Robert M. Price - Top Secret: The Truth Behind Today’s Pop Mysticisms
Posted: 30 May 2008 05:36 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Robert M. Price is professor of theology and scriptural studies at Coleman Theological Seminary and professor of Biblical Criticism at the Center for Inquiry Institute. He’s a fellow of the Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion and the Jesus Seminar. Dr. Price is the author of a number of books such as The Reason Driven Life, Deconstructing Jesus, Incredible Shrinking Son of Man, and The Da Vinci Fraud. He has appeared widely in the media, and was featured prominently in the movie The God Who Wasn’t There. His latest book is Top Secret: The Truth Behind Today’s Pop Mysticisms.

In this conversation with D.J. Grothe, Robert Price explores the origins, doctrines and dangers of various strands of contemporary “pop mysticism,” including Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret and other “New Thought” proponents, the movie What the Bleep Do We Know?, Deepak Chopra, Wayne Dyer, Eckhart Tolle, Marianne Williamson, and The Course in Miracles. He contends that there is some truth to many of these mystical worldviews, especially the emphasis on introspection and self-improvement, and details how to take what is of value while rejecting the unsupportable claims.  He also addresses the popularity and influence of Christian televangelist Joel Olsteen, whom he argues is in fact a promoter of New Thought in Christian trappings. He also explores what the secular humanist and skeptic movements might learn from both the Christian Mega-churches and the New Age movements, and how they can work together as freethinkers against fundamentalist dogmatic religious-political movements.

http://www.pointofinquiry.org

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Posted: 01 June 2008 10:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Hi, DJ- Great show, as usual. I think you are not dealing fairly with Joseph Campbell and Carl Jung (24 min.), lumping them in with Wayne Dyer and Deepak Chopra. There are serious distinctions to be made, where the latter are pushing superstition and pseudo-science, while the former are trying to explain why religion and myth exist, using empirical data. The problem is that psychology is still not really a science, at least at the deeper levels such as where dream contents come from, what is going on in the unconscious, what energizes our imagination, etc. Secularists still do not have a proper account of where religion comes from (Dawkins’ propositions on this front are particularly painful to listen to), and these thinkers are the best bet to take us there, extending both our humanist and atheist understandings.

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Posted: 02 June 2008 09:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Amazing episode.  Price has his finger on the pulse of why the new thought/age movement should not be ignored, but understood because otherwise you run the risk of throwing away the baby with the bath water.

I especially liked the admission that meditation is a valuable personal tool even if you strip away the mystical/supernatural/spiritual connotaions that surround it.

I was also blown away at how true it is that PBS promotes this new thought mov’t during pledge drives.  I just never made that connection, another reason to continue listening to PoI.

Thank you DJ and Mr. Price.  There is much to take away from this information.  I’m ordering the book right now.

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Posted: 03 June 2008 12:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Great show, I could listen to Price talk for hours.  The guy is hilarious. 

It was also encouraging to hear someone else point out what a fraud “Course in Miracles” and Marian Williamson are.  I had a friend who tried to live her life that way and, as Price noted, wound up not caring about much.  She wound up having a new age vision of “God” that was similar to some Christians, which was that God was going to “take care of” everything. 

She wound up losing her job, car and other things, while parroting this Course in Miracles stuff.

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Posted: 03 June 2008 12:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Nice show, agree entirely with Price about the problem with PBS. It’s one thing that keeps me from giving money to them during pledges, even though I’m a big fan of many of their shows, including of course NOVA.

Part of the fun of listening to him is that he’s a lighter, breezier interview than most. I imagine he’d be good at doing his own show, in fact ... (!)

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Posted: 05 June 2008 02:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I disagree about the take on NPR. It happens to be minimally government funded. That means they’re forced to do fund drives, even, as I remember, during times of war. They have to or they’ll go under. I worked at a big Boston NPR station, I’ve seen the budgets.
By not being adequately funded (and being ruled by a board of Republican trustees, some of which are declared enemies of public independent broadcasting) they’re forced to prostitute themselves.
As you’ll know, the somewhat more educated crowd that consumes NPR/PBS is only marginally less susceptible to bullshit than the rest of the population, if at all. So they dish out what’s most likely to take in pledges.
Price’s (or DJs) claim that they do it “because they think it’s science” is empty, I think. There may be the occasional gullible broadcaster but at least where I listen to NPR rational journalism is the norm. The problem is more that they’ve agreed to a formula that adds more fluff pieces to the mix, probably to account for the general brain hemorrhage among citizens. And for fluff pieces, the standards are way lower.

