitude which will strengthen the desire to please him. Thus, it can bring a heartfelt commitment to obeying his commands. The commands in the New Testament, such as those to live peaceful lives of non-violence and to care for others, are said to be Christ's commands. Thus, falling in love with the character of Christ as portrayed in the gospels can transform a person's attitude and lead them to lives of goodness.

Reflection on the New Testament commands can also give people cause to stop and think, and a desire to inquire into the reasons for the commands; and their reflection on the reasons for them can lead to a deeper conviction of the wisdom of many commands, which can subsequently lead to a deeper commitment to following them.

The sense of being loved by God and the Bible's imploring of people to love one another in practical ways can soften a person's attitudes, making them contemplate the way they're living and changing their mind-set from one of hatred or cruel indifference to people around them and a consequent wish to harm or use them, to a desire to do things to benefit them.

Belief that one is accountable to God for the way one lives can be a check on people's natural desire to live for themselves when they want to put their own desires above the needs or welfare of others because their desires are strong.

Belief in God's punishment can sober a person and make their commitment to obey Christ's commands to live lives of non-violence and caring more serious, since they can bring realisation that Christianity is a serious commitment, not a fashion accessory, a tradition, or something merely to be played with while in reality behaving as one wishes.

Naturally, turning to Christianity won't always have such wholesome effects, by any means; but it's more likely to do so where there is a focus on the guidelines for Christian behaviour linked to above, and a focus on making positive improvements in life rather than getting bogged down in the idea of guilt for sin, or in some minor doctrine taken out of balance with the whole.

It's true that there are passages in the Bible where it says God orders incidents of what can appear barbaric merciless violence. Some are not so abhorrent as a superficial reading without knowledge of the cultural practices of the day might suggest, but some certainly are. Most, if not all, can be matched, however, by the cruelty of many of the people the violence was inflicted on. Thus, we have the reciprocity principle in action. The violence was mostly said to be punishment for such wrongdoing, deterrents to prevent such cruelty and crime in the future, and chastisement to spur people to change their ways. Therefore, harsh though the punishments were, and though it's easy and perhaps highly reasonable to argue that they were far worse than any society could possibly have deserved, it can be argued that they were by no means wholly unjustified, and they were far more than the simple actions of a vindictive petty God having brutal temper tantrums in an insane, violently angry rage, as is so often charged.

The other parts in this series:

If you would prefer a less squeamishness-making article, you could read: An Attempt to Explain Gruesome Bible Passages.

What About the Laws Punishing Mediums and Witches?

The Bible records that God commanded that mediums be stoned to death, the usual means of execution in some cultures. Barbaric, surely! How can anyone claim the God of the Bible is loving without being either deceitful or ignorant?

Surely again, witches and mediums are mostly benign people who just want to help others??

Although it must be stated that some forms of Paganism are much more positive and benign than others, in many cultures, even today, serious harm is done by people aspiring to gain an advantage by using magic, mediumship and witchcraft. To give some examples:

From an article entitled In the New South Africa, a Chilling Link with the Past - Ritual Killing for Body Parts Still Holds a Disturbing Power from the Philadelphia Inquirer, 14 May, 1998:

"... The killing of Theophillus Mabuda on Feb. 21 might be dismissed as the isolated act of a demented man. But it had all the markings of what is known here as muti murder - a killing to harvest body parts for use as muti, or traditional medicine. ...

Ritual murder is a reminder that in a nation with a veneer of modern democracy - cell phones, satellite TV, superhighways - much of the population still believes economic power is transferred by witch doctors rather than stockbrokers.

While muti murders occur in many parts of South Africa, they are concentrated in the Northern Province, previously known as the Northern Transvaal. Witchcraft is prevalent in the poor former black ``homelands" of Venda and Lebowa, where beliefs in supernatural powers are deeply ingrained.

