March 29th, 2007

The Secret (is Stupid)


photo credit: SkagitLily

This week I had the opportunity to watch The Secret with some co-workers. My commentary can be best summarized with the following verse:

And he beheld Satan; and he had a great chain in his hand, and it veiled the whole face of the earth with darkness; and he looked up and laughed, and his angels rejoiced. (Moses 7:26)

The Secret is nothing more than “philosophies of men, mingled with scripture”. I didn’t get two minutes into the feature-length film before busting up laughing at how ridiculous the entire thing was.

“The Secret” is anything but a secret. The movie is nothing more than a prettied-up presentation of the law of attraction, which posits that “the universe” will “rearrange itself” to provide for you that which you desire.

The Secret (and the law of attraction) are completely void of any mention of or attribution to God. Man is “the maker of his own destiny”, and merely by thinking happy thoughts he can receive “health, wealth, and happiness”.

As stated in The Secret, there are three basic steps to follow in obtaining whatever it is you want the universe to give you:

1. Ask

The movie counsels the viewer to “command the universe”. “The universe responds to your thoughts.” It will magically rearrange itself to give you what you want—which is usually a material object.

In real life (i.e. outside of the secret fantasyland), the process of asking requires two persons: the person asking, and the person being asked. However, The Secret indicates that you should ask “the universe”—a nebulous abstraction if ever there was one. On the other hand (and for those who have some level of sanity and mental acuity), one can ask another sentient being:

Therefore, if you will ask of me you shall receive; if you will knock it shall be opened unto you. (D&C 14:5)

2. Believe

The Secret suggests that you believe the item is already yours—picture yourself driving your favorite car, wearing a diamond necklace, or living in your dream home.

You are to “have unwaivering faith” that the universe will give you what you want. Contrary to what such vague fluff suggests, we must place that faith in the person we’re asking:

The first principle of the gospel is not ‘faith.’ The first principle of the gospel is ‘Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ’. (Dallin H. Oaks, “Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ,” Ensign, May 1994)

3. Receive

According to The Secret you should “feel the way you’ll feel once it [the object you desire] arrives”. Feel it now. And then magically, the “universe will provide”. The “positive energy” you are “sending out” will return to you whatever it is you want, “every time”.

In addition to these three primary absurdities, The Secret lacks any mention of personal accountability and labor. You don’t have to work hard for what you want—just ask, believe, and receive! Don’t think about bad things like debt, because then you’ll always get bills in the mail! Think happy thoughts, and the universe will provide.

An assortment of metaphysicians, reverend doctors, and divine visionaries (all with a bevy of strange acronyms following their names) appear throughout the film to praise the secret and certify its validity. Like many other propaganda pieces and Satan-inspired half truths, The Secret will convince (and has convinced) many that the law of attraction is as good as gold. Because they are “mingled with [truth]”, these philosophies of men are believed by many to be legitimate and proven.

Truth can be found anywhere, even in hell as Brigham Young once said. Nevertheless, the filtering of new age (and Satan inspired) fluff requires a strong spirit of discernment. Those who do not have this gift surely will become swayed by the flattering, facile filth pawned off as fact.

The process of “ask, believe, and receive” does work. However, the interaction requires a component that The Secret completely ignores: God. And He doesn’t keep secrets:

Come ye near unto me; I have not spoken in secret; (1 Ne. 20:16)

35 Responses to “The Secret (is Stupid)”

  1. RoAnn
    March 29, 2007 at 9:01 am #

    Thanks for this very informative and insightful review of the ideas in the lastest “sensation” self-help book/movie. Having looked at the book jacket in an airport, I only learned that it was extremely popular, and it seemed like new-age-type advice that I avoid as much as possible. Someone asked me about the book recently, and I didn’t know enough about it to respond intelligently. Now I do!

  2. Michael L. McKee
    March 29, 2007 at 2:06 pm #

    Connor

    In 1937 a book was published entitled “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill. This work was published at the behest of Andrew Carnegie. If you have not already done so, I would recommend reading it simply for the understanding of what Mr. Hill concluded after many years of observing successful people.

    Of course FAITH is the power behind all success, but, unfortunately, even Hitler was successful at bringing about most of what he wanted to accomplish.

    I believe most, if not all, so-called positive motivation philosophies of today are based upon the findings of Mr. Hill’s core philosophical approach.

