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A few months ago, I signed up for the mailing list of a site that has the chutzpah to call itself “Real Magic Spells“. Practically every single day since, I’ve gotten a highly entertaining e-mail from the site’s proprietor, one Frank Stevens, who endlessly boasts about how he’s the real deal, how his voodoo spells really work (unlike all the other fraudulent sites out there), how much labor and danger he had to go through to learn this, how the powerful elders of voodoo magic are furious with him for revealing their deepest secrets, and so on. His offer to teach the world to cast genuine black magic spells is complete nonsense, of course, and I’m sure he knows that quite well. But if he ever wants to consider an alternative career, I’d bet he could make a good living as a screenwriter or a fantasy novelist.

Here’s an excerpt from one of his letters, which begins with the subject: “Lift a Car with One Arm!”

Question: Can we human beings tap into this type of super-human strength on command?

Answer: Yes and no.

Yes, we can do seemingly incredible things at will. Yes, we can improve whatever we are doing – and do so instantly.

Yes, we can make what appear to be quantum leaps forward.

But no, we cannot make these leaps unless we learn how to harness the power of mental pictures and ….

Harness the power of magic.

And if you sign up right now, there’s more:

* Bonus 1: Beginners Love Spell.
You can successfully perform this love spell after you only been studying for about 1 hour!!!

* Bonus 2: Financial Improvement Spell
You can get rid of your money worries TODAY.

* Bonus 3: Voodoo on Non-Believers Special Report.
You can easily do spells on people who do NOT believe in Voodoo.

* Bonus 4: Some of the best sources for Information on Voodoo in the world.

* Bonus 5: Voodoo Defense.
Learn exactly how to defend your self from other peoples attack magic.

* Bonus 6: Revenge Spell.
I am still considering taking this one out of the course because it is too powerful.

* Bonus 7: Horse’s Healing Spell.
This healing spell regularly performs miracles.

Another e-mail along the same lines claims that, if “you want $500 for that new air conditioner,” you can perform the “Financial Spell” and “proceed to find $500 in 3 minutes flat”. I have to admit I’m curious. Plenty of magic believers claim they can acquire wealth supernaturally, but even so, the claim is usually that it arrives through mundane means in due time. But in three minutes? How does this work? Do bags of money just materialize next to you, or do they drop from the sky on command? (Also, do “Voodoo Defense” and the “Revenge Spell” cancel each other out? What happens if one person performs one and the target performs the other?)

As usual, there are dismissive words for the skeptics:

The main reason people do not test their belief in magic is because they are afraid that it is NOT real. OR…

They are afraid that it is real and that they will have to give up their excuses for failure.

Are you brave enough to take the power of real magic and make it your own?

One might think Mr. Stevens is going out on a limb by making such specific and testable claims about his supposed magical powers, but I assume the risk is small. There will always be those who think that the confidence with which a claim is advanced is a reliable guide to its truth. And those who deeply invest their identity in any kind of supernaturalism will always find excuses and rationalizations for the method’s failure – “it was my fault for not believing enough” is a perenially common one. To take advantage of a promised refund in the event of failure would be admitting to themselves that what they trusted and believed in is not real. Most fervent believers would rather give up a few dollars than face that upsetting truth. No surprise, there are plenty of con artists who make a handsome living by skimming off the top of that tendency.

DAYLIGHT ATHEISM—Adam Lee is an atheist author and speaker from New York City. His previously published books include "Daylight Atheism," "Meta: On God, the Big Questions, and the Just City," and most...

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