Muti murders are rooted in the traditional African belief that there is only a limited amount of good luck in the world, and that if one wants to increase his wealth or goodwill, it must come at another person's expense. Sorcerers can cast spells to improve one's luck or ward off evil spirits. But an even more powerful way to acquire another person's power is to consume medicine made from their body parts.

Victor Ralushai, a retired anthropology professor at the University of Venda who chaired a 1995 Northern Province commission that investigated witchcraft, said most muti killings were commissioned by businessmen to improve their enterprises.

He cited a case of a butcher who, according to court testimony, whacked the sides of beef in his shop every morning with a severed human hand as a way of invoking the spirits to beckon customers.

Ralushai said a businessman might bury a skull in the foundation of a new building to ensure good fortune. ..."

From an article called Swazi Ritual Killing Warning from BBC News, 2 June 2003:

"King Mswati III has urged Swaziland's politicians not to engage in ritual killings to boost their chances in October's elections.

The BBC's Tom Holloway in the capital, Mbabane, says that the number of ritual murders increases at election time.

There is a strong belief that magic charms are more powerful if they contain human body parts. ...

"During election times, we tend to lose our grandmothers, grandfathers and young children. They just disappear. But I want to warn you all that you should not resort to ritual murder," King Mswati III said in a televised address. ..."

In an article called Tanzania Fights Human Skinning from BBC News, 4 July 2003:

"... Visitors to the week-long fair in Dar es Salaam will see a rather gruesome exhibit of human body parts in an effort to raise awareness about the underground trade in human skin which has hit southern Tanzania over the past two years.

The head of the forensic science division in the chief chemist's office, which is exhibiting the parts, Gloria Machube, told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme that the human skin is used in witchcraft. ...

According to police the skins are in huge demand outside Tanzania. ...

They are transported to Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique, South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo before reaching their final destination in West Africa. ...

In 2001 police broke a skin-smuggling ring and 13 people were charged with murder. ..."

In an article called Elderly Become "Muti" Targets from African Eye News, 15 April 2003, it says:

"... In the past two years more than 10 women in the Chiradzulu and Thyolo districts in southern Malawi were found dead with their genitals, breasts, fingers, teeth or even hair missing.

Human body parts are highly priced on the local and international black market with syndicates ordering hits on innocent people to harvest their parts.

Graves are also robbed so corpses can be cut up before their parts completely decompose.

The parts are used for charms for business people, for example, who wish to increase their profits.

Police spokesperson George Chikowi said two people arrested in the northern region of Rumphi had confessed to killing a young girl and cutting off her hands and feet for use in traditional medicine to improve their fish catches on a local lake. ..."

From an article called India Opening its Eyes to Tricksters Who Prey on Blind Faith by Reuters, 3 October 2002:

"Bombay -- In tradition-bound India, if someone claims to be able to exorcise ghosts, levitate or pull a gold chain out of thin air, it does not take long for him to become known as a "godman."

While many godmen are not confidence tricksters, there are numerous "miracle babas" who are just out to get rich by duping as many people as quickly as they can. ...

Activists say the "miracle babas" come to India's commercial hub from poorer parts of the country and seek their fortune by exploiting people's insecurities.

"It's easy money -- without any investment. As long as fear exists among people such godmen will thrive," said Narendra Bhabolkar, founder of the 20-year-old committee that seeks to expose the tricksters.

A committee worker at a public gathering shows how a gold chain that looked as if it had been plucked out of the air had actually been tucked up a sleeve. ...

The godmen charge anything from about 150 rupees ($5) up to millions of rupees. And people seeking help from all walks of life can fall prey to their tricks.

While most godmen restrict themselves to relatively harmless fraud, others get caught up in much more sinister affairs, including human sacrifice to appease "evil spirits."

In July, a nine-year-old boy was found dead on the outskirts of Bombay. A man told police he killed the boy after a godman told him doing so would save his troubled marriage. ..."

