|(Reprinted in full from The Ester Republic)|
One of the more prevalent stereotypes of atheists is just how damned angry they are. Far from being evidence of any spiritual incontinence, I usually attribute this phenomenon along the lines of the infamous bumper-sticker “If you’re not pissed you’re not paying attention.” Case in point being a recent upswell in the fame of one particular charlatan, Braco, an up-and-coming Croatian purveyor of woo who holds transcendent “gazing sessions.” These consist of The Great & Powerful Oz standing before a crowd of rapturous suckers and silently… staring… at them for only eight bucks a pop. This reaches previously unheard-of heights in swindling, as it is a classic song and dance routine: but instead updated without any singing or dancing. Genius!
Braco’s chicanery includes the usual unsubstantiated claims of spontaneous and miraculous healings from incurable diseases such as epilepsy, cancer, PTSD and toothaches. The afflicted abandon their wheelchairs or exchange their crutches to buy even more of his merchandise, and his powers of duplicity extend to working even through mere photographs of the afflicted, who will henceforth become free of paralysis, shrink their tumors, even clearing up stuffy noses and acne. Attendees of gazing sessions report a “tingling sensation” and “warm suffusion of love,” which is similar to what comes over my dog upon taking it outside first thing in the morning. And then there’s also “a big bubble of love” which I don’t really want to get into here.
Not surprisingly many of the more vocal critics of Braco’s New Age flimflammery are from hard-core adherents of the more established cults and religions. These more experienced snake-oil salesmen are no doubt jealous of such competition, as there is an uncomfortable “Emperor Wears No Clothes” angle that effectively undermines the legitimacy of pastors and preachers. They recognize the threat behind someone who conducts a much more powerful sermon by just shutting the hell up (notwithstanding attending some Quaker meetings). Maybe I’ve become somewhat inured to the experience of giving lectures in classrooms at eight o’clock in the morning when it’s forty-below zero outside, but meeting anybody’s eyes is a miracle, and they typically paying thousands of dollars for their enlightenment.
But how does it hurt anyone to let them indulge in innocent rituals of supernatural placebos? And why are you being such a big meanie? But what’s not just personally offensive but one of the closest personifications of evil is the literal praying on the gullibility of people who, in many cases, have legitimate and sincere afflictions. This is the fraudulent trademark of these holy con artists, who swindle their living off the hard cash and naive hopes of their victims. It also obviously includes the majority of pious politicians, but that’s another cartoon. Instead, it would be a far better “miracle” to establish an intimate, meaningful connection with the person sharing your space right now. So unless you are reading this edition of the Ester Republic in the outhouse, put it down for a moment and try gazing at your loved one or companion across the table or room. Soon you will realize the inherent superiority of the print media, especially newspapers, at hiding from such weird behavior. Note this technique isn’t particularly effective gazing at the cat or dog… excepting in reverse when the food bowl is empty or the litterbox is full.
Point is, some simple quality time looking at the people in your life would be time far better spent than being scammed by any such self-anointed gurus. Thank you, you’re welcome – and now you owe me a beer at the Golden Eagle.