I do, after all, spend a lot of time saying, "I'm not making this up. I promise," and still some of the topics I find for this blog seem to have the effect of making my readers say, "No, really? That's just straining credulity to the snapping point."
Yeah. I know. Take, for example, the televangelist and the "ex-gay" therapist who got into a discussion this week about how you can diagnose both homosexuality and demonic possession using a drawing of a brain and a box of colored pencils.
Toufik Benedictus "Benny" Hinn, an Israeli-born evangelical who runs the Benny Hinn Ministries and the "Miracle Crusades" revival meeting/faith healing circuit, was interviewing Jerry Mungadze, a psychologist who claims that his therapy turns gay people straight and even "changes their brains to be more like straight people's." So we're definitely talking about a serious meeting of minds, here. The following is a transcript of the conversation that ensued:
Mungadze: Everything that I talk about is based on numbers, is based on studies. Which is what you do when you're a scientist. Now, one thing that surprised me, is that for many, many years when I lived in Africa, I saw people that were demonized, but I didn't know that you can actually see demonization in people's brains, which I can now.
Hinn: Wait, wait, wait, stop. You can see demonization in people's brains?
Mungadze: There is a certain color that I won't mention that tells me if a person has been demonized.
Hinn: Now, let me explain what he just said to you. What he has you do, and we're going to show you materials that you can have on your own [holds up drawing of a brain], he divides the brain into different parts, and each part speaks of one area of your life. This [points to various areas on the drawing] is how you relate to people, this is your compassion, this is your identity, and this deals with your focus, and so on. And by the colors you choose, you take colored pencils and color every area, he can tell you everything about yourself. Now, you hear this, and you go, "no, no, that's impossible." Now, trust me. This man really can.
Mungadze: I can be in a room with some people, for example some of the people of the occult, people who were steeped in demonology. I may not know just by sitting next to them, but I let them do that [color the brain drawing] and I can tell them what spirit they have and what it is doing in their life.
Hinn: By the color.
Mungadze: Yeah. The trouble, it is a spiritual trouble. Demonization, for instance. Or if the trouble is abuse, if they grew up in a family where there is abuse, or people who come from the occult, or come from witchcraft.
Hinn: What colors do they choose, usually?
Mungadze: Usually blacks and browns, and grays.
There was also this earlier interview with Mungadze on the Daystar Network, wherein he revealed that he can diagnose men as being gay using the same technique. Gay guys, apparently, like to use pink crayons more than straight guys do.
Every time I think these people can't possibly find a way to make themselves appear more ridiculous, they do, somehow.
I have sometimes been accused of only going after the low-hanging fruit -- of choosing the most absurd fringe beliefs out there, and highlighting those, rather than engaging in the more difficult job of countering subtle, intelligent arguments (and those do exist). To some extent, guilty as charged. On the other hand, I wouldn't feel the need to point out the idiotic claims of people like Hinn and Mungadze if everyone had the reaction of laughing them into oblivion. But according to the Wikipedia article I posted above, Benny Hinn is incredibly successful at convincing people -- his television show This is Your Day is one of the world's most-watched Christian broadcasts, and his revival meetings are incredibly well-attended. In three meetings on a "crusade" in India, his message was heard by 7.3 million people.
He is also incredibly wealthy. Using donations from the faithful, he was able to purchase a personal Gulfstream G4SP jet (dubbed the "Dove One") valued at $36 million, and which costs an estimated $600,000 a year to maintain and operate.
We're not talking about some kind of fly-by-night revivalist preacher at the county fair, here. People listen to this guy, and mostly, they believe him.
So it's easy for the rationalists to sit back and laugh. "Colored pencils? Demonization? Diagnosing psychiatric conditions using crayons?" But unfortunately, such is the widespread credulity in the world, the no-evidence-needed, faith-based approach to knowledge, that even such an apparent act of self-parody as Hinn and Mungadze just engaged in doesn't seem to elicit much besides a resounding "Hallelujah."