In an article entitled Pacific Islands - Be Prepared, Visiting Contingent Told, the Revival of Paganism Could be One Surprise from Pacific Magazine, August 2003, it says:

"... Solomons' post-tension crisis has resurrected some deeply embedded societal changes ‹ changes Westerners may have thought to have become extinct. Ritual killings have been linked with headhunting in the past. This to attain reputation, and mana, or metaphysical strength, that is said to appear by a demonstration of bravery achieved through successes in battles. There are many rituals in the Solomons culture connected with the headhunting complex.

One is the worshipping of spirit gods. A wide range of artifacts and weaponry, and charms are associated with each ceremony‹most prominent is the sacrifice of a pig(s), and the calling upon of the spirits through mediums that are as primitive as the culture it represents. ...

... According to narrative accounts by early explorers, the Johnsons, three most revered headhunting islands in the Solomons were New Georgia, Guadalcanal, and Malaita. Headhunting ceased in the Western Solomons around New Georgia and Marovo Lagoon between 1900-1903, after the pacification of the area by the British army. East Malaita was reputed as one of the most feared. ...

"With paganism, there is a rather distorted concept of sacrifices, where it may be done to predetermine an outcome of an event, to make a request, or before any ritual killing takes place." [Genesis Kofana, a post-graduate University of the South Pacific student]. Within a society deeply embedded in superstition and sorcery, people are generally shy, suspicious and fear is evident. Misunderstanding may turn fatal. A person's life can be taken at any moment under suspicion or pretence of friendliness, or when an oath made to the spirits require this (death) to appease a backlash from the same spirit gods.

Unsurprisingly, the latter has now sprung up as the reason for the death of a missionary in mid-May. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The objective was easy. An auxiliary staff worker at Atoifi Hospital disallowed two pagan worshippers from boarding a chartered boat for not paying their full fares.

In a heated argument, if it were (questionable), the two having their egos humbled and in public vowed to avenge their enemy. Promising to return, the two bushmen returned to the mountains where a sacrifice was made. A deal was struck with the spirits‹death to the staff‹who was also of Malaitan ethnicity. ...

In order to prevent a backlash, blood had to be shed. ...

However, with so many murders still unaccounted and assailants' parade conspicuously in their four-wheel drive hilux vehicles and marauding presence in and around the capital, this may not be the last. ..."

In an article entitled Liberia Army to Stop Ritual Killings from BBC News, 4 August 2001:

"President Charles Taylor of Liberia has ordered special troops to the south-east of the country to halt a spate of allegedly ritual killings.

The one-hundred troops are being sent to Maryland County on the border with Ivory Coast, where residents have said that a number of black magic killings have been carried out in recent weeks. ...

A BBC correspondent in the region says that ritual killings have been a problem not just in Liberia, but across West Africa, particularly during elections or times of war.

He says that body parts are extracted from victims as ingredients for potions to be used by politicians who believe their powers will be enhanced. ..."

From an article called 'Magic Medicine' Murders Bedevil South Africa from Times Online, 4 October 2003:

"... Thandi Gulwa, another protester, was enraged that the accused could insult African traditions in such a way. “We use herbs to be cured, not human flesh,” she said.

But although muti killing is a taboo subject, the Bloemfontein case is far from being an isolated incident. Two men and a woman recently appeared in Khayekutsha Magistrates’ Court, outside Cape Town, charged with killing a baby and frying her intestines to make muti to help them to find a job.

At about the same time, a young woman’s head was found floating in a Johannesburg reservoir, fuelling speculation that she had been killed for her body parts. Last year police arrested a man after he was caught trying to sell a head for £900 for use in traditional medicine. ..."

From an article called 'I Was Forced to Kill My Baby' from BBC News, 2 April 2002:

"Last September a boy's torso was found in the Thames. Police now believe it could have been a "muti" killing, a human sacrifice practiced in southern Africa. ...

"He began to tell me stories. His ancestors said that he must kill me and the child so that he can be rich," Helen told Nobody's Child, a BBC documentary on the investigation into the London boy's death. ...