    This “Secret” as it is dubbed is merely an attempt to attract a great deal of money to those who are presenting something old in a new package, and it will likely succeed.

  3. Richard K Miller
    March 29, 2007 at 6:21 pm #

    I haven’t seen this movie but I’ve been told it sensationalizes the principles found in As A Man Thinketh, a book I like. The book focuses on the importance of personal virtue and of envisioning what you want so you can work towards it.

  4. Connor
    March 29, 2007 at 6:25 pm #

    The book focuses on the importance of personal virtue and of envisioning what you want so you can work towards it.

    Sadly, The Secret completely avoids mentioning the necessity of the latter: working.

    There are good things to be found in The Secret, but they twist and distort them to the point of absurdity.

  5. m&m
    March 30, 2007 at 12:11 am #

    My visiting teacher got all excited about it today. I didn’t say much, because I wasn’t too enthralled with it all.

    BUT, what she said is that she took the good it could give her within the construct of the gospel, and she said her prayers have improved and she is working on more positive thoughts. And so, I suppose we can’t necessarily say it’s all 100% useless, although I much prefer a gospel-centered approach from the get-go.

    My husband quipped that this movie isn’t about helping each of us become rich, but it certainly will make someone rich if people keep buying it. :)

  6. fontor
    March 30, 2007 at 7:14 pm #

    Good post. Always nice to see someone sticking it to New Age hucksters, whether it’s Ouija boards, Reiki, or The Secret.

    My take: There are always two ways to dismiss nonsense like this.

    1) It’s Satanic.
    2) It’s just stupid.

    Connor and I have come to the same conclusion, but Connor’s picked the first option, and I’ve picked the second. Let me say why I think the second option is more tenable.

    Why do people think ‘The Secret’ works? I put it down to a normal human tendency: when we are committed to a idea, we tend to notice when it works, and ignore the times it doesn’t. So if I’m concentrating on ‘sending out positive energy’ (or whatever rubbish they say), and then something good happens, I say “Woo hoo! The Secret rules!” And if nothing good happens, I either fail to notice, or wait for something good to happen, or imagine that some trifling thing was in fact The Good Thing. Failing all else, I can say that at least I got some experience out of it, and that was a Good Thing. And that way I can maintain my belief in The Secret, and I can never be wrong. The more committed I am to The Secret, the longer it’ll take me to realise that it’s a pile of crap. No one will be able to argue me out of it; I’ll have answers for everything.

    This tendency is called ‘confirmation bias, and is well-known. Even people who are trained in critical thinking are susceptible to it.

    But adherents to a religious belief system don’t really have a leg to stand on when criticising ‘The Secret’ because so many elements of their own faith depend on the same kind of bias that makes The Secret seem to work. Priesthood blessings. Do people really get better any more often than random chance? Not sure, but when people do get better, we sure do hear about it in church. If the patient dies instead, we say that it was the Lord’s will — does ‘sometimes the answer is no’ sound familiar? If they stay sick, we just figure they need more prayers. Even if blessings didn’t work at all, the True Believer would never know it because they’re hanging on to the idea no matter what — it’s called ‘exercising faith’. And the same thing goes for answers to prayer, personal revelation, interpretation of prophesy, opinions about coincidence, and on and on.

    Think about all the things people say about faith: it’s a principle of power; it makes things happen. This is exactly what people are saying about The Secret. Does that mean it’s Satan’s counterfeit? No, The Secret is just one more manifestation of the very human tendency to interpret things in a way that favours our current beliefs.

    I think it’s great that people are doing a bit of critical thinking about The Secret, and I’d encourage you to challenge yourself a bit and see if perhaps you’re engaging in some of the same behaviours in your religious life.

  7. James
    March 30, 2007 at 11:33 pm #

    thanks Connor, I heard about this, but my wife wanted it, so now we don’t have to waste our money.

  8. Josh Williams
    April 6, 2007 at 1:22 pm #

    My Dad received on of the promotional videos for “The Secret”, from an acquaintance, who had been “sold” (as it were)…

    I have to say that my reaction was pretty much the same as yours, incredulity, followed by laughter, followed by annoyance. After about 15 minutes, (way too long..) I was so disgusted by how much the video hyped itself, I hit “eject.”

    “The Secret” is a good example of a number of well know logical errors. Here I list some obvious ones, but I am sure there are others…..

