I was astounded to read the letter from Seth Mirsky in your April issue. I have never before seen a magazine that would tolerate, let alone publicly welcome, such open disagreement with a senior decision maker. Even in groups that supposedly celebrate diversity, I have found fearful bosses who cannot abide differences from their own belief systems.
I find The Sun wonderful and refreshing because it allows for something that I, personally, try hard to communicate: that we can have different views, opinions, positions, backgrounds, lives, and religions, and not only still be friends, associates, and co-workers, but also enjoy our diversities. And when someone feels passionately that a matter demands sounding out, as Mirsky did, we do not have to silence expressions of opposition.
D. Patrick Miller’s lengthy piece on A Course in Miracles left me feeling vaguely uneasy, so I was pleased to find similar concerns so well articulated in Seth Mirsky’s letter. I was disappointed in Miller’s reply, however. He addressed very little of the substance of Mirsky’s argument, preferring instead to establish his own credentials and to attack Mirsky for daring such heretical criticism. Attacking the author rather than his arguments distracts the reader from the issue at hand. Am I to conclude that there is no convincing argument against Mirsky’s assertion that the Course is merely a repackaged variety of Christian fundamentalism?
Miller proved to me that he is defensive and that his own journalistic professionalism is still growing. I would suggest that he remember his journalistic objectivity when “closely studying [a teaching’s] principles and then talking to followers of the path.” When a reporter is so involved that he becomes a follower, his objectivity is seriously at risk.
Wasn’t there time to send Miller’s letter back for improvement? Or do we just use these pages to throw mud at each other?
My personal thanks for Seth Mirsky’s welcome message in the Correspondence section concerning A Course in Miracles. Having read several Course-related articles in The Sun over the years, I’d begun to think that all of you had lost your minds. It’s encouraging to discover that a voice of sanity is still present; one who can serve as the designated driver when everyone else is too drunk to think.
I have a very close friend who is a devout Course groupie. Talking with her is like talking to a cadaver. Her speech is slurred, her mind out wandering somewhere. Yet she thinks she gets great personal insight from Schucman’s channeled crap. The Course is just so much word-sugar for the pathetic dogma junkies of the world.
I applaud Seth Mirsky’s lucid and serious objections to A Course in Miracles and I found D. Patrick Miller’s response both disturbing and revealing, a series of personal attacks cloaked in self-serving and unconvincing assertions. Nowhere does he address Mirsky’s concerns, nor demonstrate any understanding of why the Course is problematic for many of us.
I have had considerable experience with A Course in Miracles, which I found unnecessarily opaque, long-winded, inconsistent, and simplistic. I did like the Course’s focus on daily practice and personal involvement with the text, but, frankly, reading Shakespeare every day would have repaid the same effort a thousandfold.
Miller says to look to a teaching’s “principles” and “real effects.” One such real effect is his response. Miller calls Mirsky a bad journalist who lacks the discipline for “tedious journalistic footwork” to support his “passionate” conclusions. But don’t look for evidence for this attack. Then, to answer Mirsky’s challenge that the Course may lead to social inaction, Miller merely lists his own Course-stimulated political activism. Is his self-serving list offered as serious evidence to defend a belief system that sees the world as a complete illusion in which “nothing works”? In short, his is an argument of alleged virtue and alleged vice, not acknowledgment and disputation.
The real illusion here is one of logic and evidence. Miller proposes that if Mirsky only knew more, and followed the discipline of the Course, he wouldn’t confuse “reality” with his “presumptions.” And would probably be a better person and better journalist, too, we might assume. Beware the logician who says, “If you just follow my way and my dogma, your skepticism and bad habits will vanish.”
I have to question the editorial judgment that first decides to print a major piece on the Course, then muddies the water by allowing this dreadful response to stand, in effect, as the sole defense of that decision. To echo Mirsky, why is any of this appearing in The Sun?
I am not saying that Miller is a bad journalist or doesn’t know what he is talking about. I only allege he is an incompetent commentator on his stated topic. It’s sad to observe ten years of spiritual seeking culminating not in openness and tolerance but in abuse against those who disagree. Whether this behavior emanates from the Course I leave for others to decide.
