Monday, July 4, 2011

"Hugging saint" comes to New York, hugs

Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, known to her followers as "Amma," is one strange cookie. She just hugs people. That's it. Amma "offers words of encouragement and prayer to anyone who comes forward". The power of suggestion does the heavy lifting. All she has to do is chill and hug.

The woman attracts huge crowds and her followers are exuberant in their addle-brained praises. According to an article on NY1:
"When you see her and she hugs you, you just get rewards beyond belief," said devotee Erica Hayward.
"I was a little bit skeptic. I don't know if it was just love. It was a beautiful experience," said Patricia Muller, who was in tears following her embrace. 
"Its an uplifting healing, connecting of the heart energies," said devotee Jerry Adler. 
Indeed. Okay, so it's wingnut stuff for wingnuts. We knew that going in. But the unusual thing is that unlike the greedy, carnivorous, science-hating, gay-hating, religious "leaders" in our country, the hugging saint seems to do good things with the money people give to her, at least, according to her rep's statement:
Her spokesman said Amma's charity, Embracing The World, has given more than $60 million to disaster relief around the world. In her native country of India, she has taken in 50,000 orphans and provided some $60 million in medical services. In the United States, she feeds some 75,000 people each day through her soup kitchen.
I'd like to know what sort of nonsense she puts in the orphans' heads, and I'd like to see actual records of that disaster relief donation, if you don't mind. But let's say for the sake of argument that she's for real and has a heart of gold. Hell, maybe it's true.

She's still a snake oil salesman but if she makes a lot of money and helps people with it, I don't see any harm in people wasting their time getting hugged. It's all pretty innocuous (except for the needless spreading of germs, of course). You know, if the religious loons in this country acted more like this woman and less like feral animals, they'd be way easier to stomach.