Hello again people of Think Atheist.

It's been a while since I last logged on, at least to contribute in any form. I'm back again with a problem, which I hope people here may be able to help me with.

I was at my cousins house the other day and, for the third consecutive visit, the conversation came to a mystic/fortune teller my family have all been going to and seem quite impressed with. On this visit one of my cousins were there who is big into anything supernatural (loves the stuff). They gave me their personal story's of their visits and some 'bewildered sceptic' story’s about other family members.

Anyway, the suggestion was that I should go, that my disbelief without experiencing this was 'very Christian'. I resisted for a time, pointing out that if i went and was impressed by what she knew or could figure out that was all well and good, but was not evidence of anything supernatural. In the end, as I didn't want to lose any friends among family, and because I had been subjected to a barrage of this non sense for at least an hour at this point I agreed to go so long as I could bring at least two other people, one of which would have a camera.

This where I hope TA can help, mostly with advice, but if anyone on TA lives close by, It would be great to have them come along on the day. I feel I need advice as I'm sure this lady is very good at what she does, I want to be able to cover 'tells' and be able to pick up on her leading questions etc better.

If anyone has any thoughts please do share, and if anyone is in or near Northern Ireland and would like to be involved please let me know.

Tags: Advice, Help, family, mystic, problem, supernatural

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Hi David,

Many people that go to see a “mystic” do so with friends. Usually it is seen (as appears to be in your case) as a fun day out and by the time it arrives an air of expectation has been created surrounding the experience. Everyone has heard stories about how accurate the reader is and any attempts at critical analysis of the techniques used are almost seen as being in bad taste. If you call the person a charlatan you will be fobbed off as not been open-minded or that you are bringing too much negative energy to the party or some such bunk.

These people generally fall into 2 categories. The first is the outright fraud who plays on peoples weaknesses and has become skilled in picking up clues about people. The second is the crank that is deluded enough to believe in their own “powers”.

Whichever they are, they love groups. What happens is that the first person that goes in if often the most enthusiastic or gullible and they are used to elicit information on the rest of the party. By the time the last person goes in (presumably you) they will already know a lot about you.

They are experts in a technique called “cold reading” which is rather easy to master. I have done it at parties to debunk it and some insisted that I had a “gift”. If only classes in critical thinking were mandatory in schools instead of religious indoctrination!

 As an experiment you could drop hints during the preceding few days on what you would like to hear about (make it up, i.e. you are thinking of moving to New Zealand for a year)  and wait to see if the “mystic” talks about that from info picked up from others before you went in. Record the conversation on your phone.

Sally Morgan caught out. This is a good article. James Randi on Homeopathy and on Astrology.

Or…..you could refuse to go for religious reasons!!!!

“Do not turn to mediums or necromancers; do not seek them out, and so make yourselves unclean by them: I am the Lord your God”. Leviticus 19:31

Thanks for your input Reg, I'm very glad you got involved in this discussion as I believe  you are an Irish Atheist, no? and further seemingly intelligible.  I would hope you would consider being involved in at least the preparation of this meeting if not there on the day.

I have noticed some of what you say in the accounts of this mystic, namely singling the weakest of the heard and pulling story's of the rest out of them.

I like to think the best of people, and hope this mystic believes she has powers and is using them for good.  That said I think BS is BS no matter what the tone or result.

Don't forget to take your rabbit's foot.  Have fun, it's showtime. ;)

Here is a good read - The Believing Brain.

This little experiment won't cost you a dime, right?

It would seem so, my cousin offered to pay the £30 that this lady thinks her 'service' is worth.

Hi David,

I often wonder what people who believe in psychics think the world's reaction would be if someone could be consistently shown to have genuine psychic powers. To my mind it would generate a world-wide media furore that would far exceed Watergate or the death of Elvis.

What I tell people is that until such an event occurs, I have no interest in the matter, no matter what "amazing" stories I hear.

If someone is genuinely psychic this news will find me. I don't have to go looking for it.

I'd agree with you entirely, but its sometimes hard to use logic to argue against the illogical.

I like to think the best of people first and then see what happens. 99% of the time people are genuine. It does not matter what religion, race or sex people are, we generally do not meet “bad people” too often.

However I have a low bullshit tolerance when it comes to “psychics” and my radar spots them and their ilk very quickly. I see little difference between physics and preachers. Both are charlatans and peddlers of “Woo”. Both make unsupported claims to know the supernatural and both are wrong in what they do. They manipulate vulnerable people and make predictions that can distract people from taking positive action to remedy personal situations. They never seem to go hungry from doing so.

It does not matter to me whether or not they are downright cheats or if they actually believe in their own supernatural powers. A priest may give consolation to someone by lending them an ear and the time to talk through a problem but that can be rendered useless if the advice given is based on telling them to pray or read that magic book they claim holds all the answers. It will only be useful advice if it comes from life experience and is practical to implement.  A preacher may give a rousing hell fire and brimstone sermon but if he passes around a collection plate afterwards he is a conman.

I often find myself thinking the physic is even less moral than the above preacher. If they work in a circus then I might leave them alone but when they are advertising themselves as gifted in their trade then they are fair game. I think some are deluded into believing they can see the future but if someone could actually do that they would give the advice for free as they could win the Lotto jackpot whenever they needed more money.

The most successful are the ones that can read people quickly. But they don’t use that skill to help people. They use it to make money by telling people what they want to hear. That may make someone feel better about their lives or problems for a short while. Often people keep going back to them not because of the great advice they think they are getting but because of the (false) concern and attention they get which gives them back that happy feeling.

So when it comes to priests or physics do not consider holding them in any sort of reverence because they claim to work with the supernatural. That is nonsense. Is does not matter if they are well-meaning and delusional or just plain con artists as they have nothing of substance to offer that has any lasting quality. Anyone who suggests that it is just harmless fun will find their wallet lighter very quickly.

Yes, I am an atheist in Ireland. I am intelligible? That is not for me to say given some of my overly long sentences and a tendency to labor the point at times haha! While it is unlikely that I can attend I can assist via email if you like.

Thanks again Reg! 

Since the conversation that I described, no one has approached the subject again.  I'm not going to follow up on this if I don't have to but I'l keep you up to date on whats going on with this fiasco if it goes any further.

first off I'd like to put it out there and say that I can do tarot card readings, Iching, and also analyze your birth(feng shui) based mostly

Here's the secret: it's all a bunch of bull

Most psychic "predict" you by doing cold readings.

Yup, I don't know why people have such a hard time understanding the idea that there are extremely intuitive people out there that can tell you things about yourself with shocking accuracy.

There seems to be a break in logical thinking where because 'I don't know how they knew that' becomes 'it must be magic, just like they claim'.  Well just because the best magicians don't share their secrets doesn't make them more than just tricks, even if they claim it to be real magic.

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