Has anyone seen this documentary by Vikram Gandhi with his made up guru character and phony religion experiment. He was able to amass some followers. I'm amazed that some of the people who were duped allowed themselves to be in the final film.
It sounds really interesting. I saw him on Colbert and Steven asked if he had a lot of women followers and intimated about his sexual success with them and Vikram said something like - Unlike real gurus a fake guru has to hold himself to a higher moral plane.
Russell, haven't seen this documentary, but it brings to mind 2 other instances I saw.
First one was when James Randi busted Ike Popoff, the faith healer. Saw it on Carson show, if memory serves me. He would have staff pre-interview people in his audiences. They were able to get info like names, kids names, personal stuff. They would also supply wheelchairs for people who really didn't need them, as a friendly way to help out. Then during the healing service, his wife would transmit to a receiver he had in his ear. Looked like a hearing aid. Always wondered if he could heal, why he needed a hearing aid? Sorry, just a tangent I always wondered about. Anyhoo, his wife would transmit info to him, like 'Man in third row, left side, wearng red shirt, name John, having stomach problems'. He would then go into his act. " Over here" and he would point to the left, " someone is having trouble with their stomach. Praise jesus, Jim, no James, no John. Yes John. Praise jesus". He would then walk right up to them, tell them some personal things revealed to him by the holy spirit, and proceed to heal them. They were all so impressed, they went along with this mass hallucination. I thought it was the funniest thing I ever saw. He went out of business after he was exposed. However, in the last couple of years, he has started up again. Sheeple, huh.
The second one, a former astrologer, was on a talk show. Forget which one. He said he got tired of how certain people ridiculed him for being an astrologer. So he decided to do an experiment. He would do an astrological reading for people, but would give them a reading totally opposite to what he discerned from his charts. The other half, he would give them the right reading. And to his surprise, both groups equally said the readings were true, that they followed the advice in the charts, and it had positively impacted their lives. That convinced him that astrology was bs.
Weird stuff. I know there are many other stories out there like these. People can be so gullible. They really need to learn to think and reason for themselves.
He would do an astrological reading for people, but would give them a reading totally opposite to what he discerned from his charts. The other half, he would give them the right reading. And to his surprise, both groups equally said the readings were true ....
Reminds me of James Randi describing his classroom demonstration, where after getting the students' dates and places of birth, he arrived at the next class with a stack of personalized astrological charts for them. The students overwhelmingly thought the readings were accurate or highly accurate. Then they were asked to pass the papers to the people sitting behind them... and found out that everyone in the class received identical predictions!
I remember the Randi bust and the fact that Popoff went back to his old ways and got away with it. That is mind blowing.
This reminds me of another religious experiment. Joseph Smith was a convicted con man and still was able to successfully inspire a religious following and there are now around 14 million Mormons worldwide.
Makes you wonder about the religions founded further back. The more shrouded in history a religion is the more difficult it is to examine the motives and characters of the prime instigators of that movement. Good thing we have these recent examples to study.
I saw this program recently.
It was very good, he went to a lot of trouble to set himself up as the guru and sucked in a number of people. Even when he revealed himself as a fake some of the followers still thought he was somehow mystical.
He felt really bad about deceiving them, but on the other hand, he got in so deep he didn't want to reveal that he was a fraud. It was apparent how easy it is to take people for a ride. He could have had quite the lifestyle if he wanted to pursue it.
Watched the trailer, but haven't seen the movie. Don't know that I will. Mr. Gandhi is, from what I can tell, at least being "honest about his fraud." Which is more than can be said for likes of Benny Hinn, Deepak Chopra, Rick Warren, the late Sathya Sai Baba, Jimmy Swaggart, etc., etc., etc. I suppose one could level criticism at him for roping in the gullible, and giving them false hope with babbling nonsense, wrapped in the thinly veiled camouflage of "deep universal meaning." On the other hand, if it wasn't him, it would be some one else. There are always those who are more than willing to be corralled because of their desperate longing to believe in something supernatural. And, there are always those who are more than eager to give them a fleecing in the process. It's been going on since the first shaman convinced the first herdsman to give up a sacrificial goat to appease the first magic juju spirit. Our technology has evolved. Our pre-frontal cortex has not.
It shows how eager people are for systematic answers to life's problems."Religion is the human response to being alive and having to die." —F. Forrester Church.
The French writer Paul Valery said "A religion furnishes men with words, acts, gestures, and thoughts for those circumstances where they do not know what to say, to do, or to imagine."
Where we don't know, religion fills in the gaps, providing a deluded—but comforting—sense of security in an insecure world. Delusion is like a benign tumor. Even if benign, a tumor displaces natural functions. And even if comforting, religion displaces a true view of how the world works and reduces one's chance to live fully.
Tumor? yes. Benign? Not always. Human history is hardly bereft of examples of misery, bloodshed, and slaughter brought about by the absolute certainty in a delusion.
In this instance I was thinking specifically of the effect of religion on the individual, for whom it is often defended as a comfort in the face of life's travails, and not at all of its effect on societies, which you correctly argue can be evil. I had in mind to counter the argument that there is no harm comfortable delusions, but I think there is even when the individual acts well under their influence.
A review for this film just made the Toronto paper. It got three out of four stars.