Limbs from children, primarily the sexual organs, are said to be the most potent. These are sometimes taken from live victims because their screams are thought to enhance the power of the medicines. ...

One of the few who lived to tell the tales was Jeffery Mkhonto, who four years ago when he was 12 was mutilated by an organised gang sent to harvest body parts.

Jeffery was called over to the house of a neighbour for some food. Instead the man cut off his genitals with a butcher's knife.

"They took me home and left me in front of my father's house. As they left I heard them say they are going to sell my parts so that they can get money." ..."

From an article called HUMAN Remains at Witch Doctor Shrines from Sky News, 14 August 2004:

"Nigerian police have recovered the mutilated remains of 83 people following a series of raids on witch doctor shrines.

Police arrested 30 witch doctors in last week's raid on Okija village, initially discovering around 50 bodies - many with their heads and genitals missing.

They also discovered 20 human skulls after a resident alerted them, saying the witch doctors were eating the flesh of their victims. ...

Ritual killing is common in Nigeria, Africa's most populous country.

Many people believe they can become instant millionaires by using human organs to make charms."

From an article entitled Human Flesh 'On Sale in London' from The Observer, 3 November 2002:

"... Officers suspect that gangs illegally importing exotic meat, such as chimpanzee and bush rat from West Africa, are involved in trading in substances used in African witchcraft that may include human body parts.

Detectives from Operation Swalcliffe, which is investigating Adam's death, joined a raid on a north London shop last month by environmental health officers after a tip-off that human body parts were being sold. The officers seized two tonnes of unfit meat, including a crocodile head, used in ritualistic dishes to increase sexual stamina in men. They also found rat faeces, which had been removed from rats' intestines and prepared as a delicacy for possible use in a ritual.

The trade in importing bushmeat to Britain has boomed in recent years, but this was the first time evidence has been found linking it to witchcraft ceremonies. While police found no obvious traces of human flesh, packages of unidentifiable meat and ribs wrapped in plastic bags and stored in a backroom have been sent for DNA testing.

The use of human flesh is a taboo subject in many African communities, which stress that traditional culture abhors such acts. Scholtz said it is used when a normal animal sacrifice is considered insufficient. Human flesh is also typically used when a group of people is trying to achieve a common goal...."

In an article called 'If You Break Your Promise Lightning Will Kill You' from The Guardian, 30 July 2003, it says:

"First they had to eat some raw chicken liver, followed by a cola nut, some white chalk and a piece of alligator pepper. All of it was washed down with a hot drink with a worm in it.

The five girls stood in the middle of a clearing in a wood some 50 miles from Lagos in Nigeria, surrounded by small statues dressed in rags torn from other people's clothing.

The native doctor cut the girls' arms, drawing blood, and scarred their chests. He told them to swear they would not run away, that they would work to pay back the money they owed and that they would never tell who had helped them. The man then took locks of their head and pubic hair and pared their finger and toe nails, warning them that he was keeping a part of them and if they broke their word they would die.

All of this was supposed to be a blessing for their travels abroad. It turned out to be a voodoo curse.

Charity Osatin was just 14 when her uncle's wife's brother - known to her as "Uncle Sam" - offered to take her on a holiday. But Charity soon found herself in a brothel in Lagos, where she was first raped then forced into prostitution. Now, here she was in a wood with a native doctor, frightened out of her wits.

"They cut us and told us it would be a secret. They made us swear that if we start working we would have to pay the money back," she said.

"It was scary because of the statues and the blood everywhere. They gave us something to wash your body, and some leaves. I believed that I was going to die if I told anybody. If you swear and you don't keep your promise, the thunder will come and you will be hit by lightning and you will die. I have seen it happen and I thought that that would happen to me. They kept some of my body stuff, my hair and nails, and it is still with them so I am still frightened of them." ...