    1. “Confirmation Bias”, or “selective perception” (another poster mentioned this one…..). This is the tendency to overemphasize evidence or events that confirm our system of beliefs, while minimizing, misinterpreting, or ignoring evidence to the contrary.

    2. “Post hoc ergo propter hoc:” the assumption that coincidence implies cause and effect.

    3. “Bandwagon bias”, or “Appeal to the masses:” the assumption that popular consensus means a statement or belief is valid. 70% of the population believes it, so it *must* be true….9 out of 10 doctors recommend……

    4. “Anecdotal evidence:” “hearsay”, or “testimonial.” Basing a conclusion on a very small amount of information, or on the sole testimony of a small number of individuals….

    5. “Circular reasoning.” This is arguing a conclusion by first assuming that it is true.

    6. And finally, the granddaddy of them all……”Influence bias:” the assumption that we have influence over events which we have no direct control. “The Secret” puts this type of thinking forward as natural law, however it is really just a common logical fallacy…..

    In the LDS church, we often make the caveat that for a “belief” to be faith, it has to be based on the truth; a belief that is not true, is only superstition. (warning, possible case of circular reasoning……!)

    It is a good thing that such sophistry can be put down by a little patience, searching, self examination, humility, and “faith”, tempered by a healthy dose of skepticism….

  9. Chip
    April 11, 2007 at 8:07 am #

    Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water.

    If the system is working for them, would that mean that God is keeping his promise to man and without judgment responding to their asking, belief and willingness to receive?

    28…And verily I say unto you, whatsoever things ye shall ask the Father in my name shall be given unto you.
    29 Therefore, aask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you; for he that asketh, receiveth; and unto him that knocketh, it shall be opened.

    When is the last time you sat in Sunday School and discussed the application of this promise to all our needs, not just those of strengthening our personal testimony? Does God’s promise apply to temporal, spiritual, social, physical matters?

  10. Connor
    April 11, 2007 at 8:48 am #

    Chip,

    As I said in the last paragraph of this post:

    The process of “ask, believe, and receive” does work. However, the interaction requires a component that The Secret completely ignores: God.

    The Secret promotes asking “the universe” which will not yield the results people are looking for. The creation of the Creator cannot give what only the Creator can.

  11. Chip
    April 22, 2007 at 10:52 am #

    I know that what offends you is The Secret’s lack of acknowledgement of the role God plays in this process.

    God created the universe. God created me and you. By what process does God create when he creates? Is the instruction to “ask, believe and receive” indeed the description of the process to create? Does God follow the same three steps to create? If so, of whom does He ask? What does he believe and from whom does He receive?

  12. fontor
    April 23, 2007 at 3:14 am #

    You guys,

    Josh Williams @ 8 has just given you a list of human cognitive biases that are sufficient all by themselves to explain why the Secret seems to work. We do not need to invoke a god to explain why people think The Secret works.

  13. Chip
    April 23, 2007 at 6:50 am #

    Does this mean that we reject all the evidence and conclusions that are brought forth in this film and dismiss it with one or the other cognitive biases? If not, then what evidences and conclusions do we accept and why would we accept them?

    Don’t get me wrong. I am not underwriting all the evidence and conclusions that were made in The Secret. I am more interested in understanding and using the process of “ask, believe and receive.”

    For example, understanding how Christ performed miracles is essential I believe. I am fairly certain that Josh Williams @ #8 would believe in a miracle performed by Christ and hopefully would not be a “Doubting Thomas” who would not believe in the true testimony of another and only believe it if he were to see for himself.

    We are “created”, and we are learning to be “creators” in this life. Is this process of “ask, believe and receive” not “the secret” of being a creator and the process of creation?

  14. fontor
    April 23, 2007 at 10:40 am #

    Chip sez: If not, then what evidences and conclusions do we accept and why would we accept them?

    This is one of the best questions I’ve seen for a long time. What kind of evidence to accept is the key question.

    One kind of evidence that we should absolutely not believe is ‘anecdotal evidence‘ (as Josh mentions). Even if someone (or loads of people) claim to have a certain kind of experience, this does not necessarily mean that the thing happened. Stories grow in the retelling, and people can be mistaken. Experiences are not good evidence.

    Well-designed scientific experiments, however, would allow us to draw some conclusions.

  15. Chip
    April 23, 2007 at 1:36 pm #

    Does that mean that we will only believe what can be concluded from well-designed scientific experiments?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_method

    Do we live in a world where all truth can be proved by the scientific method? or do we live in a world where certain truths are, perhaps by design, impossible to prove using the scientific method?

