Dear Shirley MacLaine: Please Shut Up

I‘m a big fan of Shirley MacLaine as an actress. In Terms of Endearment and other movies (watch her delightful performance as the elderly Mrs. Robinson in Rumor Has It), she has sparkled on the screen. But she has some of the most bizarre ideas about the world and she’s got some people rightly pissed off by implying in a new book that the Jews had brought the Holocaust on themselves due to being bad people in their “past lives.”

“What if most Holocaust victims were balancing their karma from ages before,” she writes, “when they were Roman soldiers putting Christians to death, the Crusaders who murdered millions in the name of Christianity, soldiers with Hannibal, or those who stormed across the Near East with Alexander? The energy of killing is endless and will be experienced by the killer and the killee.”

She adds that the victims could have been ‘balancing their karma’ for previous sins.

Oh, and this too:

On the subject of Stephen Hawking, she adds: “Did he ‘create’ the disease that has crippled him in order to learn to be dependent on caregivers and the kindness of strangers so that he could free his entire mind to the pursuit of knowledge?

“What if he inadvertently chose to set an example of himself to show the rest of us that cosmic travel and universal understanding are available, regardless of one’s physical condition or circumstance?

“If Jesus chose to die in a state of martyrdom, then Stephen Hawking could just as readily have chosen to live in a dual state of being: visibly physical weakness and unseen knowledge and power. What if all reality is an illusion?”

I’m beginning to think I must have been Torquemada in a previous life. How else to explain having to listen to this inane drivel in this one?

POPULAR AT PATHEOS Nonreligious
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • grumpyoldfart

    When New Agers reach that level of stupidity it is fair (in my opinion) to forget about their ‘delightful performances’ in earlier years and simply regard them as raving lunatics.

  • Johnny Vector

    What if he inadvertently chose…

    Oh stop right there, I’m on a word diet. Can you put some Balsamic Russian Thousand Ranch on that? Thanks.

  • http://www.thelosersleague.com theschwa

    What if he inadvertently chose to set an example of himself to show the rest of us…

    “Today I am going to have waffles for breakfast…Oh shit! I inadvertently chose ALS by mistake!”

  • nycatheist

    How does one inadvertently choose anything?

  • http://www.thelosersleague.com theschwa

    “… the Crusaders who murdered millions in the name of Christianity…”

    So, she is revealed as Obama’s speech writer!

  • tbp1

    Ah, yes, the idea of karma raises its ugly head again. While it sounds kinda nice, in that it allows you to think that there is some kind of cosmic justice after all, despite appearances, in practice it was used to justify a brutal caste system: the poor are miserable because of past sins, the wealthy are prosperous because of past virtues, so just shut up about it, already.

    In modern times, it allows the wealthy and privileged to play the same mental game: I got here solely because of my wonderfulness, in past lives or otherwise, and they are poor, diseased and wretched because of their past sins and/or by their own choice.

    FWIW, I also think she’s a terrific actress, and deserving of her professional success, but I haven’t taken her seriously otherwise in decades.

  • dingojack

    As an actor, quite good; as a person, nutjob. One doesn’t necessarily preclude the other…*

    Dingo

    ———

    * at least she’s just being offensive (as is her right) rather than being dangerous to the health of the community and directly threatening others (yes Rob Schneider, I’m looking at you!)

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    I’ve always tended to believe in reincarnation, but blithering horseshit like this makes it very easy to understand why most people end up rejecting such ideas.

    If souls are real, it makes sense for people to get more than one chance to get life right on this plane before moving on, rather than spend all eternity in hell for finite mistakes. But the idea of reincarnation has very often been hijacked in some colossal exercises in victim-blaming. MacLaine is hardly the first person to make up this sort of bullshit about how you’re being punished in this life for doing something bad in a past one.

  • wreck

    I shudder to think of the atrocities Shirley must have committed in her past lives to deserve being such a clueless twit in this one.

  • gshelley

    I tried to find out if her views on Karma are common, or if it is something that most people who believe in a cycle of rebirth, with each life affecting the status in the next one, would claim that “Karma doesn’t work like that” which isn’t a particularly convincing refutation, as in general, Karma doesn’t work at all. It does seem that in general, it is a fairly common belief that disability can come from Karma, not so much as a punishment, but as some sort of “learning opportunity”

    That does seem a few steps from the idea that people somehow knew before being reincarnated that theywould be murdered decades later

  • scienceavenger

    She’s still alive? Well, her body is anyway.

  • John Pieret

    When she decides to talk about acting (even if she throws in some woo about that) I’ll listen. Otherwise, why would anyone listen to Shirley MacLaine on matters “spiritual” or historical or cosmic?

  • Dunc

    I tried to find out if her views on Karma are common

    The Wheel of Sharp Weapons (a significant text in Mahayana Buddhism, dealing with the operation of the laws of karma) is pretty explicit – absolutely everything bad that happens to you is the result of things you did in a previous life. But it’s not conceptualised as a punishment, or even a “learning opportunity”, it’s more like the metaphysical equivalent of Newton’s Third Law.

  • http://www.ranum.com Marcus Ranum

    I had a dream once about reincarnation. It was cyanobacterium, cyanobacterium, cyanobacterium, cyanobacterium, e.coli (and I almost got to make someone sick but got bleached), cyanobacterium, ant, cyanobacterium, cyanobacterium….