In its report, Unicef says: "In the case of west African children, voodoo is used to terrify the girls into thinking that if they tell anyone about the traffickers, they and their families will die. They are told that the only way to lift the curse is to pay back the money they owe to the traffickers, usually about £25,000. ..."

In an article called Crackdown on Witchcraft on the Soccer Pitch from Inter Press Service, 11 March 2002, it says:

"... Less sanguine is the flip side to the curative and strengthening part of traditional medicine: dirty tricks and witchcraft.

Sports writer Dlamini says, ''It is common to see teams slaughter a goat right on the sidelines before a match. This is done they say to honour the ancestors. But then they take the goat's blood and gall bladder, and pour it on the ground where the opposing team has to step over it.''

''The other players naturally think they are being bewitched. They're afraid they will break their legs, or go blind. I've seen games forfeited because players refuse to go through a stadium tunnel if they think spells have been cast there,'' he says.

It was to avoid just such distractions that traditional healers were excluded from the African Cup. ..."

There may have been another concern which prompted the outlawing of mediums, namely the possibility, maybe a high one, of fraud, as illustrated by these clips from articles:

From an article called Psychic Scams from AsianWeek, 25 April 2003:

"... Lisa* is a victim of Mrs. Sonia, and it was only after a decade of keeping her silence that she came forward to authorities. In a period of three months, she was swindled out of more than $15,000. Now, she is working with the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) to track down Mrs. Sonia, and teaming up with the Board of Supervisors and the District Attorney's Office to propose a law that would require the city's fortunetellers to hold permits. ...

"My friends and I always talked about having someone tall, dark and handsome enter our lives, so I thought that I'd go in for a reading on my love life just for fun and see if a good boyfriend was in my future," says Lisa, 37, who is Chinese American. "I never intended it to be anything serious or true. I saw it as just entertainment." ...

Mrs. Sonia pulled out the death card, and proceeded to inform Lisa that someone in her family was very ill and was going to die. The news struck a chord with Lisa because her sister was diagnosed with leukemia and was undergoing chemotherapy treatments; moreover, her 17-year-old cousin had died recently.

"I was like, 'Omigod.' I was shocked," recalls Lisa. "She then told me that I had a lot of darkness in my life caused by a curse."

Gauging the concern rising in Lisa, Mrs. Sonia knew that she had found an opening into Lisa. Mrs. Sonia told Lisa if she returned for more readings and healings, she could help her sister.

"She said I could assure the health of my sister if I came back consistently to see her," Lisa says. "I was at a very vulnerable state at the time, and once she brought in my sister, she got me. All I wanted was for my sister to get better." ...

The following week, Lisa returned to Mrs. Sonia. This time, she told Lisa that the curse was even worse than she had thought and more work needed to be done. More work translated to more money; Mrs. Sonia saw dollar signs in her future, rather than a foreboding curse in Lisa's. ..."

In an article called Permits to Prevent Fortune-Telling Scams by CNN, June 2003, it says:

"... Fortune-telling scams often promise to remove so-called curses. Police inspectors say that dozens of people in San Francisco lose large amounts of money every year to fortunetellers. Some charge $500 or more for weekly visits, and trick people with phony displays. One woman lost $17,000 last year. The fortuneteller said her daughter would die unless she paid.

Police say fortune-tellers work on people's fears. They might show a person a piece of grapefruit with blood or a little skull in it and say that is proof of a curse. Sometimes the fortune-teller tells a person to bring in a credit card and use it to take the fortune-teller on an expensive shopping trip.

The manager of an agency called Psychic Eye says that the psychics who work for her are honest. They don't try to trick people and they don't remove curses. They charge a one-time fee for offering advice. Sometimes they use special cards to help them decide what to say. ..."

