The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren
How can we start this list of horrible influence books with one of the most popular reads in contemporary Christian literature, The Purpose Driven Life, by Rick Warren? Because the simple fact is that if you look past the good intentions of this book to analyze its content, you find one of the more destructive and misleading guides in modern day religious discussion. More plainly stated, it’s an evil book that is masquerading as a good book… and it’s fooling a lot of people.
I really want to like Rick Warren, and I of course love him without condition. And I do believe he had the best of intentions in publishing this book. But the fact is that the message he presents in this book leads anyone reading it AWAY from God, and AWAY from the ability to discover their life’s true purpose. Though there are some truths hidden within his words, he does not understand the secrets that underlie those truths, and thus, he misinterprets the truths to (either intentionally or unintentionally) to be molded toward his version of Christianity and his belief system.
For instance, it IS true that
everyone has a purpose for their life, and that the purpose is for them to discover, not invent. In addition, it IS true that man’s mind cannot fully comprehend the reality of the wonderment that is Heaven, and it is folly to attempt to define the spiritual existence within. It IS true that God loves unconditionally and limitlessly, well beyond the understanding and reasoning of man. But unfortunately… that’s about where the truths in Rick Warren’s book stop, and the misinformation or misunderstandings begins.
Reading the book seems like a never ending stream of WWE clothesline moves… where Rick first starts you along a line of solid statements and seemingly valuable insights on a topic… then… WHAM… along comes the strong forearm across your neck line that picks you up and slams you to the canvas in an unexpected 180 degree explosion. As an example, let’s look at one of the first examples of this in action:
Within the first 10 minutes of the book, Rick Warren runs the train off the tracks when he starts with this:
“It’s not about you. The purpose of your life is far greater than your own personal fulfillment, your piece of mind, or even your happiness. It’s far greater than your family, your career, or even your wildest dreams or ambitions. If you want to know why you are placed on this planet, you must begin with God. You were born by His purpose, and for His purpose. The search for purpose of life has puzzled people for thousands of years. That’s because we typically begin at the wrong starting point; ourselves. We ask self-centered questions, like ‘what do I want to be’, ‘what should I do with my life’, ‘what are my goals, my ambitions, my dreams, for my future?’ But focusing on ourselves will never reveal our life’s purpose.”
Now… to these thoughts I say… “YAY! Good job, Rick! What could be a more truer a set of statements?” Focusing on the false (a.k.a. egoic) self is not the way to understand or discover ANYTHING. And although Rick Warren starts us off on this forward motion… just then… the clothesline move comes in.
“Contrary to what many popular books, movies and seminars tell you, you won’t discover your life’s meaning by looking within yourself. You’ve probably tried that (which is said disdainfully in the audio version of him reading the book). You didn’t create yourself, so there’s no way you can tell yourself what you were created for.”
And this is where Rick Warren becomes the blind leading the blind, teaching things that are even contrary to Jesus’ own teachings. For it was Jesus that taught us that the kingdom is found within us, and that Heaven is all around us, and that we (most of us, anyway) just can’t see it. While Rick is correct that focusing on the false or egoic self isn’t the answer he is completely INCORRECT in his leap that seeking the SPIRITUAL existence within us (the portion of God within us) is the wrong path to understanding life’s purpose. In stark reality to Rick’s naive assumption… it is the simple discipline of looking within, past the egoic existence into that space where you discover the spiritual truth within you… that is the ONLY WAY to discover your life’s true purpose. By finding and speaking to God within is the ONLY way.
For thousands of years almost all of the world’s religions (including Christianity) have had the most knowledgable of its ranks teach looking within to Spirit was the way to salvation. But in The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren states just the opposite, and an addition he promotes that God can only be found without, not within. This is due to his limited experience base, his naivete that his level of understanding is all that can be uncovered, and his non-enlightened existence that forms his mind and thoughts the way they are presented in this book. And it is for this reason that Rick teaches in this book NOT to look within for the answers… answers within that are beyond words, beyond mind, and that could only be experienced by each individual, putting them beyond reach of someone else trying to teach you how they believe… so that he can basically say to you… “until you give up on the belief that you can figure out your own truth by looking within to Spirit, and until you adopt my subjective mindful model of understanding God… you’re not going to get your answers”. And that… THAT… is an outright LIE by Rick Warren (if an inadvertent one), and it’s the most destructive message that anyone on the Earth could ever deliver for any purpose, especially one associated with finding truth by accessing God.
