Marianne Williamson: dishonest and delusional

Gosh. Marianne Williamson replied to me and Orac on Twitter, to chide us for not reading her books.

It’s true. I haven’t read a whole book by Williamson, only excerpts, and they were enough to convince me she’s not a good candidate, despite her earnest, emotional appeal. Here, for example, is a Twitter thread full of specific examples from her books. They’re appalling.

Sickness is not a sign of God’s judgment on us, but of our judgment on ourselves. If we were to think God created our sickness, how could we turn to Him for healing? That kind of baseless drivel is not worth reading in greater detail.

Or you could read Lindsay Beyerstein, who did that old-fashioned thing journalists used to do of deeply researching the history and philosophy of Williamson’s beliefs. It’s all very Christian Sciencey, and its roots can be traced back to Christian Science BS.

According to Williamson, not only is the real world an illusion, everything is an illusion, except love. God is love. We only think that we are separate from each other and separate from God – in reality, we are all one. All of our problems, including sickness, are illusory. If we could just get beyond the illusion of sickness, we wouldn’t be sick.

If sickness is all in our mind and our minds can be changed by miracles, you might assume that miracles can cure disease. “Sometimes a miracle is a change in material conditions, such as physical healing,” Williamson writes in “A Return to Love.” “At other times, it is a psychological or emotional change.” This is the bait-and-switch at the heart of Williamson’s teachings. Maybe you’ll get well, or maybe you’ll feel better about being sick, but either way, she’ll get your money.

It’s all your fault, you know. Everything. If only you’d love God, you’d be better.

At times, Williamson sounds very victim-blamey. She claims that over-identification with the physical body at the expense of the spirit places a “stress on the body that the body was not meant to carry – and that’s where sickness comes from.”

When asked whether people get cancer because of bad thoughts, Williamson is quick to say that it’s not necessarily because of their own bad thoughts. Maybe a child got cancer because of someone else’s bad thoughts, she suggests, in “A Return to Love,” arguing that perhaps some evil chemical company executive’s bad thoughts led him to poison the water supply. But that argument conflicts with her theology’s core contention: If the child’s cancer is real (and not just an illusion) and the poisoned water is the real cause, then her claim that only love is real can’t be true. Never mind that it was the chemical executive’s actions that caused the pollution, not his thoughts. Williamson claims that “disease is loveless thinking materialized,” noting that lovelessness can be collective, like racism, which does indeed harm people’s health and shorten their lives. But this doesn’t explain how children are born with diseases that have no environmental or social cause, such as cystic fibrosis.

She has a lot of excuses and is quick with denial, but she can only do that because her beliefs are so nebulous and flexible…but ultimately, they rely on the Christian notion that you are a sinner and you deserve every affliction you get.

Nope, not voting for her ever.


  1. laurian says

    Williamson is a full on Zen fascist. As I watched her bang on about the Forces of Darkness and the power of Love to save our nation I could not help thinking of the Nazi Kraft durch Freude organization.

  2. Saad says

    AIDS, for instance, can be thought of as “Angels-In-Darth-Vader-Suits.”

    Okay, she’s got my vote.

  3. Sean Boyd says

    You know, PZ, given the excerpt of Williamson’s writings that Saad revealed in @2, there is only one possible response to your disbelief in her words:

    I find your lack of faith disturbing.

    It had to be said. I regret nothing!

  4. Sastra says

    A long time ago I read a book or two by Williamson. More recently, I’ve encountered several proponents/ teachers of A Course in Miracles, which is the same basic crap. This ideology does not teach or encourage critical thinking — or even common sense. Since all those who reject it are presumed to be stuck in a lower state of Awareness, there is no need to engage with their arguments. Believers think this failure to “argue” or convert anyone who is “not ready” puts them miles ahead of traditional conservative religions, and removes all danger and negativity. Only Love remains.

    No. It doesn’t. Virulent ignorance coupled with magical thinking isn’t a good combination. The smugness is only rivaled by impracticality. My guess is that the real Williamson plan for improving government is to create the fertile ground necessary for the tipping point of spiritual enlightenment, when millions of people suddenly achieve the next level of Love. No different, really, than the strategy of solving problems by encouraging more folks to accept Jesus into their hearts.

  5. says

    Have you actually read any of my books, Sir?

    If a book’s thesis statement is nonsense, one hardly has to read the whole thing to come to a reliable conclusion. When the AIDS epidemic was exploding in San Francisco, with increasingly detailed coverage in my daily reading in the San Francisco Chronicle, vampires like Marianne Williamson and Louise Hay were earnestly feeding off the victims with their pseudoscience preaching about fending off illness with meditation and positive thinking (because your negative thoughts were to blame for your being sick). She’s as big a science denier as the twit-in-chief.

