The Secret

You may have heard about Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret, an Oprah-endorsed, even-Deepak-Chopra-looks-good-when-compared-to-this, self-help book.

Elaine Friedman of Humanist Network News shares her take on this garbage here:

The Secret claims you can manipulate the material world — the numbers in a lottery drawing, the actions of others, world events — through your thoughts and feelings. Did you get a promotion? You must have been thinking positive thoughts about your job prospects! Do you have cancer? You must have been thinking negative thoughts about your health. I guess someone who really didn’t like Rwandans thought up the genocide.

Friedman also explains the problems that following The Secret can lead to:

… [W]hat if a person really had a thyroid problem, but didn’t go to her doctor in the belief that her thoughts caused her weight problem? The other problem is that it blames the victim; if bad things happen to you, even things that appear totally out of your control — getting hit by a drunk driver, getting robbed — you brought it on yourself through your thoughts.

And, not surprisingly, The Secret is currently the #1 selling book on Amazon.

Strangely enough, frequent Oprah guest Dr. Mehmet Oz (whose book is currently #3 on Amazon) advises people to lose weight by dieting and exercising. Shocking, isn’t it?

Those people who take to heart everything Oprah says… their heads should be hurting right about now. Then again, they probably don’t even realize there’s a conflict.

[tags]atheist, atheism, Rhonda Byrne, The Secret, Salon, Oprah Winfrey, Deepak Chopra, Elaine Friedman, Humanist Network News, cancer, Rwanda, genocide, thyroid, Amazon, Mehmet Oz[/tags]

  • Mike C

    Is this much different than the kind of stuff Joel Osteen preaches?

  • Richard Wade

    My sister-in-law, who believes everything, watched the CD with me, the guy who believes nothing. It was a Herculean feat to just sit there, keeping my marriage and relationships peaceful. I actually liked the part about expressing things in the affirmative rather than the negative, (“I’m feelin’ good,” rather than “I’m not feelin’ bad.”) But that having any effect beyond a slight improvement in my mood? Bullshit. People really want to believe in magic. The title is an immediate tip-off. Oooh. The esoteric powers of the ancients! Uh-huh.

  • Christopher Bradley

    You can’t go too wrong convincing people to blame themselves – unless you have a faint trance of a conscience, at any rate. Exploiting people’s insecurities is always popular amongst unscrupulous people.

  • HappyNat

    I can’t believe Oprah is endorsing a piece of crap like this . . .oh yes I can, she wouldn’t know reality if it bit her on the ass.

  • King Aardvark

    Yup, a total BS fest gobbled up by the Oprah worshippers. Anywho, for those who care, BigHeathenMike and PZ have also weighed in on this a while ago.

  • Jennifer

    Interesting. It is actually very reminiscent of the dogma taught to me growing up in the Baptist church. Anything bad that happened to us was the result of sin (which includes sinful thoughts). And of course we were taught that “prayer changes things” which is essentially thinking positive thoughts. The three-step secret plan is exactly the same formula: ask, believe, receive. You would think that after thousands and thousands of years, humanity would catch on to the fact that no matter how this BS is bottled, it simply doesn’t work.

  • Karen

    The three-step secret plan is exactly the same formula: ask, believe, receive.

    There are some similarities, as Mike C. pointed out, with the Christian ‘prosperity doctrine’ preachers like Osteen and many others.

    But despite the biblical promise, most Christians give god an escape clause of saying “no” or “wait” to your prayers, right? (Fundy doctrine: Because he knows better than you do, and sometimes you ask for things that wouldn’t be good for you, or you need to learn patience, or whatever.)

    I think The Secret claims that you WILL get what you ask for, no matter what. If you don’t get it, it’s your fault for not putting out the right “energy” or some such pseudo-scientific crap.

    By the way, Siamang wrote an excellent piece on the moral problems of The Secret at the eBay Atheist blog:

  • Siamang

    Thanks, Karen!

  • Devika

    Wait a minute, I didn’t see this “secret” video or read the book, but I have seen the two Oprah episodes she did on it. I definitely didn’t think that it was about thinking positive thoughts and then waiting. Over and over again, they talked about thinking about what you want, taking action toward your goal, and then “receiving” the benefits. I didn’t think it was anything more than a lay person approach to cognitive-behavioral interventions. It certainly does not seem inactive.

    But while we’re talking about Oprah, I have to say that it drives me BONKERS whenever she interviews someone who does ___ (survives trauma, coincidentally meets a long-lost friend, etc.) and then says, “Don’t you think it’s a miracle?” And invariably, the person says, “yes, it was God” or “my dead grandma was watching over me.” You all could probably guess what my problem is with such reasoning.

  • Jennifer

    Karen, that is a very good point!

  • Richard

    All these comments are so spot on it hurts! No. 1 on the best seller lists? At least Harry Potter makes it clear that its fiction… The Secret should take a page.

  • Elisabeth

    This is actually the kind of stuff my church – Religious Science – taught. And it was when I started to study my religion in depth (well, I didn’t actually get very far) that I rejected all religion. They are actually having a seminar on this topic next month.

    The only good thing about this kind of stuff (and the thing that actually has some scientific basis) is the idea that an optimistic attitude leads to more success in life. According to Learned Optimism, studies have shown optimistic people do better in numerous areas, live longer, have better health, etc. So positive thinking does work, it just doesn’t work the way people who subscribe to theories such as this think it does.

  • Amy Vallery

    It’s great to see some logical criticism of this garbage. It’s incredible how much attention it is getting. I even attended a professional software quality assurance conference last week and they were giving it away as one of the prizes. My mom borrowed the DVD and tried to talk me into watching it with her when she stayed with us recently, and acted totally perplexed when I told her I wasn’t interested.

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  • GirlAtheist

    I have to wonder if Oprah doesn’t get some kind of kickback by endorsing these wacko books/products. Everything she touches turns to gold. That MUST be translated into cash for her, somehow.

    Look at Rachel Ray. She’s going to be endorsing Dunkin’ Donuts. OMG.

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  • Mel

    Did anybody actually try it and discover that it didn’t work?