In the musical “Wicked,” the Wizard of Oz is made out to be the “bad guy.” According to the common interpretation, the Wizard fools the people into believing that he has powers that he does not have, and enriches himself through this position.

I guess I understand why people make the Wizard out to be the bad guy. Deception and manipulation are wrong after all.

But here’s the problem I see: I don’t think the Wizard of Oz (or Joseph Smith for that matter) originally set out to fool the people on such a grand scale.

I think that the people wanted a Wizard (or a treasure seeker, or a prophet) to make their lives feel less drab, meaningless, and vulnerable. They wanted hope. And so the people, in effect, created the Wizard by flattering and elevating him to his status.

Don’t believe me? Check out the lyrics from the song “Wonderful” from the Musial Wicked:

I never asked for this
Or planned it in advance
I was merely blown here
By the winds of chance
I never saw myself
As a Solomon or Socrates
I knew who I was
One of your dime a dozen
Then suddenly I’m here
Respected, worshipped, even
Just because the folks in Oz
Needed someone to believe in
Does it surprise you
I got hooked, and all too soon?
What can I say?
I got carried away
And not just by balloon
They called me
So I said
“Wonderful. If you insist”

In other words, to whatever extent Joseph Smith conned our ancestors, to some degree, they were eager to be conned.

This is one of the hardest parts about what I do these days. As someone who sees how harmful cults can be, and who deeply values truth and science and evidence and reality, it’s continually astounding to be reminded over and over again that so many people, even ex-religious people, WANT…almost NEED a “Wizard”….whether it be a belief in Foot Zoning, or Reiki, or crystals, or chakras, or energy work, or Satanic Ritual Abuse, or aliens, or the mis-use of essential oils, or some drug (psychedelic or otherwise), or the next MLM, or anti-vaxxing beliefs, or conspiracy theories, or political fanaticism, or some set of extreme beliefs about diet or exercise, etc.

Many of these things can be innocuous….or they can grow to become a huge waste of time and money….or in a “worst case scenario” they can cause serious damage. It just depends on the situation.

Regardless, what’s clear is that we constantly want to give our time, money, and extra special “powers” to people or things that they simply don’t and should not have it….in order to make our lives feel more meaningful, or hopeful.

I guess that meaning and hope are good things. And I’m not a fan of people feeling powerless. And I honestly don’t want to insult anyone here.

Still…..I guess I wish that less of us felt the need to believe in superstitious or supernatural or conspiratorial things… part because I think that these beliefs can waste our time and money, make us vulnerable to charlatans, cause us to be bigoted to vulnerable minority groups, or even just give us false hope…but mostly because the power that we often give these things is usually not based in reality.

But as messy as reality is, I want to live in it. Not in Oz. And I don’t want to follow any more Wizards.

More importantly, I want humans to find a way to get meaning, joy, and purpose from life’s incredible realities — and there are so many — and not from charlatans or superstition.

Do any of you resonate with what I write here?

Again, I certainly don’t mean to offend anyone.

I just want the best for our people. ❤️

What Wizard are you worshiping these days?


Three essential books for those interested:

The Demon Haunted World
Mistakes Were Made, But Not By Me
Remembering Satan: A Tragic Case of Recovered Memory

Would love your feedback.


  1. Eric June 29, 2020 at 9:13 pm - Reply

    JS started deceiving people at a young age. That is who he was when he started with his treasure seeking. I think he was constantly searching for the next scam. He told people and deceived people and into believing he was gods new prophet.

  2. Eric June 29, 2020 at 9:30 pm - Reply

    JS started deceiving people at a young age. That is who he was when he started with his treasure seeking. I think he was constantly searching for the next scam. He deceived people into believing he was gods new prophet and created all the props to prove it.

  3. D. Michael Martindale June 29, 2020 at 9:42 pm - Reply

    I’ve made myself my own wizard. I seek for truth and teach it to myself when I find it.

    If Joseph Smith and the others get to do that, why can’t I too? Why do I have to rely on them?

  4. cl_rand June 30, 2020 at 11:31 am - Reply

    What you write very much resonates John. It seems as though having just enough brain power to comprehend the precarious situation we find ourselves in but not enough brain power to discern what, or if, anything can, or should, be done to improve our situation leaves us homo-sapiens open to any good narrative that comforts or explains even when it may not be based in reality.

