Fugitives from Fundamentalism

The Musings of Adult Missionary Kids (MKs) & Former Born-Again Believers

Reality Test 4–How has my thinking gone wrong?

Posted by Ann on July 4, 2010

4) Using big vague words or making even bigger vague claims does not translate into truth

It doesn’t matter how you say something, if it’s not based in reality it really means nothing.

New Age and religious writers and thinkers have something in common– their approach to reality. Using scientific language and boldly making an assertion doesn’t make those words true. For instance, “Intelligent Design” as an alternative explanation for evolution is just the dressed up religious belief system of creationism. Hijacking scientific language or using big or vague words to make your claim does not make your claim true. New Age writers like to do this as well. I’ve personally read a bunch of New Agey books. Two of my favorite New Age authors who are also believers in God (sorta Christian, but sorta not) are Eckhart Tolle and Paulo Coelho. Here’s a quote by Coelho that exemplifies his New Agey, fuzzy thinking:

“The Soul of the World is nourished by people’s happiness. And also by unhappiness, envy, and jealousy. To realize one’s Personal Legend is a person’s only real obligation. All things are one. And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

Very sweet, and well-meaning, but what does it mean? Coelho, along with Tolle, believe in the bastardized version of Buddhism that has become popular in the western world. I identify with it on a lot of levels. For instance, Coelho’s book, “The Alchemist”, which I’ve read, encourages us to follow our dreams. And Tolle’s book, “The Power of Now”, which I’ve also read, encourages us to live in the present moment. Both thinkers believe in the “Universe” as a substitute for the traditional Christian God. But really, the Universe is still God. And they both still sorta support Jesus as a great spiritual leader, you know, the son of God the Universe. Especially as a counselor whose job is to help people deal with life suffering, a lot of their ideas resonate with me. Their encouragement to people to live full lives, to treasure the now, to be respectful of others, to recognize our personal power. Where they fall short is in their New Agey idea that we can all tap into the God power that will help us, be and do what exactly? Change the world into a future utopia where the purpose of the Universe is recognized. Their thinking and writing is vague, and full of pseudoscientific claims of an energy that we just need to tap into through meditation to reach enlightenment, to be fully alive and recognize our life potential, the big “Secret”. And, as a bonus, the Universe gives us signs and symbols, everywhere, that we can follow to reach our potential (otherwise known as living in a world that is becoming increasingly interconnected by our advanced technology and means of communication so that popular ideas and thoughts are spreading more quickly and are more widely disseminated and understood–coincidences are bound to happen).

What about the 9 million or more children who die around the world before age 5 from lack of nourishment? Did they reach their full life potential before they joined with Father Universe, were their souls nourished? Did they die from starvation because they didn’t want food enough? What about child soldiers, enslaved people, the abused, the tortured, the poor–do they not want something different enough? Well, I suppose I don’t need to be bothered by their lives since I’m busy “realizing my Personal Legend.” I suppose they are just part of the mystery of the Universe.

Grand claims without evidence, despite the fancy language, are quite simply grand claims without evidence.

One Response to “Reality Test 4–How has my thinking gone wrong?”

  1. Robert said

    I love the fact that someone went to the trouble to put that Eckhart Tolle quote on a plaque. I had no idea that “stillness” was otherworldly–but it is pretty miraculous when my kids are still.

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