James Randi, Amazing Skeptic

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This is a follow-up to yesterday’s well received post which showed a photo of Christopher ignoring a door sign.

The picture was found on James Randi’s site, accompanying his tribute to Hitchens (reprinted below). Randi is worth knowing about. After a career as a professional magician (The Amazing Randi) he devoted his life to debunking and exposing frauds of all sorts, from  fake spoon bender Uri Geller to the common psychic medium.  At 87, he is retired from his organization, the James Randi Educational Foundation. The JREF no longer sponsors the  $1 million challenge, (money offered to anyone who could prove psychic ability), but continues as a grant making entity.

Check out his de-bunking videos on YouTube, and the documentary An Honest Liar.


We’ve Lost  A Giant

(by James Randi, Dec 11, 2011)

I’m very, very, saddened as I learned that Christopher Hitchens has left us after only 62 years of a brilliant, dedicated life.

Before I type one more word, I’ll point out that those angry, frustrated, hateful, frightened, detractors were simply wrong when they predicted that he would turn to some deity or other before he died; that would not have been the Christopher that I knew, the brave warrior who wielded his pen as a sword and thereby cut such a shining path before him. I’m certain that as he closed his eyes he was aware that he’d done an excellent job, he’d said his piece, he’d reached so many people around the world who needed to know that they were not under the command of any jealous, vengeful, insecure, capricious, cruel, god who created them and then played with them like helpless toys to satisfy divine whims. Christopher was one of my giants…

I’ll miss him, but I’ll try to carry his message to others who’ve not yet heard it, though my words will not read as well, nor will my phrasing of them approach Christopher’s standards. However, I choose to respect him by always referring to him as “Christopher,” since he seriously disliked “Chris.” Please join me in that nicety.

Yes, it could be said that Hitchens was unwise about his heavy smoking and drinking, which may have brought about his too-early demise, but he was a fully mature adult who made those decisions for himself. I have inveighed in the past against those unwise practices because they have cost me other good friends and family, and I myself am certainly not free enough of “sin” to cast any stone in his direction.

As I write this, I’m told that The New York Times has stopped the presses to include Christopher’s obituary on their front page, and I swear that I could hear him guffawing at that. We so much enjoyed his wit and wise words at the The Amaz!ng Meetings he graced with his presence, and we will feel this loss every time we stand before a TAM audience.

Goodbye, Christopher. These tears in my eyes are of pure joy at having known you.

James Randi.

Pre-God Is Not Great

This is an interesting discussion/debate from 2007. God is not Great had not yet been published ( Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man was just about to be released) but you can see him making the arguments he would use in the forthcoming God is Not Great. The topic of this debate was free speech, but it was necessarily about religion, as they were addressing the Salman Rushdie fatwa, the Danish cartoon incident, and other attempts to block free speech. He is at his sharpest. Good Q&A. A great watch.