Other gems include obvious contradictions, such as admitting God is all powerful and all knowing, then bringing up the story of Ezekiah, saying the Lord withdrew from Ezekiah so as to test the contents of his heart. As if God would need to test anyone to know the contents of their heart, or that God could withdraw from being everywhere at all times. These references defy the omnipotence and omnipresence of God. Dozens of contradictions fill this book, along with misrepresented truths and inadvertent untruths. Which is why The Purpose Driven Life makes the list of 5 Spiritual Books You Should Avoid Like the Plague.
Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, L. Ron Hubbard
I am almost sad to put this book on the list of Spiritual Books You Should Avoid Like the Plague. But not sad enough not to put it into the number 2 spot on the list.
Like The Purpose Driven Life, Dianetics also has a number of wisdom nuggets hidden within its chapters. Multiple times is can be found scratching on the surface of some ancient hidden elementary truths about human existence that are beyond the realm of the typical thinking mind. For instance, it is correct in its assumption that many more medical conditions are psychosomatic that is currently accepted, and that the mind, when untwisted, can improve health dramatically. And it is spot-on correct in its presentation that there is a state of higher human existence that can be attained, that is well above the painful unconscious existence catalyzed by the typical human mind.
Unfortunately, like The Purpose Driven Life, Dianetics starts out great, and falls completely off the trail rather quickly. First, as a pseudo-scientific tome, it is not complete in its understanding of the human mind. It completely misinterprets and misrepresents the standard psychological term ‘valence’, avoids the explanation and discussion of the critical mind-responses of human emotion entirely (due to Scientology’s ignorance on those mental processes). And it attempts to present a path to spiritual enlightenment that can only be followed through “Dianetics Therapy”… which is basically another way of saying they want to start you on the path of draining your bank account on the way to becoming “clear”, which I assume is their word for becoming enlightened. [Enlightenment is free to all. You don’t have to pay for it, and you should only pay enlightenment teachers just enough to get you over the humps that hinder you from finding your own answers from within.]
I actually wish I could endorse this book… because factually… it is accurate in its assessment that better understanding the mind and its subjective generation of pain and suffering is the easiest path of living a better life and discovering the spiritual truth that lies waiting to be discovered within. That said… Dianetics uses non-science ‘science’, invents some smoke and mirrors ‘scientific’ terms, offers anecdotal non-referenced case study examples, and presents hypothetical situation analogies that are not germaine to the discussion of the mind and its ills. And Hubbard does all this to discuss a theoretical model that… at its best… is weak.
Why is it weak?
It retreats and flails about into a complete misunderstanding and misrepresentation of mysticism, which can and does (in the right environs) encompass and eclipse Scientology’s understanding of the mind. Dianetics invents a number of components that don’t need to be invented to understand the mind to an even higher degree than Dianetics and Scientology claims to understand it. And it states all the characteristics of these components are scientific fact, where no evidence is provided of those claims.
Basically, Dianetics starts you down a road of truth, and where it runs out of understanding… starts making things up to fill the holes, pretending to know and understand more than it can explain. And thus, even though it has the best intentions to help people get beyond their pain and suffering… lands Dianetics on the list of The 5 Spiritual Books You Should Avoid Like the Plague.
The Secret, Rhonda Byrne
Here is my review of The Secret: I have a secret – I really wanted to put this crappy sham of a book in on the very top of the list of Spiritual Books You Should Avoid Like the Plague… but as you’ll see in the number 4 slot, there is a related entry to The Secret there also… so this big pile of wood pulp poop secures its spot on list at number 3.
In my opinion, this book is an embarrassment. It’s an embarrassment to the people who were involved with it and also its associated DVD (as publicly reported by those involved), it’s an embarrassment to the well meaning metaphysical research community, and it should be an embarrassment to the author, but unfortunately I don’t think it is.
The Secret takes some basic understandings of metaphysical science, and then twists it into something that is almost indiscernable from a metaphysical viewpoint. It borrows from the popular vocabulary of new age thought to entirely misrepresent new age philosophy. It employs the association of some somewhat educated and reputable specialists so as to be convincing (many of whom it is rumored no longer want to be associated with The Secret)… but in the end it’s only convincing to the uneducated masses. It makes claims that cannot be supported. It misuses quotes from some of history’s greatest minds out of context. And generally speaking, I think The Secret has set back metaphysical understanding by decades for anyone who has read it.
