From British daily The Guardian:
Stone’s claptrap about China is of a piece with a thriving industry dealing in unscientific nonsense
* Saturday May 31 2008
So Sharon Stone thinks the Sichuan earthquake was caused not by friction between tectonic plates on the Longmenshan fault, but by Beijing being “not nice” to the Dalai Lama. Given that Tibet has been under Chinese rule since 1951, karmic retribution must have a 57-year time lag, but that didn’t stop Stone musing on the seismic catastrophe: “I thought, ‘Is that karma?’ When you are not nice, bad things happen to you.”
Bad things did happen: within 24 hours of her statement, the Xinhua news agency had dubbed Sharon the “public enemy of all mankind”, perhaps an epithet more suited to US televangelist John Hagee, who in 2005 announced that God unleashed Hurricane Katrina because He was cross after a “homosexual parade”. And, to prove that retribution-based stupidity hasn’t bypassed the UK, Glenn Hoddle also asserted in 1999 that “some people have not been born [with two hands and two legs and half-decent brains] for a reason … the karma is working from another lifetime. It is not only people with disabilities. What you sow, you have to reap.”
Worryingly, though all this lunacy generated the ridicule it deserved, the last few years have seen a spate of new age “self-help” books blaring out an identical, if less targeted, message: that everything in an individual’s life is created by them. From infamous bestseller The Secret (DVD excerpt: “everything that’s coming into your life, you’re attracting into your life”) to weirdo-manual Ask And It Is Given, which channels “the teachings of the non-physical entity Abraham” (sample chapter title: “Unwanted things cannot jump into your experience uninvited”), the philosophy is the same: whatever is happening to you, it’s your fault.
It’s religion for the non-religious, with all the shame, guilt and illogical pronouncements but none of the community. Instead of acts of God, we are told there are no accidents; instead of God’s will, all happenings are manifestations of our own consciousness. And many people accept either the religious or new age explanations because, given the devastation caused by disasters and traumatic events, it’s less scary to think they are a response to wayward human behaviour. That way, if we just change our actions, we won’t have to fear pain and suffering in the future.
In truth, we can only make sense of the world by rejecting these ideas and the more pervasive “everything happens for a reason” mentality, and by accepting that life is random and unjust. Bad things happen to kind people every day, for no reason at all. Our chances in life are largely predetermined by our place of birth, and religious people are as likely to die in tragedies as atheists. Earthquakes, tsunamis and hurricanes hit for scientific reasons alone; to attribute them to the wrath of God or “the universe” is to deny the victims of these catastrophes their innocence.
Paradoxically, though Stone apologised for her errant statement – which seemed more an ill-thought-out comment on China’s treatment of the Dalai Lama than an intentional slur on the victims of the disaster – she has been pulled from the country’s billboards, and her films are now banned in its cinemas. The authors of books like The Secret have profited from pushing sinister anti-scientific nonsense on to the disadvantaged, sick and desperate, but have never been forced to deliver an acknowledgement or apology, let alone been penalised. And homophobe John Hagee has become a millionaire by driving the fear of God into the weak and gullible while also endorsing John McCain, who might just become the next US president.
“Is that karma?” No, Sharon. It’s anything but.
· Ariane Sherine is a television comedy writer
From British daily The Independent:
Such is the relentlessness of Tony Blair’s public immersion into matters of faith these days that Alastair Campbell’s “we don’t do God” assertion in Downing Street has now been fully exposed for what it was: a skilful piece of diversionary spin.
See also here.
An Open Letter To Elie Wiesel: Please Don’t Legitimize John Hagee.
Elie Wiesel’s Shocking Stage Appearance with Mad Preacher and Anti-Semite John Hagee: here.
Newt Gingrich to meet with the Rev. John Hagee. Yes, *that* John Hagee: here.