Episode 94: The Gospel of Positive Thinking

Who says you can’t serve both God and Money? Certainly not the 17% of American Christians who believe in the Prosperity Gospel.  They think God will reward their faithfulness with great material wealth and a clean bill of health.  Millionaire evangelists like Joyce Myer and Joel Osteen offer tips to help you “manifest” Gods  blessings in your life by cultivating a positive attitude, banishing self-defeating thoughts and meditating daily on God’s desire for you to live an abundant life. But according to Barbara Ehrenreich, it’s no coincidence that the prosperity gospel resembles “the power of positive thinking” more than it does the bible. In Blindsided: How Positive Thinking Is Undermining America Ehrenreich highlights the striking similarities between prosperity preachers and secular self-help gurus while tracing both back to a common ancestor.

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  1. Bahrfeldt says

    Only 17%? Perhaps by name, but I deduce that a much, much higher percentage expect significant temporal payoffs for what they consider their faithfulness. The rewards of great worldly treasures for true believers (contributors) has been a staple in the verbiage of various Christian (and other religious and secular) organizations since well before Theodosius I spelled it out in the fourth century.

  2. says

    I second the recommendation of Barbara’s book. It’s a great read.
    Check that… I recommend all of Barbara’s books. Especially “Blood Rites”.

  3. Anthony J says

    Great show, but I gotta ask… Who the hell is doing all the heavy breathing into the mic in the background?

    Seriously distracting. Put me right back in high school, sitting next to a mouth-breathing ginger. ;)

  4. says

    I’ve heard that Michigan has a very large Muslim population. I assume the sponsors of the amendment to the anti-bullying bill will happily defend any Muslim teacher or student who harasses Christian students out of a sincerely held belief that Christians are infidels?

  5. says

    Thanks for discussing “Bright-Sided”. It’s easy to dismiss Benny Himm and Joyce Meyers, but many people who think they are being rational draw from the same historical sources without realizing it. It gets to last week’s “outsider” test. When you apply the same process to prosperity gospel that you do to positive thinking, it starts looking pretty silly. Kudos to the doubtcasters for finding empirical evidence and teasing out what can be useful about understanding how our environment can condition our thoughts and affect behaviours.

  6. Brian says

    I look forward to this show each week. This one did not disappoint. I just thought positive thoughts and visualized Jeremy, Luke and the gang in their palatial Michigan studio speaking into golden microphones and giving us another top-notch show. Joyce Myers can suck it.

    Also, now with Irreligiosophy gone, RD will truly dominate.

  7. ouini says

    I named our puppy “Phinneous Quinby” before I consciously found out who Phinneous Quimby was. Damnedable subconscious.

    He is mesmerizingly cute, though.

  8. paul says

    Could someone please cheat and tell me what the common ancestor of the prosperity gospel and the secular self-help gurus is? I probably won’t buy the book, and can’t do the streaming audio thing from where I am.

  9. King of New Hampshire says

    Sooo… I’m not secretly a wizard able to alter the very state of the universe by my mood?

  10. briandavis says

    The prosperity gospel sure sounds a lot like Amway. Do they make you buy a starter kit when you join one of their churches?

  11. says

    Hi Doubtcasters,
    Another excellent podcast (of course). Might be worth mentioning, for the benefit of your British audience, that over here Ehrenreich’s book was published as ‘Smile or Die’ rather than ‘Blindsided’. Not sure why. Is there some uniquely American meaning to the latter phrase?



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