[ Edited: 06 June 2008 07:39 PM by moreover ]
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Posted: 06 June 2008 11:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I agree with previous posters…this guy is thoroughly entertaining and engaging to listen to.  He has the mind of a great skeptic, and you would think (assume) by listening to him that he is indeed an atheist or agnostic.  He seems to have published many critiques of the bible and religion in general, yet a glaring disjoint arises (at least to my godless eyes)...the man is a theist (and a professor of theology to boot)!

I’d love to hear how such a paradox can exist when he clearly disdains the Jesus myth and much else religious crap, yet still retains belief in a sky fairy.

I admit my knowledge of the man is extremely limited…does anyone who knows more about him care to comment on the apparent incongruence here???

P.S. I found his home page bio amusing…his religious “wanderings” between churches seems to indicate a man who still can’t make the God-shoe fit…

http://www.robertmprice.mindvendor.com/bio.htm

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Posted: 06 June 2008 04:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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On the last two posts: 1. I don’t think D.J. or Price discussed NPR, but rather PBS. And PBS’s promotion of New Age hucksters on their pledge drives, which I agree is a shame. 2. To my knowledge, Bob Price is an atheist and a secularist. He may have been formerly religious, as was D.J. and many others in the CFI movement. I certainly do not think he believes in a “sky fairy.”

Cheers!

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Posted: 07 June 2008 02:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Thomas Donnelly - 06 June 2008 04:20 PM

On the last two posts: 1. I don’t think D.J. or Price discussed NPR, but rather PBS. And PBS’s promotion of New Age hucksters on their pledge drives, which I agree is a shame. 2. To my knowledge, Bob Price is an atheist and a secularist. He may have been formerly religious, as was D.J. and many others in the CFI movement. I certainly do not think he believes in a “sky fairy.”

Cheers!

I’ve listened to him about the last year on the Bible Geek and “Infidel Guy” on iTunes.  He is very funny and witty.  They have reposted a lot of his discussions with “Reginald” (Infidel Guy) on that show.  Reginald is no DJ, but merely throws in “that’s interesting” and “wow” every few minutes.  I think his show now costs something to download, but they have the episodes up to this Spring on iTunes (and I think they throw a bone every few months with a special free show). 

Anyhow, Price appears to be a deist of some sort.  I recall my eyebrow raising one day when, out of the blue he mentioned going to “his church” which was something mainstream like Episcopal or something.  I knew he was a scholar and taught religion, but didn’t realize he went.  After listening to numerous shows of his, I concluded he just goes for the community, etc.  He seems to take it all in as a harmless fairy tale and gathering.  (I actually believe many United Methodists and Episcopals are about as much believers as Price).

Price tears the crap out of any suggestion that the Bible is true and gets VERY specific on the details which are in conflict with either other parts of the Bible, or with historical accounts.  He also has an excellent ability to show the parallels between certain passages in the OT and NT (which was written for that reason, to show continuity with the alleged “prophecy” of the OT).

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Posted: 07 June 2008 07:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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I thought it was a great show too.  I’ve always liked Bob, which helped me to listen to this episode almost as fast as it came to my iTunes.  smile  And yes, Ulster, Bob is an atheist and Humanist who attends the Episcopal Church.

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Posted: 08 June 2008 11:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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D.J., Awesome show once again! I much appreciate your efforts toward enlightentainment (my word).
Let me tell you, as former 8 year student (and almost ordained Minister) of “Science of Mind,” Robert has it right on the money! New Thought is not new; it was just Old Thought, repackaged to meet the ever demanding needs of a culture of Western materialists.
Understandably at the turn of the century, with the then current knowledge base and armed with (just to name a few) Emerson, Troward and the new science of quantum theory…Mary Baker Eddy, Ernest Holmes, et al, cleverly pointed a rather hungry populace into the abyss of “lack” (the cause) with the incessant need “to get” ultimately leading to the effect of a population mired in pervasive “status anxiety,” and we’re still there!

Instead of giving people a spiritual teaching with an ability to release egocentric and ethnocentric thinking thus adopting a more “worldcentric” viewpoint, they instead took old Abrahamic belief-systems and revivified them with newer window-dressings. All this did was provided for the opposite: a furthering growth of anxiety to obtain status by the constant belief, or perceived need “to get.”

Whoever has more-or gets healthier-or obtains more THINGS, with the mantra…“Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life,” wins! Bullshit. All that does is create more materialisticism or rather more egocentric dogma. Just take a look at a current newspaper. It’s easy to see that’s where our culture is at the present moment.

My thinking is that the New Thought movement did just one thing: fettered us to the floor instead of propelling us forward.

Bravo for your work (and all other Secular Humanists,) as we break the chains of ancient deistic beliefs and enjoy the release so that we may express true faith…letting it all go!