From an article called Cold Reading: The Tricks of the Psychics by William Goldberg:

"When the editor of the zine you're now clutching asked me to write an article on the manner in which so-called psychics perform their tricks, he knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that I'd say yes. He wasn't really being clairvoyant. He knew that so many of my clients had been burned badly by these charlatans that I'd welcome any opportunity to warn others about them. I'm a clinical social worker, and I specialize in working with former cult members. I've worked with people who've told me stories of witnessing psychic surgery (i.e. surgery performed without anesthesia, scalpels, wounds or scars), of seeing their cult leaders materialize physical objects out of thin air, or of individuals who seemed to possess the ability to read their thoughts. When I debunk these phenomena and tell them how the cult leader probably performed these feats, my clients are often relieved of cult-induced anxieties, phobias and fears. ...

On a few occasions, I've had clients tell me of wondrous things that psychics told them about themselves and that they even have audio tapes of these miraculous sessions. When I ask if I may listen to those tapes, they readily give them to me. The funny thing is, the things that my clients said they heard - the pronouncements that proved the psychic's ability -just aren't there! Everything the psychic told them was something that my clients had told the psychic and that the psychic was repeating back to them in a somewhat different context, with a slight twist, and with a lot of drama and hoopla. My clients half-remembered things that were said, forgot other things that were said, or even constructed dialogue that never took place, all of which proved to them that this seemingly kind, gentle, concerned psychic had extrasensory powers. ..."

In an article called Demystifying John Edward of Crossing Over it says:

"... Immediately below is an excerpt from the BBC television program "40 Minutes" in an expose about cold reading. Doris Stokes was one such cold reader featured, and very popular in the U.K. and Australia. Simon Hoggart, a well-known British writer and co-author of "Bizarre Beliefs," provides the commentary. The performance was done before a sizeable studio audience. ...

Young Woman: Yes, he had to go back to the hospital.

Doris Stokes: But he's all right now, love.

This is both a question and a statement. A question because it can be taken to inquire about the status of the infant, and a statement because if it's true, it's a "hit." In this instance, it backfires! Luckily for Stokes, as often happens, the woman wanting a successful reading, attempts to justify the Reader's mistake.
Young Woman: No. Well, he might be all right on your side [the spirit side], but we've lost him.

Some fast talking is urgently needed here from Stokes, and, true to form, she delivers:
Doris Stokes: Yes, that's what they're saying, he'll be all right now, love.

Good save! The "they" she is quoted as saying is the spirit population on "the other side." "They" are often blamed for giving out wrong information, which "they" like to do as a prank, or so the Reader would have you believe. Here, Stokes has quickly recovered and fixed her mistake by dropping into the favorite view held by spiritualists, that we all go on living on "the other side," and Daniel's doing just fine "over there."

Doris Stokes: And they said, "We've brought little Daniel, and he went home and then he had to go back to the hospital."

There it is! The absolute favorite ploy used by Readers. Stokes is repeating exactly what the person has just helped her to develop, as if "they" have just told her this! ..."

From an article called The Psychic Frauds? by Jerome Burne:

"Ian Rowland appears to be able to read your mind, bend spoons, perform psychic surgery and "see" people's lives in the tarot cards. But he declares himself as psychic as a doormat and says he relies on techniques used by con men, plus some insights into human nature.

Surprisingly, Rowland believes that psychic fraud is a consumer issue. "People often get involved with psychic matters at a time when they need help," he says. "I think they should know what is really on offer there and get help and advice from a proper qualified source." His show issues a dramatic challenge to all those who believe in the reality of psychic powers. After all, if Rowland can display them, how much is left for the paranormal to explain?

His challenge is most clearly demonstrated in the case of tarot card reading. Rowland can do tarot readings that will have you begging for a tip for the 2.30 at Newmarket, so impressive is his portrait of your life. He does it, he says, by a technique called "cold reading" used by crystal ball gazers, palmists, tea leaf readers, in fact, he says, anyone who claims clairvoyant powers. What makes him unusual is that he is prepared to reveal how it's done. It turns out to be much more specific than Sherlock Holmes-style deductions - like concluding someone works on the land on the basis of their muddy boots. In fact, Rowland uses a combination of techniques.