  6. stroppy says

    “…belief in your own intellectual perspicacity…” she said projectingly.

    Reasoning is a tool of the devil. It’s just so easy. Once you understand that, all you need is a little Oprah-speak, a strong tongue, and piffle, piffle, piffle.

    100% pure, unadulterated squid ink.

  7. microraptor says

    I’ve long thought that the best reaction to a person like this is an illusory punch in the nose.

  8. Reginald Selkirk says

    Nope, not voting for her ever.

    Be careful with the inflexible language. Suppose it were to come down to a choice between Williamson and Trump?

  9. Sean Boyd says

    Reginald Selkirk @8,

    In that case, we are living in the worst possible part of the multiverse, and we’re already screwed.

    None of this matters anyway. Her chances of being nominated are converging to zero quite rapidly.

    microraptor @7,

    Such negative thinking!

  10. PaulBC says

    “If we were to think God created our sickness, how could we turn to Him for healing?”

    The way you might turn to your kidnapper for mercy. And if you listen to some fundamentalists, that is how they think. Does Williamson ever see a doctor? You can actually get by without one for a long time if you’re moderately lucky, and mild viral illnesses will often self-resolve. It also wouldn’t surprise me if she has had a lot of the same childhood vaccinations that I’m guessing she does not believe in now.

  11. alkisvonidas says

    Have you actually read any of my books, Sir?

    I call this the Woo Meister’s reply.

  12. davex says

    Childhood cancer due to someone else’s bad thoughts? That’s as punishing-the-kids-for-the-sins-of-the-fathers-evil as the rest of christianity. Why wasn’t the 10th plague of Egypt some ‘nad-wasting disease instead of heart-hardening killing off of the firstborn?

  13. says

    Cross posted from the Political Madness All the Time thread.

    Okay. How you spend your campaign money says something about you.

    Marianne Williamson doesn’t want to be identified as a New Age candidate, nor as a “New Age guru,” nor as a “crystal lady,” or “wacky new-age nutcase.”

    But look at how she spends her campaign money:

    […] Many of the firms Williamson is hiring now for her campaign previously provided support for her classes and talks on spirituality. […] campaign consulting services from Wendy Zahler, the director of business affairs for the Agape International Spiritual Center, a trans-denominational Beverly Hills congregation[…] Zahler previously served as Williamson’s business affairs director and assisted with projects like the “Enchanted Love Workshop: Building the Inner Temple of the Sacred and the Romantic.” […] So far, the campaign has paid Zahler more than $61,000.

    Williamson also sought videography services from A Light Picture, a digital media production company that previously helped produce the $149 on-demand version of the candidate’s “Aphrodite Training” course on “aligning power and vulnerability, masculine and feminine, work and romance with the sacred temple of a woman’s heart.” […]

    Another videography company working for the campaign, Streaming for the Soul, has an even deeper spiritual focus. […] video series with titles like “Psychic Mediumship” and “The Truth About Vaccines,” which is a 2½-hour anti-vaccine panel discussion. There’s also the series “Ann and the Angels,” an 84-episode course on how to talk to angels for help with things like “parking spaces,” “life purpose,” and “how to make more money.” […]

    Williamson has spent more than $88,000 so far on “digital consulting” from Magic, a firm based in Boulder, Colorado, whose motto is “Digital marketing with soul (and ROI).” The agency specializes in crafting social media advertising and search engine optimization strategies for clients dedicated to “elevating consciousness, enhancing health and wellbeing, or regenerating the planet.” (To be fair, non–New Age marketing agencies also tend to get a little Age of Aquarius in their mission statements.)

    […] The company’s website notes that the staff, also known as the “magic tribe,” is “prone to freestyle rap battles, taking meetings in onesies, […]

    In an interview with the Freedom Culture podcast, Magic’s founder and CEO Marcus McNeill explained that he had started out working in sales for a company owned by New Age personality Deepak Chopra, a friend of Williamson’s. […]

    And there’s more where that came from.

  14. microraptor says

    Sean Boyd @9: Obviously it was because some corporate executive didn’t feel love and released chemicals into the environment.

  15. ck, the Irate Lump says

    Sadly, she’s still less ghoulish than half of the other people on the stage for the two debates…

  16. says

    There’s an essay by Isaac Asimov¹ called “The Armies of the Night” (in X Stands for Unknown where he talks about his activities in Mensa and how many of its members were taken in by woo… he describes an interaction where he was aggressively asked at a meeting what he thought of astrology. He replied that he wasn’t impressed by it. His interlocutor then asked if he’d read anything on the subject; fearing that he’d get bogged down in a discussion of vapid tomes written by various cranks, he responded in the negative. The person them accused him of being a bigot for dismissing a subject out of hand. Asimov replied that, as a human being, he was possessed of a certain amount of innate bigotry, but he made sure to expend it on intellectually dishonest subjects like astrology so that it would not interfere with anything important… needless to say, this did not please the questioner 😉 He continues:

    It is precisely because it is fashionable for Americans to know no science, even though they may be well educated otherwise, that they so easily fall prey to nonsense.