  • Callinectes

    As far as I can tell, this has been the only life I’ve had in which I was not some kind of barnacle. I’m not sure I like it.

  • mistertwo

    The problem is that she (and many other people) makes the leap from imagining things to concluding that they must be true. They actually go through part of the process of discovery. They speculate about a thing, then speculate some more about how it might work, then skip the very important step of discovering whether it’s true.

  • Trebuchet

    @7, Dingo:

    As an actor, quite good; as a person, nutjob. One doesn’t necessarily preclude cause the other…*

    FTFY. Because there are TONS of loony actors.

  • sundiver

    I didn’t believe in that shit the last time I was here….

  • Sastra

    gshelley #10 wrote:

    It does seem that in general, it is a fairly common belief that disability can come from Karma, not so much as a punishment, but as some sort of “learning opportunity”

    Yes, this version of karma is extremely popular among those Spiritual But Not Religious who want to combine “everything happens for a reason” with “Everything is for the good” and personal empowerment.

    Instead of some divine judge or even karmic force rewarding and punishing people for making the choices they do, the image shifts to something more like you, at your enlightened best, calmly going through a catalog of difficult classes or volunteer opportunities. Which ones will help you become a better person? How can you help other people become the best they can be?

    This is what’s supposed to be taking place on the Higher Level, before or as your life unfolds. It’s true for everyone — everybody is picking from the same catalog and harmoniously working for the common good. This is supposed to be not only comforting, but self esteem-enhancing. Reality is framed as being like an encounter group activity where everyone is happily doing what they have personally chosen to do in order for everyone to achieve higher and higher levels of awareness. The levels eventually culminate into the highest level of all, the Universal State of Spiritual Love from which we all splintered off and towards which we are all working in harmony.

    If this is their inner narrative (and believe me, I know PLENTY of people who follow it), expressing anger or disgust over its incredible insensitivity and victim-blaming are easily dismissed as signs that someone is acting out of their spiritual blindness. Attempts to reason against it are blithely framed the same way. You clearly do not “get” how truly loving and empowering this is for everyone, especially “victims.” Once you accept that you picked your fate out of a catalog of opportunities, then you’re comforted.

    Skepticism is apparently right for some people — a necessary step on their own rocky path towards letting it go — but it can safely be ignored by those with a better understanding. Doubt is negativity — control and disharmony. Nobody is ever to blame and everything is Love and acceptance.

    It’s quite an immunizing strategy. It wraps you into a mental cocoon.

  • abb3w

    @16, mistertwo

    The problem is that she (and many other people) makes the leap from imagining things to concluding that they must be true. They actually go through part of the process of discovery. They speculate about a thing, then speculate some more about how it might work, then skip the very important step of discovering whether it’s true.

    Quoth Richard Feynman:

    Anyway, I have to argue about flying saucers on the beach with people, you know. And I was interested in this: they keep arguing that it is possible. And that’s true. It is possible. They do not appreciate that the problem is not to demonstrate whether it’s possible or not but whether it’s going on or not.

  • busterggi

    Irma La Douche

  • addiepray

    But damn, the Apartment is one of the best fucking movies ever made. How can you not fall in love with her (and Jack Lemmon) after seeing that? Screenplays don’t come any finer.

    I’ll just pretend I didn’t hear her say that my great-grandparents deserved their horrible fate.

    Shut up and deal.

  • Dago Red

    Welcome to my world! I grew up (and still dwell) in an area of the world where Newage flows so freely (the SF bay area) the stench of it permeates EVERYWHERE. Despite Newage looniness, however, I have to say wading through Newage on a daily basis is far easier than, say, dealing with the repressive old-school dogmas of Fundagelical Back-assery found in most places in the states and rest of the world. Yes, Newage is as equally stupid as any faith tradition, but the fact that the Newage movement is so individualized, it doesn’t really ever develop central political authorities (like the Family Research Council, or the Southern Baptist Convension, or Focus on the Family, or ISIS, Al Quieda, etc) that end up becoming the true thorn in the side that ultimately allows religion to become a threat to humanity’s survival.

    As stupid as I find the ravings of people like Ms. Maclaine (and trust me, I am totally SURROUNDED by such nonsense in my local community) as a whole, the inability for Newage “thought” (I know a generous term) to ever organize into a political power and effect policy, and (most importantly) make the lives of non-Newage people miserable, is very limited. Newagers have the same “herding cats” problem that atheists often bemoan, which as far as I am concerned places their “movement” entirely on par with our own atheist movement — and thus that fact for me makes it a huge improvement over traditional faiths. If only ALL religion would devolve into Newage twaddle, I might think that humanity has a chance at a long future.

  • Numenaster

    Karma. Blech. Nobody ever discovers they had a past life as a peasant, even though that’s what most of the people through history have been.

  • lorn

    Based upon this I assume that Shirley MacLaine must have been a super-genius in her last life and she is balancing things out by being a complete idiot in this life.

  • longship

    I rather like Steve Novella’s phrase for this kind of bunkum: newage (rhymes with sewage).

    Unfortunately Shirley is not joking.

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