    Is faith a necessary component to be one with all truth?

  16. fontor
    April 23, 2007 at 9:16 pm #

    Being one with all truth is an ambitious goal, Chip, and it may not even be on offer.

    The benefit of the scientific method is that it helps you evaluate ideas, and not get fooled so often. It imposes some constraints: you have to stick to observables, you have to be appropriately cautious about the conclusions you draw, and you have to be willing to update them as new evidence appears. But in return, you get to be resonably certain that you’re seeing things as they are.

    As compared to faith, where you can’t use evidence to evaluate ideas, so you just sort of keep them forever, whether they’re right or not. Just as long as they ‘feel’ good.

    I think science is a much more honest approach.

  17. Chip
    April 24, 2007 at 4:25 am #

    I believe Epistemology, the branch of philosophy that studies the nature and scope of knowledge and belief, is related to our discussion.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epistemology

    There is another discussion on faith and the process that one’s true beliefs can become perfect knowledge is located here:

    http://scriptures.lds.org/en/alma/32/21-43#21

    Does this discussion on faith becoming perfect knowledge look a lot like the scientific method if not identical?

  18. Chip
    April 24, 2007 at 12:28 pm #

    Here is an ad that talks about the secret behind “The Secret”.

    http://www.hayhouseimages.com/Hickses/HicksSecretBundleV4.htm

    Don’t get me wrong. My goal is not to promote this. My goal is to understand what it is accurately.

    Interesting comments:

    “One of the most fascinating and moving aspects of Esther and Jerry’s work is that they bring us these life-changing messages and answers to all of our questions through the teachings of a nonphysical voice—a group of scholarly teachers from outside of our realm—called Abraham.”

    Note the “they bring us”.

    “For the first time in your life, you can learn, with precise detail, your reason for being, your relationship with all that is—and the power of your own connection with Source—all from the empowering teachings of Abraham.”

    Note the “for the first time in your life…”

    “Esther calls Abraham “infinite intelligence” and Jerry refers to them as “the purest form of love I’ve ever encountered.”

    Note the “infinite intelligence” and the “them” and the “love”

    “By profiling Jerry, who summoned these teachings, then Esther, who translates them, and next inviting Abraham to join the party, this interview does an outstanding job of presenting the most profound and loving truths you will ever experience”

    Note the “summoned these teachings”

    “Give yourself the gift of Abraham! Treat yourself to this encompassing package of Esther and Jerry’s finest work on the most powerful Law of the Universe. Click here and save!”

    Note the “give yourself” and the “click here and save”.

    Once you’ve completed reading this, let’s talk about “How to Market the Holy Ghost.”

    I’m kidding.

    Inspiration I love, but I don’t like several things about this ad.

  19. fontor
    April 24, 2007 at 10:08 pm #

    Chip,

    Alma 32 does not describe a scientific experiment. It’s saying “Try something, and if you feel good about it, then it’s true.” Which is quite incorrect. Someone could use Alma 32 to say that ‘The Secret’ works, but they’d be equally mistaken.

    Faith never grows into knowledge. Knowledge comes from replicable and independent observation, not feelings. We have a very strong tendency to believe what we want, and the scientific method helps us to control for this.

  20. Chip
    April 25, 2007 at 6:28 am #

    Daniel,

    Here’s how I saw the resemblance…

    Steps of the scientific method
    1. Name the problem or question
    2. Form an educated guess (hypothesis) of the cause of the problem and make predictions based upon the hypothesis
    3. Test your hypothesis by doing an experiment or study (with proper controls)
    4. Check and interpret your results
    5. Report your results to the scientific community

    Alma 32 steps
    1. Name the problem or question = Choose something to test. In this example, he describes it as “an experiment upon my words” http://scriptures.lds.org/en/alma/32/27#27
    2. Form an educated guess (hypothesis) of the cause of the problem and make predictions based upon the hypothesis = The hypothesis is that “his words” are true (they represent what truly is). http://scriptures.lds.org/en/alma/32/28#28
    An assumption here is that if one’s soul feels “enlarged” and if one’s understanding feels enlightened, one can, therefore, conclude that “it” is good. If it is judged to be good, it can, therefore, be concluded to be true. (I know that this assumption is exactly what you are concerned about.)
    3. Test your hypothesis by doing an experiment or study (with proper controls) = The experiment is “give place that a seed may be planted in your heart.”
    4. Check and interpret your results = Make observations about the response of your heart and soul and understanding. http://scriptures.lds.org/en/alma/32/33#33
    5. Report your results to the scientific community = “ye shall feast upon the fruit even until ye are filled” http://scriptures.lds.org/en/alma/32/42#42

    You can’t accept this process because for you, it is subjective.
    Why can’t we use the evidence in this experiment of the response of one’s heart, soul and understanding? Is that not measurable? You describe it as “feel good”. Is that not exactly the result that would differ from “feel bad”? Can a person “feel good” about something that is false? Can a person “feel bad” about something that is true?