D. Patrick Miller responds:
Look, it’s just a book. It costs twenty-five bucks. I don’t get a kickback.
Readers who wish to learn more about A Course in Miracles may be interested in an article Miller wrote for Free Spirit in 1990. It includes vociferous criticism of the Course from several sources, including archetypal psychologist James Hillman and Christian evangelical scholar Dean Halversen. Miller says he’d be happy to send a copy of the article at cost (one dollar) to anyone who writes him at 1678 Shattuck Avenue, #319, Berkeley, CA 94709.
Rebecca McClen Novick and David Jay Brown’s interview with Matthew Fox [“The Trouble with Religion,” April 1995] was perfect. As I read, I was silently repeating, “Yes, yes, yes.” It was like seeing my thoughts on Catholicism, Christianity, Jesus, and God materialize.
The guilt I once experienced when I could no longer reconcile my spirituality with Catholicism, or any other organized religion, was intense and painful. I remember hearing over and over how faith came only via the “grace of God”; how we should pray for those who did not believe that they might be granted such grace. I remember the very first thing I found it impossible to believe — that the loving God who gave us Jesus would condemn unbaptized infants to an eternity in limbo. By the time limbo was discontinued by the church hierarchy, I had worked through the guilt. When I heard about the decision I laughed and said, “About time they got around to that.”
I just read your interview with Matthew Fox. Lately I have been struggling with the same topics he addresses.
One passage leapt off the page at me: “Jesus never had a midlife crisis; he died a young man. But Buddha went through it all; he died in his eighties, so he had more of a take-it-easy approach.”
I believe, as Gandhi said, we are all Hindus, Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Muslims, and Taoists. I also believe, having been raised Catholic, that our strongest roots are in our own cultural belief system, which as a result affects us, in subconscious and conscious ways, more than any other path. But, thanks to Fox’s insight, I’ve decided to change religions, at least for now.
Goodbye, Jesus. Thanks for all you’ve given me. It’s been nice. I am absolutely certain the church edited your words, weeding out the sex and laughter and happiness and peace of mind. I would follow you further, but I am tired: tired of suffering and sacrifice and anxiety and paranoia. The church has me whipped. I can’t fight it anymore.
Buddha, I will study your words instead, striving to follow your example — at least in the ways that feel honest to me. I am forty-two. I have five grandchildren. Maybe you had grandkids who played all about you, too. Maybe great-grandchildren. Statues show you fat and laughing. I have a bit of a belly myself and I want to laugh. I want to dance. I want to have sex with my wife. I want to sing, to wear perfume.
So I have switched. I am now a Buddhist. Goodbye, Catholicism. Goodbye, Christianity. I am a Buddhist for now. And a Muslim, a Hindu, a Jew, a Taoist. And, yes, a Catholic.
I enjoyed reading your interview with Matthew Fox, as I enjoyed his book Original Blessing. He is a very courageous man who rightly points out some common, grievous faults in Christian practice and nobly stands up for his beliefs.
Still, I would like to point out some things myself.
It’s a good thing Fox calls his religion Creation Spirituality and not Creation Christianity, because, apparently, he is not a Christian. A Christian believes that Jesus of Nazareth was the divine Son of God. Fox says, “I see Jesus essentially as a very inspired, energetic, passionate Jewish prophet.”
Either man invented God or God invented man. If (as I believe) the latter is true, then it’s not our job to shape God to our own beliefs but to try our best to figure out what God wants us to believe. If the Bible is truly God’s word, then we should try to figure out what God is saying there, not what we’d like Him to say.
It is possible to be a Bible-believing Christian and still think: to hold that God (as revealed in the Bible) wants us to have respect — indeed, love — for people with different beliefs and philosophies; that He expects us to love, study, and protect his creation; that He wants us to use love, not hate, to improve human lives here.
Yes, the Bible does say there is sin (as well as blessing) in the world. But it’s possible to be a theologically conservative Christian without having to be a politically conservative one.
Several months ago you published my piece in the Readers Write section. When I told my father I had been published, he dutifully read the article, then asked, “Did you get paid?”
Yes, Dad, I most certainly did.