I tend to have insomnia quite often, and when I flip through the TV channels late at night I often stop on one of the many xian networks - CBN, Trinity, etc. While there I see a parade of well known and wanna-be-well-known televangelists, and I must admit that I'm quite often entertained and amused at their schtick. Some of them are consummate performers - hell even I find them entertaining at times. And, if I were to be one of the "anointed" who actually buys the load of bullshit they're espousing I would definitely be inspired and enthused by their passion and the conviction with which they sell it. I have to admit, however, that the more - shall we say - "enthusiastic" they are, the more hilarious they are to me. I mean people like Benny Hinn, Earnest Angely, and Robert Tilton when he was on the air, are comical in their delivery. The healing and speaking-in-tongues are the two things that are the most entertaining, I must say.
But then I'm left to wonder: is there any way these snake oil salesmen believe in the crap they're selling?
Let's face it - these are not stupid people. They have built empires and have staffs of thousands working for them - and you don't get that and run that successfully by being an idiot. So it makes it even harder for me to think that these people actually believe what they're preaching. I mean, is there any way at all that they do? I just find it incredulous to think they actually buy their own bullshit.
Of course there's no way we'll ever know for sure. But do you think that any of them - ANY of them - actually believe it?
I will say that there are some people on TV that may - MAY - convince me they're sincere. Actually, the only one that comes to mind is Joel Osteen. But I even find that hard to believe.
Maybe it's because I find it impossible to believe in any of this that I find it hard to believe anyone else does either. And because I am aware of this possible slant to my consideration of this I have to question my conclusions - which is why I decided to get the opinions of the people I trust the most, my fellow rational freethinkers. What do you think?
I can't wait to read your thoughts on this.
I haven't watched TV evangelists in a while, but I admit, I watched them from time to time for the entertainment and bat shit crazy factor of it.
As for any of them believing what they sell... I have a hard time believing that any of them actually believe that crap. Like you said, maybe Osteen, but from what I remember he sells "self help" religious stuff, no? He doesn't do the live PPV faith healing stuff. So his pill is a lot easier to swallow.
I consider televangelism to be the modern incarnation of shamanism. I've read a few articles about schizophrenia and something called 'schizotypal' personality. Apparently first cousins of schizophrenics are likely to have 'schizo typical' personalities - meaning they aren't actually clinically insane, but are rather prone to 'magical thinking'. This can actually be a positive trait as it lends well to creative thinking without the outright lunacy. Such people might write an incredible story about a fantasy world, or they may just have a knack for appealing to the superstitions to which all humans are prone.
Most people here should already know about the compartmentalization required maintain faith in a modern world. Intellectually, everyone knows science is answering all sorts of questions and therefore must have 'something' to it. On the other hand, faith is the compelling urge to maintain that there must be 'something' to our superstitions or magical thoughts.
I think televangelists are people who are highly intelligent AND prone to wildly magical thinking who have managed to strike a balance through almost infallible compartmentalization. On the intellectual side of the wall, they know they can't claim to heal amputees or they will be proven absolutely wrong - and on the magical side they rationalize this by deciding that such a demand is just asking too much of their magic. In this way, they only allow themselves to make claims that cannot be proven irrefutably false and because they are never proven irrefutably false their magical mind latches on and says 'must be real'.
I believe this entire process is subconscious for them, and on the surface they (most of them) truly believe that they are working magic. With every episode of healing or tongues, they get a real jolt of affirmation that the magic is working. Of course confirmation bias plays a huge factor in this - but even confirmation bias is strong evidence that we can sincerely believe that which we strongly desire to believe.
To take that a step further Heather, they have a built-in escape clause.
In the NT, Jesus said if we have faith only the size of a tiny mustard seed, we can say to a mountain, "Move," and it will move. The escape clause, when the mountain prefers to stay where it is, thank you very much, is that if it didn't move, you didn't have enough faith - it's all your fault that the mountain didn't move (and the laws of physics had nothing to do with it).
When they started out, most of them did. How long the "keep the faith" is another question. Many, if not most, get caught up in the machinery of ministry and the need to produce, perform and most of all, make money, that whether or not they are being true to their one-time beliefs simply doesn't enter the equation.
As far as I know, most televangelists use cheap, although sometimes ingenious, tricks to work their supposed miracles. In Science 10 and Physics 11AP, my teacher, also the main physics master and science department head, showed us a movie in the first week or so, called Secrets of the Psychics. You may not want to watch the entire movie, but there is a section about a televangelist/faith healer called Peter Popoff. It this clip, the link to which I have put below, it runs from about 2:40 to about 6:25, and gives footage from his shows, as well as explaining his methods. I realize that this is just one example, but still, it goes to show what some people are willing to do. Let me know what you think, and I hope this helps!
I've seen Popov - isn't he the one who peddles the "Miracle Spring Water"?
I could live comfortably on what he spends on hair dye!