    One observation I’m seeing is that this experiment assumes that this is an involuntary response… almost like how our nerves would respond to the presence of heat or our eyes would respond to light.

    Do you feel that the “feel good” is a voluntary response? If so, then I understand why you would reject that as evidence.

  21. fontor
    April 25, 2007 at 8:40 am #

    You ask some great questions, Chip.

    Here’s where the process described in Alma 32 differs from a real scientific experiment.

    1. Scientific hypotheses should be falsifiable, but the notion of God (or Zeus, or the FSM) isn’t. We can’t prove or disprove their existence either way. So this is not really a scientific question.

    2. The scientific method relies on observable evidence. The feelings in someone’s heart are only observable to themselves, so it’s not possible to use them as evidence.

    3. Scientific experiments use sample sizes greater than one.

    4. But, you may say, haven’t a lot of people taken ‘Moroni’s promise’ and found it to be true? Why doesn’t this count as replication?

    Because we’re only counting people who got a positive answer. What if someone gets a negative answer, or no answer? As a missionary, I would tell people to repeat the test until they got the answer I thought they should get. If someone gets a ‘no’ answer, we don’t hear from them on Fast Sunday. You could say they get deleted from our sample.

    5. Latter-day Saints add a lot of qualifications to explain why the test doesn’t work sometimes: the subject was insufficiently sincere, honest in heart, persistent, and so on. Scientific studies don’t rely on such ad hoc explanations when a hypothesis fails; we just accept that it failed and move on.

    6. A scientist would be appropriately cautious about drawing conclusions. If a lot of people have a good spiritual feeling about thing X, it means ‘a lot of people had a good spiritual feeling about thing X’. It does not mean ‘thing X is true’. People have a lot of good feelings about a lot of weird things. Like ‘The Secret’. I think you’re correct when you point out that people can feel bad about things that are actually true.

    7. The test in Alma 32 (or Moroni 10) does not control for bias. When Latter-day Saints tell someone to pray about the Gospel message, they explain that if the subject gets a good feeling, this is the Holy Ghost telling them that the message is true. This introduces experimenter bias into the mix. Test subjects often respond in ways they think the experimenter will like. Feelings may be involuntary, but the way we choose to interpret them depends on what kind of story we’re trying to tell. Feelings and memories are unreliable.

    7. The test does not control for confounding variables. How do we know that any good feelings are coming from the Holy Ghost? They could be ordinary good feelings that someone experiences during the course of their day. They could even (gasp) be from Satan trying to trick you. No satisfactory method for distinguishing these is ever introduced. Instead, if there are any good feelings, the (member) missionary points them out, and claims they’re from God. If there are no feelings, or bad feelings, the subject is instructed to ignore them and repeat the test.

    I’ve probably left some out, but this is long enough for now.

  22. fontor
    April 25, 2007 at 8:43 am #

    Urg. Two thing 7’s. The perils of editing.

  23. Chip
    April 25, 2007 at 11:17 pm #

    1. Let’s not try to prove the notion of God. Let’s only prove if you or I “feel good” or “feel bad” when we ponder this man’s (Alma’s) words.

    2. “observable evidence” – Does this mean to you that others must be able to witness or experience the evidence with their eyes? To me, it means that the evidence can be observed by individuals and that the observation does not necessitate visual witness or experience.

    3. “Sample sizes” Given my different conclusions about observable evidence, I can accept that the evidence of mean people’s “good feelings” is admissable.

    4. The number of those who have tested these words and “felt good” means nothing to me nor does the number of those who have tested these words and “felt bad” mean anyhing to me either. All that matters to me is if I feel good or bad when pondering the words. In other words, one billion people could say they thought something was true. That fact does not make it more or less true for me. Whatever response a person has belongs to them. It is their responsibility… their accountability. I am not to stand in judgment.

