Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Was James Arthur Ray selling positive thinking, or no thinking?

This is somewhat old news, but it's bothering me. Last month, three people died at a sweat lodge in Sedona, Arizona. They were attending a spiritual retreat, led by James Arthur Ray. You might remember him as one of the "master teachers" featured in the film The Secret. This retreat was designed to teach people to push past their "self-imposed" limits so they could "create harmonic wealth." ("Harmonic Wealth" is a registered trademark, by the way.) Participants paid upwards of $9000 to attend.

In a statement on his website, Mr. Ray says, "I must dedicate all of my physical and emotional energies to helping bring some sort of closure to this matter. That means helping the authorities and the families get to the bottom of what happened."

I will tell you what happened, Mr. Ray. People trusted you. They believed that wonderful things would come into their lives if they followed your instructions. They believed you were looking out for them. Then you knowingly led them into a dangerous situation and made them feel as though they would be cowardly quitters and miss out on the wonderful prize if they left.

Christine Whelan, in an op-ed for the Washington Post reported that her friend who was at the retreat heard one of Ray's volunteers claim that those who had died had "chosen not to come back" because their souls were "having too much fun" outside their bodies.

I've heard of blaming the victim, but that is beyond disgusting. Their souls are not off blissfully celebrating somewhere. They are dead. They are gone, and it is your fault, Mr. Ray.

You, sir, are a murderer, although even through my anger, I have to pity you a little, because I'm pretty sure that you actually believe your own lies. 

We do not need a "New Age" rebranding of the same mumbo jumbo. We need an Age of Reason.


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Religion, skepticism, and carving out a spiritual life post-Mormonism