    They thus become part of the armies of the night, the purveyors of nitwittery, the retailers of intellectual junk food, the feeders on mental cardboard, for their ignorance keeps them from distinguishing nectar from sewage.

    ¹ Yeah, I know old Isaac’s star is somewhat tarnished of late since it came out after he died that he was a bit of a creeper who liked to get handsy with his women fans ☹️

  17. Bruce says

    I suffered from being raised under Christian Science my first two decades. Here’s my response:
    In double-blind studies, neither the patients nor the doctors know who gets what, so their mental states CANNOT affect outcomes differently. Yet many medications have been shown to be effective. This proves that not all effects are set by mental states.
    This disproves both Williamson and Christian Science.
    Unfortunately, so many of the Democratic candidates have immured a corporate attitude that the delusional Williamson is still my fourth or fifth top choice. I’m confident I’ll be voting for someone better in the primary. And I’ll vote for the Dem nominee in Nov., no matter who. I’m not delusional.

  18. Bruce says

    Where autocorrect says “immured” in #17 above, I meant to type what should have been “have been imbued with”.

  19. jrkrideau says

    @ 20 Pad Gallagher
    I mean, you’re not a knight, PZ….
    Check this year’s Honour’s List. Looks like an honorary Order of St. Michael and St. George.

    @ 19 Akira MacKenzie
    Thanks for the link. I do not follow Rebecca Watson enough. For some reason, every time I bookmark her site I mess up and lose it. I think I have done this at least four times.

    I loved her face-mask lecture on the California fires and air quality.

  20. doubtthat says

    I find this incredibly disappoint because, as I said in another thread, her performance on Dummy Dave Rubin’s YouTube show was one of the most impressive efforts I’ve seen in sometime. She very clearly and passionately articulated a wide range of fundamental leftist ideas, rooting them firmly historically and morally. Again, I highly suggest everyone watch some of the clips (not linking directly to Rubin’s show-almost every leftist YouTuber has commentary with long clips):

    But PZ asked the perfect question: apply this historical, ethical, factual approach to vaccines and anti-depressants. Why the woo-woo shit?
    Very, very disappointing.

  21. Pierce R. Butler says

    A friend of mine tried to convince me that Williamson strongly supported ideas promoting self-reliance.

    I borrowed the MW book she was waving at me, opened at random, and read aloud a long ‘graf about depending on and trusting in prayer. End of discussion.

    Bless the angels who guided my fingers that day!

  22. says

    If Williamson, Gabbard, and De Blasio dropped out tomorrow it still wouldn’t be soon enough. They’re the rodeo clown of this race. And like every rodeo clown they end up covered in bullshit.

  23. doubtthat says

    I find Delaney, Ryan, and Hickenlooper to be the worst. They’ve not only decided on the moderate angle, but also the sanctimonious “watch out for socialism” bullshit. They exist solely to troll Warren and Biden.
    The ones Ray Ceeya mentioned should go, too, but they don’t annoy nearly as much.

  24. davidw says

    “Have you actually read any of my books, Sir?”

    “It’s true. I haven’t read a whole book by Williamson, only excerpts…”

    Who was it who said “You don’t have to eat a whole egg to know that it’s rotten”?

  25. Ryan says

    There’s an awesome book by a wonderful writer Barbara Ehrenreich. “Smile or die” which deals with the cult of victim blaming mainly from the positive thinking/motivational speaking side. But she dedicates a chapter or so to the history of the movement and it turns out that it stems entirely from religion. And yeah, the idea that getting cancer or losing your job is all your fault because of your lack of faith or your negativity is victim shaming of the highest order. And so fucking evil…

  26. says

    Ryan @ 27, Akira @ 28: “Smile or Die” is what “Bright-sided” was called in English-speaking markets outside the USA. IIRC, Ehrenreich wanted to call it “Smile or Die” everywhere but her American publishers overruled her on the grounds it was too “negative” 🙄

  27. Ryan says

    @akira, cat. Just checked my kindle. It’s called “smile or die” I think “bright sided” is actually an earlier book? Not sure about that.
    But my copy is definitely “smile or die”. There is also a fantastic animated presentation by her called “smile or die”, it was done for a talk by English organization RSA.
    It precedes the book, still wonderfully eloquent and succinct. Would love to have the opportunity to speak to her. And as someone who has always seen motivational speakers as the most evil of frauds it just kinda gelled with what I was thinking.