    5. Explanations by the LDS – What makes the LDS feel like they need to explain away a person’s negative response? That is a stupid stand for an individual to take. Let the “testing” person own their response of either “feeling good” or “feeling bad” or judging righteous or judging evil or perceiving truth or perceiving lies. The greatest value of this life is the liberty of choice coupled with the accountability of that choice.

    6. I agree that the number of people in favor or in disfavor means nothing. By the way, I didn’t mean to simply say that people can feel bad about things that are actually true. I asked the question if they could feel bad. I actually believe that most people **involuntarily** feel good about things that are true but that they can then **voluntarily** choose to reject that good feeling at which point they feel bad about it.

    7. Each man gets to judge for himself. The mental process of associating the “feeling good” as the Holy Ghost and the “feeling bad” as Satan does not change the original evidence and, therefore, the threat of bias ought to be minimized. If we kept it simple, we would focus on the evidence of “feeling good” or “feeling bad”. That the feelings are associated with the Holy Ghost or with Satan does not alter the original observations of “feeling good” or “feeling bad”.

    8. I think that we must distinguish between voluntary and involuntary “good feelings” and “bad feelings”. I believe that involuntary “good feelings” are initiated by our spirit or soul and that voluntary “good feelings” are initiated by our brain or body. ( or something like that…)

    What evidence is there that man is half spirit/soul and half brain/body?

  24. fontor
    April 27, 2007 at 2:28 am #

    I’ve been looking at your response for a day now, and I’m not having much luck with it.

    You seem to say that ‘feeling good’ or ‘feeling bad’ about something is an observation, which I suppose it is. Obviously everyone needs to decide what to do about the feelings they feel. But I’m arguing that you’d be very likely to get fooled if your method of verification were ‘How do I feel about this?’ because this approach doesn’t control for human cognitive weirdnesses like a scientific approach does.

    I think people who exercise faith (rather than use sound evidence) are fooling themselves, whether it’s The Secret or a traditional religious belief system.

  25. Chip
    April 27, 2007 at 5:31 am #

    I admit that my response was unclear and not always cohesive logically.

    I’m glad, at least, that I communicated that I believed that “feeling good” and “feeling bad” were observations and that we are accountable for our voluntary responses. I tried to say that we could dissect the response with an involuntary component and a voluntary component. I believe that the involuntary component is the spirit’s reaction and the voluntary component is the mind’s reaction (concious or sub-concious) to some hypothesis (in this case if the words of Alma true).

    You said, “you’d be very likely to get fooled if your method of verification were ‘How do I feel about this?’ because this approach doesn’t control for human cognitive weirdnesses like a scientific approach does.”

    I would associate these “human cognitive weirdnesses” with the second response that I mention above “the mind’s reaction” (the voluntary component) and not with the first reaction that I mention above “the spirit’s reaction” (the involuntary component).

    The assumption that I am making is that all mankind are spiritual beings and mental beings and that all mankind’s initial “spiritual reaction” (the response of their souls or spirits to truth) would be identical given the same input – almost a natural reaction. The other assumption that I am making is that their “mind’s reaction” is voluntary and subjective. Quite often, the “mind’s reaction” is a response to one’s “spirit’s reaction” to the truth rather than a reaction to the truth itself.

    You say that people who exercise faith rather than use sound evidence are fooling themselves. What is that belief of yours based on? Do you know that belief of yours to be true? If so, how do you know that? Is that belief of yours not identical to a traditional religious belief in type? Both appear to be the same type. Both appear to have identical components.

    You actually are putting faith in the idea that people who exercise faith in God are fooling themselves. I would think that you would criticize the baseses of your beliefs using the same logic that you use when you criticize the baseses of those who believe in God.

    Originally you said that the notion of God could not be proved. But what are you left with when your own stand is also based upon “faith” … faith in the idea that God does not exist? In other words, does it simply come down to which faith does one choose? The faith that God is or the faith that God isn’t.

    (Again this logic of mine is not totally cohesive…)

    I’ve been arguing that the initial, involuntary, positive (feel-good) reaction of man’s spirit to a belief that is true is evidence that the belief is indeed true – our souls acting like a barometer of truth.

    Could you explain the scientific experiment that you use to prove that God is not?