    I was born and raised Mormon and when I first read that Joseph Smith used a rock in the bottom of a hat to “translate” from plates that, at times, weren’t even in the room, I was incredulous. I was sure that Fawn Brodie was either mistaken or a true “anti-Mormon” for spreading such a scandalous lie. Of course a bit more thought on the matter and one soon realizes that using “. . . two stones bound by silver bows into a set of spectacles (interpreters) . . .” otherwise referred to as a “Urim and Thummim” is no less magical than staring at a crystal ball, tea leaves or a rock in a hat. My own desire to maintain the comfort of my cocksure ignorance simply overrode the gnawing concern that I might be drifting toward that slippery slope of thoughtful uncertainty, and even worse, that I might have been purposely deceived. I had simply settled into a comforting narrative and held it as “the truth” right up until I actually learned the truth of the matter. I think my initial response is all too common within our species. I also think it is one of the primary reasons that the continuance of human civilization remains precarious.

    I read Carl Sagan’s “The Demon Haunted World” many years ago and count it as another part of my own faith journey. I look forward to checking out the other two titles. Another book I read recently by Yuval Noah Harari, “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind”, was also very useful to me in thinking about the importance of which narratives we choose to attach ourselves to and the importance of the scientific method. I can’t imagine why anyone would take offense at what you have written John unless, of course, your Trump fan followers recognize who else qualifies as a “wizard” as you have outlined it here. Keep up the good work.

    • Jill Young July 20, 2020 at 10:11 am - Reply

      Oh my gawd! Stop bringing Trump into religion and making assumptions. Would you have named Obama if he were in office? Didn’t think so. Now who’s based in reality?

      • cl_rand July 21, 2020 at 3:20 pm - Reply

        I my gawd Jill, calm down. You’re allowed to have anyone you want for a wizard.

    • D. Michael Martindale July 21, 2020 at 12:00 am - Reply

      Trump bashers act just like Mormons when they address other religions, with arrogance, intolerance, demonization, and a desperate need to keep talking about it to convince themselves they’re not being arrogant, intolerant, and demonizing. Meanwhile they practice the same worship of their own leaders on the left that they berate Trump supporters for practicing. They have their own “wizards.” Obama comes to mind. Sanders comes to mind. Clinton comes to mind. Which allows me add hypocrisy to the list.

      In other words, CL_Rand is exhibiting the same intolerant confirmation bias politically that s/he just got through condemning in Mormons. Nobody wants to hear you injecting politics into every damn conversation that comes along. We’re sick to death of it.

      And just to pre-empt the inevitable trollish responses to this, I am not a Trump supporter, nor a Republican, nor a conservative. I’m only one of those who are sick of the 3+ year tantrum the left has been pulling because they lost the election.

      Now can we get back to talking about the topic of discussion?

      • cl_rand July 21, 2020 at 5:23 pm - Reply

        I am not a Trump basher nor a Democrat. I will admit to being arrogant at times but I’m only intolerant of intolerance. I didn’t see a single thing in your post that addressed the topic at hand but I’d be happy to hear anything you have to say about it. Meanwhile, D. Michael Martindale, calm down and quite yer boobin’.

  5. EDiL13 June 30, 2020 at 2:46 pm - Reply

    I loved your use of the “Wizard of Oz” to illustrate your point.

    In the original movie, even though the Wizard was a charlatan, he still helped the characters find the best in themselves: The Scarecrow learned that he was really intelligent, no matter that he had a head was full of straw for a brain; the Tin Man learned that what really mattered was to love and be loved, and not whatever he had in his chest for a heart; and the Lion learned that true courage was not to be without fear, but to face your fear and do what needs to be done in spite of it. Maybe that’s what the best “Wizards” do for us — help us find the best in ourselves?

  6. Rob Lauer July 1, 2020 at 10:01 am - Reply

    In L. Frank Baum’s original novel, “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” the Wizard, after being exposed by Dorothy and friends as a “humbug” (AKA fraud) says to himself: “How can I help but be humbug when people expect me to do things that they know can’t be done?”
    In the original story, the true “magic” that the Wizard performs is convincing the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and Cowardly Lion that they already possessed within themselves the attributes that mistakenly believed they lacked.
    When any religion, theology or myth does this, I think it is a positive thing. But when a religion, theology or myth instills in people the belief that they lack something essential for their happiness or that they can’t trust themselves because they are broken, tainted, fallen or sinful–then that religion, theology or myth needs to be abandoned.

    • EDiL13 July 1, 2020 at 12:11 pm - Reply

      Exactly. You said it better than I did.

  7. JB November 18, 2020 at 2:58 pm - Reply

    Wow, this is so spot on John, I constantly recognise, especially recently in these mad and crazy times, how people are so desperate to find meaning in the chaos and confusion of the world, especially where we live in a time where the truth of things is so often misrepresented or blatently lied about. So many people I know are grasping for any purpose or meaning in all this that they will often fall victim of wild conspiracy theories, that to me look like they are just forms of cults. Will be interesting to see where we all end up mentally as a world after this virus and all the controls, promise of miracle cures, and fear mongering have hopefully gone away.

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