The Secret piles on a ton of extravagant marketing spiel and spin, creating an age old doomed-to-fail positive thinkers guide… that really isn’t even a guide. A guide would tell you how to do something or how to get somewhere worthwhile. This book doesn’t really do either of those from a spiritual truth perspective.
From a spiritual perspective, most other ancient spiritual teachings on the planet (and most other metaphysical teachings for that matter) suggest that the path to peace can be found within the practice of freeing yourself from the attachments of mind, freeing yourself from the need of worldly items or material things, and discovering the spiritual truth within that allows for this type of liberation. It is at that point, being devoid of the attachment for, the want of, and the yearning for particular worldly achievements or material items… and being free from old paradigms and patterns within the mind… that the universe finds a way to provide everything you need for happy survival, and where you then can begin to create your existence through a better formed mindful focus and intention within your environment.
Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret, however… ignores these fundamental messages and this basic truth, to alternatively espouse that you can skip all the profound spiritual path stuff… and if you just think positively or focus on the things you want, you can attain all the worldly accomplishments and material items you yearn for… simply through the power of positive thought and manifestation. Not only is this type of teaching entirely rubbish, it is in complete contradiction to most every other spiritual teaching in existence regarding the path to happiness and inner peace. I believe Rhonda Byrne to be a person who is not only off the path of spiritual and metaphysical assistance, but also a person who is lost on the path closer to being a charlatan, and only in it for her own enrichment.
Rhonda Byrne, according to the Religion Dispatches, argued that natural disasters strike those “on the same frequency as the event” and implied the 2006 tsunami victims could have spared themselves. Why would anyone listen to someone who suggests such lunacy from a spiritual perspective?
This from Wikipedia:
In 2009, Barbara Ehrenreich published Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America as a response to “positive thinking” books, like The Secret, that teach “if I just change my thoughts, I could have it all”.
My review: Avoid The Secret: The Power like the plague.
Religion is no place for hate. And hate is exactly what this book promotes. I think any religious leader who works to divide man from man over ideas of God is the Devil disguised in holy robes.
I do think, of course, that each person should have the freedom to choose for themselves which religious structure they would prefer to follow in attempting to better understand God and their own spiritual existence. And in that tack, one must of course weigh their personal analysis regarding their positive and negative thoughts on various facets within each religion.
And even if that was the spirit in which this book was written (which it wasn’t), in this charter, Religion of Peace? goes well beyond the pail in being WAY too one-sided in its analysis and representations of both Islam, AND Christianity.
In its misrepresentation of Islam, this book takes Qur’an references out of context, inaccurately summarizes the passages of the text, and unfairly focuses on the messages of the few living minority-followed radicals rather than the overall message of peace and love found all throughout Islam and espoused by most Muslims. It is obvious the author knows little about Islam, with the exception of the rhetoric of how to attack and demean it.
Similarly, in its representation of Christianity, it paints an overly rosy picture, avoiding and even ignoring the negative references and contradictions within the Bible, glossing over the similar passages and references to those used from the Qur’an, and misunderstanding the mystical meanings of Jesus’ own teachings. It of course makes no reference to Luke 17, where Jesus tells the Pharisees that the Kingdom is within them also.
It is obvious the author simply wanted to bolster his personal opinion and add fodder ammunition to the malleable minds of intolerant believers rather than make an intelligent argument to inform readers of the accurate differences between Christianity and Islam. In contradiction to being an intelligent and open effort, it exhibits and spews hate toward Islam. Hate is in direct contradiction to Jesus’ teachings. Thus, this author is far off the Christian path, and not a credible reference for either Islam or Christianity.
In my opinion, any book that spews hate should be avoided, which is why Religion of Peace?: Why Christianity Is, and Islam Isn’t rounds out the Top 5 Spiritual Books You Should Avoid Like the Plague.
I’ve included links to Amazon.com with all these books so you can check them all out for yourself rather than taking my word for it. Note that you can also get these books in audio book format (and receive a free audio book for being a reader of this blog) at Free Audio Book at Audible.com
Powered by Facebook Comments