  26. fontor
    April 27, 2007 at 7:26 pm #

    Originally you said that the notion of God could not be proved. But what are you left with when your own stand is also based upon “faith” … faith in the idea that God does not exist? In other words, does it simply come down to which faith does one choose? The faith that God is or the faith that God isn’t.

    It doesn’t work that way. If I make a claim that Zeus or the Flying Spaghetti Monster exists, the burden is on me to provide evidence for that claim. Evidence would be observable facts that anyone can examine and/or replicate, even people who don’t believe me. If I can’t provide the evidence, there’s no reason for you to accept the claim.

    You can’t prove that Zeus doesn’t exist, or the FSM. But I doubt that you’ll choose to believe in them anyway. It’s not as though you ‘have faith’ that Zeus doesn’t exist (or do you)? It’s just that there’s no reason for you to believe me until I provide sound evidence. If you decide to believe me anyway and become a Zeusian (or whatever), then I’ve fooled you. And if you imagine that you ‘feel good’ about Zeus, then you’ve fooled yourself.

    I think the biggest limitation of the ‘feel-good’ theory is that it doesn’t help you when people get different feelings. What do you do then? In previous comments, you’ve said that everyone has to decide for themselves. Well, that’s okay — now everyone knows what they believe — but it doesn’t help you to map those feelings onto what’s really happening. Whereas if you go by facts, not feelings, you have some way of deciding the matter.

    Look, feelings are important if we’re talking about how you feel inside yourself. But for anything outside yourself, like if something exists, or what’s the value of pi, feelings aren’t reliable. When you pick a cantaloupe, do you do it by revelation, or do you knock on a few of them? If the latter, you’re actually using science (in a rudimentary way). Why not try both and see which way gives you better cantaloupes? :)

    You suggested that atheism is a kind of faith. It isn’t really, just as not collecting stamps is not a hobby. I agree that it entails certain assumptions, and for the most part, these are the assumptions inherent in the scientific method — for example, assumptions about the kind of evidence that is acceptable.

    But these are good assumptions. They’re the assumptions around which the scientific method is based. They work. By contrast, many people are trying to show that metaphysical phenomena have scientific validity — studies on the power of prayer, research into creationism, the existence of ESP, or what have you. When these claims are tested in a rigourous scientific way, they fall apart. People still believe them anyway, but they’re not doing science.

    So, getting back to the thread. Some people claim to have had experiences where ‘The Secret’ actually worked for them. Has this evidence convinced you? If not, why not? And how does your evidence for the god of the Hebrew and Christian scriptures differ from the evidence for ‘The Secret’? You see where I’m going here — I suspect you don’t really accept other people’s anecdotal evidence unless you already agree with it. If I’m wrong on this, you must be very confused when people make contradictory claims.

  27. Chip
    April 27, 2007 at 9:19 pm #

    It doesn’t work that way. If I make a claim that Zeus or the Flying Spaghetti Monster exists, the burden is on me to provide evidence for that claim. Evidence would be observable facts that anyone can examine and/or replicate, even people who don’t believe me. If I can’t provide the evidence, there’s no reason for you to accept the claim.

    Why do you feel the burden is on you to provide evidence for that claim (i.e. that Zeus or FSM exists)? That’s not your job. It is the job of each individual to get the evidence… to sense the good feeling… to come to the “perfect knowledge” that something is true.

    I don’t feel any burden to prove to you that God exists. I simply feel a sincere desire to understand how you think.

    I also don’t believe that “if I can’t provide the evidence, there’s no reason for you to accept the claim.” In my opinion, it’s each person’s job to become one with all reality. No one can take that responsibility from another. I believe they have it.

    I think the biggest limitation of the ‘feel-good’ theory is that it doesn’t help you when people get different feelings.

    I’m ok with people getting different feelings not only because of how I differentiate between involuntary (received) and voluntary (created) feelings but also because I don’t take responsibility for others’ feelings. That’s why I say it’s their choice…. it’s their responsibility… it’s their accountability. I don’t feel a burden to explain away the difference in feelings because it’s none of my business what another person feels good about or feels is true. It’s all their business. I don’t have a problem with two people disagreeing on something because I know that they both are personally accountable for what they hold to be real. I don’t feel an urge to judge them either… saying that one person is good because he feels like I do or saying that another is evil because he does not feel like I do about a particular principle.

    So, getting back to the thread. Some people claim to have had experiences where ‘The Secret’ actually worked for them. Has this evidence convinced you?