"To begin with, we are all much less unusual than we think we are," he says. "People are often amazed at what I can 'see' in the cards about their early life. What they don't realise is that I give the same account to everyone. For instance, most of us have had one serious accident or know someone who has. And many of us have had a relationship where distance was a problem, and so on. ...

The Push statement
This is a slightly more complicated but very impressive technique if you can make a "hit". Start by making a very definite statement such as "I see you having problems with a shoe at a Christmas party". This may get a negative. But keep at it, changing the details. If it's not a shoe its an ankle, if not Christmas it's winter, if not at a party on the way to one. Sooner or later something fits and then not only have you spotted something that happened, but also something that had been forgotten. Really psychic. ..."

From an article called NBC Reveals Psychic Secrets May 2003:

"... Now we move outside the studio to the one-on-one setting of a private psychic reading. The host notes that the most common forum for psychic deception takes place in street-corner shops, and we see a large neon "PSYCHIC READER" sign.

Clients are led to believe, the host continues, that psychic readings are based on insights into their personalities. But in this particular case, the reader is merely reciting a pre-memorized script that she uses for all of the clients here. It is cold reading, using universal themes that everybody can relate to. As the host notes, it makes "every innocent victim feel like the psychic is talking about them. ...

Telekinesis makes another appearance with a moving wooden matchstick. The performer holds it in the palm of his hand as it turns around and then stands up on end. Two volunteers sit right at the table so he can't do any trickery.

Or can he? Of course! There is a powerful magnet in the table and the matchstick has been pre-loaded with a small nail. The nail reacts to the magnet and we have the moving matchstick! ...

Back to the studio, and here is a really easy one. The "psychic" claims to be able to generate heat with his mind. He takes out an ordinary metal spring and, by concentrating, it turns red-hot. Well, not really. It does turn and it is red. The secret is that the spring is painted black on one side and red on the other. So he turns it gently and it appears to turn red. ..."

From an article called John Edwards - Talking to the Dead - Fake or Real by Donette Steele, M.A./ Clinical Psychology:

"... The "spiritualism" craze spread across the United States, Europe, and beyond. In darkened séance rooms, lecture halls, and theaters, various "spirit" phenomena occurred. The Davenport Brothers conjured up spirit entities to play musical instruments while the two mediums were, apparently, securely tied in a special "spirit cabinet." Unfortunately the Davenports were exposed many times, once by a local printer. He visited their spook show and volunteered as part of an audience committee to help secure the two mediums. He took that opportunity to secretly place some printer's ink on the neck of a violin, and after the séance one of the duo had his shoulder smeared with the black substance (Nickell 1999).

In Boston, while photographer William H. Mumler was recycling some glass photographic plates, he accidentally obtained faint images of previous sitters. He soon adapted the technique to producing "spirit extras" in photographs of his clients. But Mumler's scam was revealed when some of his ethereal entities were recognized as living Boston residents (Nickell 1994). ..."

From an article entitled Houdini: A Magician Among the Spirits from OCHS Houdini Historical Center, 2001:

"... Why did Houdini crusade against mediums? ...

Spiritualism ... developed in the mid-19th century and within 20 years had an estimated one million members. The movement's popularity, however, dropped sharply by the end of the century mainly because many mediums were exposed as frauds.

The religion experienced a resurgence during World War I when families looked to mediums hoping to reach the souls of dead husbands, fathers, and sons killed in the war. This time, too, fraudulent mediums preyed on people's vulnerabilities. Houdini was at the forefront of exposing this second wave of mediums. ...

Houdini found that none of these mediums possessed supernatural powers, but rather were skilled magicians deceiving the public. He sympathized with people who sought ways to reunite with loved ones since he was tortured by his own mother's death almost ten years earlier. But unlike most séance goers, Houdini understood the trickery used by many mediums and was in a unique position to expose fraud. As a magician, he could reproduce "spirit phenomena," showing that the séance industry was a business based on exploitation. ...

