We can learn something from James Arthur Ray

I’ve been thinking about the James Arthur Ray situation. You know, the guy who was on Oprah talking about “The Secret?” The one who killed three people by tricking them into fasting for days and then shutting them up in a sweat lodge so they could have visions and learn to become “spiritual warriors?” Yeah, him.

Did you know that he was charging as much as $9,000 a head for his five day retreat? Just to not feed people and stuff them in a hot tent while he regurgitated the crap from every self-help book written in the past forty years that anyone can get for free at the library. So if 112 people attend at that cost, that’s a million bucks in five days. I need to get in on that action.

Here’s my plan:

First, I’m going to run hot water in my shower until the bathroom is warm and full of steam. Then I’ll bring people in and I’ll teach them the valuable life lesson of critical thinking skills. We’ll discuss why you shouldn’t fall for stupid bullshit like “The Secret” and why you shouldn’t pay $9,000 dollars to hear some jerk teach you “spiritual wisdom” that is readily available for free and not true, anyway. Then we’ll go out and form a drum circle in the lot behind my house and chant: “Things you see on Oprah are often not real.” I’ll call it the “How to Become a Reality-Based Individual Retreat and Workshop.” I won’t starve them, of course. Maybe we’ll have pie afterwards. I’m thinking maybe $25 a head?

OK, seriously, why not start teaching critical thinking in a motivational seminar/morning talk show-friendly format? I know most skeptics/atheists/critical thinking advocates are too ethical to do what people like Ray do, but what about something that’s, y’know, not a money-grubbing scam? People say that skepticism doesn't sell, but think about James Randi debunking Uri Geller and psychic surgery on the Tonight Show. Audiences loved it. It could be the new craze in self-help. Something that actually works. Of course, if it caught on, it would kill the self-help market, but that’s just an added bonus.

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Comment by Henry Ruddle on October 28, 2009 at 12:06am
Critical thinking is like diet and exercise -- everyone knows they should do it, but it's just too damn hard for most people. The Secret is like Ultra Slimfast, and you know how healthy that stuff is!

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