    It has had no effect upon me because my experience with reality is my experience with reality, and their experience with reality is their experience with reality. Because I own completely my responsibility of knowing what is and what is not, I don’t rely on another person’s belief or witness or testimony. That’s my job. I want it, and I don’t want anyone to think they have my job to find the evidence and take from me the burden of proof.

    I suspect you don’t really accept other people’s anecdotal evidence unless you already agree with it. That does not describe me. What describes me is that I can care less about their anecdotal evidence. I believe in being “weaned” from the authority of the opinions of others.

    Even when someone who is perceived to be a prophet (like Alma) speaks, it is my job to discern what words are inspired by God. Do I stand in judgement of the prophet? No. I take responsibility for what I believe to be true.

  28. fontor
    April 30, 2007 at 3:02 am #

    I think it’s great that you take the effort to make up your own mind about things without judging others.

    I think I’ve made my point though. I’ve given some reasons why feelings are not good evidence, and observable facts are. The biggest problem I see is that if you accept feelings as evidence, there’s no way to decide which theory is true when people get different feelings.

    And here’s one I hadn’t realised before: if you rely on your own feelings as the ultimate guide, you can only really know things that you have yourself experienced. (As compared with someone doing science, who can replicate experiments other people have done.)

    Deciding things using feelings is really no different from believing in The Secret. Stick to observables.

    Thanks for your insights; I’m off this topic for now, unless someone raises something compelling.

  29. Chip
    April 30, 2007 at 6:43 am #

    Observable evidence does not eliminate dispute. Scientists disagree on a number of “proven” hypotheses. Deciding things using evidence from feelings is really no different from believing in one or another scientist.

  30. Brian M
    June 1, 2007 at 3:00 am #

    a blog post about THE SECRET and nobody mentioned ‘channeling’???

    When I first watched the Secret, I enjoyed it. “The Law of Attraction” – positive thinking, what great principles… but then I started thinking of how there was no mention of Christ and found out about “channeling”
    Some of those in the movie “The Secret” believe in channeling = that they can be the literal mouthpiece for spirits on the other side.
    Specifically, Esther Hicks, she believes that she is literally the mouthpiece for Abraham!!! (not sure if that means, Abraham the prophet, or just a reference to a group of spirits).
    see:
    http://www.universallawstoday.com/Esther-statement.html
    and
    http://www.abraham-hicks.com/

    I won’t be recommending The Secret anymore.

    Wouldn’t it be great if there was a “christian” or “LDS” version of the secret… based on the true principles of the gospel.

  31. Terry Musser
    June 14, 2007 at 5:20 am #

    My wife recently started asking about “The Secret”. Her best friend has become focused on this as of late and is a big influence on her.

    This particular topic concerned has me because I have been avoiding it for some time, mostly because I had come to believe that is was more of “the philosophies of men mingled with scripture.” I was also alarmed to hear a rumor that as you progress further in their program they will offer you “secret knowledge” if you accept their “signs an tokens”.

    Thank you for your comments. I have passed them on to her.

    -T

  32. Jesse Anderer
    July 7, 2007 at 6:35 pm #

    Wow. Maybe I should help you out.

    The Bible and the Secret are both sold for similar purposes. To…

    A) Give someone hope
    B) Prosperity
    C) Make money in the Process

    Now. You might say, “well the bible wasn’t always sold for money” but then, you would be wrong. The church constantly seeks money from the followers. Yes, just like the believers in the Secret you too are a follower. You believe in something, something greater. But these people have been inspired to believe in something great too, themselves.

    Thats what its really all about.

  33. LJ
    January 31, 2008 at 7:34 pm #

    I like what I read here. I have heard alot about the secret and it always sounded like the nonsense of believe and receive that so many Christians have fallen for. I watched the 20 mintue preview today, or as much as I could stomach, and there was one thing in common with all of the speakers; they all sounded like pathetic brainwashed fools.

    If you buy into this nonsense, I have one recommendation…Get your head checked.

  34. Not a Moron
    February 22, 2008 at 5:22 pm #

    I can’t believe ANYONE would buy into the bull that is, “The Secret.”

  35. Daniel
    February 22, 2008 at 7:24 pm #

    Oh, I can believe it.

    “The Secret” takes advantage of perfectly normal human cognitive failings, like selective observation and the post hoc fallacy. It’s very easy to fall into if you’re not used to thinking critically.

    Prayers for rain, anyone?

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