Houdini even took his war against séance fraud to Washington, DC when he testified before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the District of Columbia in support of an anti-fortunetelling bill in 1926. ... He told the committee "In this town at $25 you are licensing blackmailing, rob[bing], and steal[ing], under the clairvoyant license.....I will show you murders and suicides, and where a medium has called a number of old men and women to finish their lives in order to join their friends." ...

Houdini was unpopular with many mediums and they began predicting his death. Houdini commented, "I get letters from ardent believers in Spiritualism who prophesy I am going to meet a violent death soon as a fitting punishment for my nefarious work." ..."

In an article entitled Missing Children - Hazards - Psychic Detectives by KlaasKids Foundation For Children, it says:

"... They scan the media for the haunting eyes of desperate parents willing to do anything to recover their children and then they show up on your doorstep, literally or figuratively, to make the pitch. They claim to be on the cutting edge of communications, able to predict future events and reach into heaven and hell with their mind. They hold your hand, massage your psyche and convince you that the only thing separating you from their extraordinary gift is your money. However, some simply require airfare and living expenses, what we call a vacation. They seem to answer the prayer that ends the nightmare, but only if you can afford the ticket. ...

A few months after Polly was recovered a psychic claimed that she solved Polly’s case on the television program Hard Copy. Not only was she using my daughter’s death to promote herself, but she also dismissed all of the wonderful people: police, media, and volunteers who worked so hard and tirelessly to locate my child.

In truth, that psychic detectives contribution to the case was counter productive. As always seems to be the case with psychic predictions, her interference created distraction. ..."

From an article called The Art of Cold Reading from the James Randi Educational Foundation:

"... They tell the subjects nothing, but make guesses, put out suggestions, and ask questions. This is a very deceptive art, and the unwary observer may come away believing that unknown data was developed by some wondrous means. Not so. ..."

From an article called My Nightmare Job as a Phone Psychic by an anonymous contributor to a website produced by Oliver Gaspirtz, June 2000:

"... After a few calls I realized how harmful these psychic lines can be. 80 percent of the calls I received were not just people calling for fun. They were people with questions concerning their health and other serious problems. And these poor people relied on the advice of so-called psychics like me to make major decisions in their lives. ...

I tried to calm her down and told her the truth: "Some psychics will say anything to keep you on the line. Noone always feels in tip top shape. And if you really feel bad you should visit a doctor. Don't let a phone call scare you into thinking that you have some terrible disease." ..."

From a news article entitled Why Jupiter Lies Behind Thousands of Cancelled Indian Hindu Weddings from Sunday Herald, 10 August 2003:

"... Astrology is nothing short of a national obsession in India, where many people consult an astrologer over every important decision in their life, from when and whom to marry to which subject to study at university, when to buy a house or change job. Their pronouncements are treated with the utmost seriousness. The rich often employ their own personal astrologer to be on hand at all times.

Bombay astrologer Dharshi Gajaria is warning against all marriages between now and next April but says it is particularly important for anyone living between two Indian rivers - the Ganges and the Godavari. ...

In the Gujarat city of Ahmedabad, astrologer Bhupendra Soni has alarmed many couples with his dire warnings. Marriages entered into at this time, he says, could be troubled, barren or fail to produce a son. “The effect of this constellation is that those marrying in this period won’t have a male child or could have children with physical problems,” he said. ...

For now, the confusion looks set to keep Bhushan’s phone ringing day and night. “Some people who are phoning me are in a terrible panic,” he added. ..."

Well might the Bible record that God gave to Moses the command for the people of Israel:

Deuteronomy chapter 18 (NLT)

10 Do not let your people practice fortune-telling or sorcery, or allow them to interpret omens, or engage in witchcraft, 11 or cast spells, or function as mediums or psychics, or call forth the spirits of the dead. 12 Anyone who does these things is an object of horror and disgust to the LORD.

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