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Posted: 08 June 2008 04:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Mriana - 07 June 2008 07:34 PM

I thought it was a great show too.  I’ve always liked Bob, which helped me to listen to this episode almost as fast as it came to my iTunes.  smile  And yes, Ulster, Bob is an atheist and Humanist who attends the Episcopal Church.

While I do not always agree with him, what I like about Price is that he correctly calls out Liberals for having too much “faith” that somehow these Islamist nutjobs are going to negotiate or be reasoned with.  As he states (Episode 8, Bible Geek, download date of 8/31/07 on the Infidel Guy), liberals / secular humanists seem to not understand or take seriously the idea that someone ELSE could take religion so seriously (Islamists). 

He is also unabashedly pro-War with Iraq and thinks we should have gone in earlier (same episode), and that, like myself, argues that if one is to HAVE a UN, then you sure as heck better back up the resolutions, or else what’s the point?  I also think he supports, based on his statements during that same broadcast (with the IG mentions our current policy), the assassination of dictators like Saddam Hussein (rather than costly wars). 

Price is just very even-handed I think (but I agree with him, so that’s just my opinion).  Like he said, you have all these people that freaked out when Bush said Jesus was his favorite philosopher (some claiming he was a fanatic, others that he inappropriately titled Jesus as a philosopher),  when that is the SAME EXACT thing the Jesus Seminar says of Jesus (“cynical philosopher” as Price notes).  He lays out for example, in this same episode how LITTLE Bush is like a “dominionist” and what one would really look like, if we truly had one in the White House, and how people go around attributing all this right-wing religiousity to Bush that he has never really shown (with Price noting that many other presidents have “prayed” to “god” for guidance), etc.  He just calls ‘em like he sees ‘em. 

And he is just very funny.

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Posted: 08 June 2008 07:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Oh I never said I agreed with everything he says.  No one agree with everything someone says, unless they are “yes people”.  I do not agree we should be at war with anyone.  However, I’m a pacifist and do not believe in violence, so there are people who disagree with me too.

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Posted: 05 July 2008 12:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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UlsterScots432 - 08 June 2008 04:51 PM

While I do not always agree with him, what I like about Price is that he correctly calls out Liberals for having too much “faith” that somehow these Islamist nutjobs are going to negotiate or be reasoned with.  As he states (Episode 8, Bible Geek, download date of 8/31/07 on the Infidel Guy), liberals / secular humanists seem to not understand or take seriously the idea that someone ELSE could take religion so seriously (Islamists).

As one of those liberals, I think you miss the point. I’m just waiting to find out if we have to kill all of the Muslims, or if there is some way to sort out those we must kill from those we can leave alone. This is the same problem faced during the slaughter of the Albigensians. At that time, the Pope’s representative was only able to offer this. “Kill them all. God will know his own”.

UlsterScots432 - 08 June 2008 04:51 PM

He is also unabashedly pro-War with Iraq and thinks we should have gone in earlier (same episode), and that, like myself, argues that if one is to HAVE a UN, then you sure as heck better back up the resolutions, or else what’s the point?  I also think he supports, based on his statements during that same broadcast (with the IG mentions our current policy), the assassination of dictators like Saddam Hussein (rather than costly wars).

Mugabe is certainly way overdue for a bullet.

UlsterScots432 - 08 June 2008 04:51 PM

Price is just very even-handed I think (but I agree with him, so that’s just my opinion).  Like he said, you have all these people that freaked out when Bush said Jesus was his favorite philosopher (some claiming he was a fanatic, others that he inappropriately titled Jesus as a philosopher),  when that is the SAME EXACT thing the Jesus Seminar says of Jesus (“cynical philosopher” as Price notes).  He lays out for example, in this same episode how LITTLE Bush is like a “dominionist” and what one would really look like, if we truly had one in the White House, and how people go around attributing all this right-wing religiousity to Bush that he has never really shown (with Price noting that many other presidents have “prayed” to “god” for guidance), etc.  He just calls ‘em like he sees ‘em. 

And he is just very funny.

Bush is a sociopath, so it is hard to understand what sort of relationship he could have with any god, except one for external consumption. As a sociopath, this wouldn’t bother him.

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Posted: 01 October 2008 02:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Love listening to Bob Price talk about the bible, i have this episode and will listen tonight. The podcasts he has done with Reginald on the Infidel guy are well worth a listen.

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Posted: 01 January 2009 10:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Another CFI public service message well done.  Sadly, even when the truth is exposed as to the various levels of corruption across a wide range of (dare I say) most religions/denominations the people seem willing to live with lies for the sake of their social order.

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