Question: As a “bright,” what do you believe?
James Randi: The term "bright" I don’t much care for, but hey, we did the best we could with it. I was with Richard Dawkins in Clearwater, Florida and a few other people who brainstormed and came up with idea of having the "brights." I think I was maybe the third or fourth person to sign the membership roster.
And a "bright" is someone who thinks logically and rationally; bases his or her decisions on rationality, upon logic, and upon evidence—that’s the major thing right there. And if we don’t have evidence, we can express our belief or lack of belief in it, but it has to be provisional. I believe that this is probably true, though I don’t have any evidence for or against. It’s a perfectly safe statement. And so, brights base all of their decisions and their beliefs on logic, rationality, and evidence. That’s the thing in which they differ from the average person who takes anything that comes along that looks attractive. “Oh, I like that; I think I’ll believe in it.”
Question: As the scientific picture of the universe gets weirder, could any religious claims ever be verified?
James Randi: Not that I know. I am an atheist, tried and true. I have been since I was, oh I guess about this tall. I’m only about this tall now. And I made up my mind that I was going to investigate all of these things and question them. I went to Sunday school. I was tossed out of Sunday school immediately. But it gave me 25 cents that I could have put in the contribution plate there, so when they pass the plate around, and I found out that at Purdy's Drug Store, you could buy a two-flavored ice cream sundae for 25 cents. And that was a great discovery of my childhood, I must say, and I took full advantage of it. My parents, bless them, never found out and I went off every Sunday morning as if going to Sunday school, but I lied. And I’m ashamed to admit it now, and if my dad and mom are up there someplace, or down there someplace, I have no idea, I ask them to forgive me.
Recorded April 16, 2010
Interviewed by Austin Allen