An atheist named Michael Middlebrooks has accused Gov. Charlie Crist of having a bigoted view of nonbelievers following what he said was a brief encounter in St. Petersburg on March 5. Millbrooks describes his brush with the governor and U.S. Senate candidate in this messageboard post, then repeats it in this YouTube interview with the Atheist Nexus.
According to Middlebrooks' account, he asked whether Crist actually believed that placing prayer notes in Jerusalem's Western Wall helped keep hurricanes from hitting Florida, as Crist told a group of realtors last year. Crist said he did. Then Middlebrooks declared his atheism, at which time he says Crist ripped a campaign sticker off Middlebrooks' shirt. A moment later, Middlebrooks says Crist said he felt "sorry" for Middlebrooks' lack of faith.
A slur of this kind calls for an atheist superhero, but it so happened that while the story was spreading, the James Randi Education Foundation was out to sea. We'll see whether we can get hold of Randi or someone else at the foundation.
I just spoke with Randi and asked the world-famous debunker whether it was possible that the Western Wall possessed the mystical powers ascribed to it by Crist and others who credit prayer notes for miracles.
"I really don't think so," says Randi, though he admits he hasn't been to the wall himself to perform a test. "It sounds like another piece of -- what's the word? Ah, yes! -- bullshit."
Randi's familiar with the legend of the wall. He says that for all the prayer notes' good intentions, they're plucked out of the wall daily and trashed. "It's a superstitious gesture," says Randi of Crist's prayer notes. "But it goes over well with voters."
Told of Crist's allegedly saying he felt "sorry" for the atheist, Randi says, "That's a typical reaction. Christians are always feeling sorry for me. I always say, 'Save your sorrow for someone who's really in sorrow.'"
Last August, New Times' Michael J. Mooney wrote this feature article about Randi.