A noted Christian religious expert is the latest to confirm something careful watchers of the media have known for years: The American media is peddling New Age spirituality to its viewers as a substitute for traditional religion.
On January 24, the Christian Post reported that Ravi Zacharias, the founder of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries and a noted Christian apologist, warned that the mass media is trying to push New Age ideas on the general population in his book "Why Jesus? Rediscovering His Truth In an Age of Mass Marketed Spirituality."
In his book, Zacharias writes: "Mystics, spiritual masters all are in the lineup to give the viewer the feeling that she who has become all but deified in their eyes can now make each viewer just like them." Zacharias specifically cited Oprah and Deepak Chopra as examples of influential media figures peddling New Age nonsense to a large audience.
It is difficult to disagree with Zacharias' assessment. For both the figures he cites and other media outlets have supported New Age spirituality, and at the same time have discounted traditional religious belief.
Oprah has been heavily involved in the New Age movement - so much so that Washington Post blogger Amarnath Amarsingam called her in May 2011 the "High Priestess of the New Age" In a January 2011 interview with Piers Morgan, Winfrey declared herself to be a spiritual leader: "I am the messenger to deliver the message of redemption, of hope, of forgiveness, of gratitude, of evolving people to the best of themselves." In her Book Club in 2008, she promoted Eckhart Tolle's "A New Earth" whose promotional blurb states: "Tolle describes in detail how our current ego-based state of consciousness operates. Then gently, and in very practical terms, he leads us into this new consciousness. We will come to experience who we truly are-which is something infinitely greater than anything we currently think we are-and learn to live and breathe freely."
New Age spirituality guru Deepak Chopra has been even more avid in his promotion of New Age ideals. His book The Third Jesus is "about the consciousness of Jesus which was in touch with the source of all creation. If you can aspire to be at one with that consciousness, then you too can be in touch with the source of all creation. He has denied traditional Christian teachings, having been cited by major media outlets such as ABC denying the existence of Satan. YouTube promoted his channel, The Chopra Well, in late 2011.
Mainstream reporters have not been shy about de-emphasizing traditional religion, while promoting a nebulous concept of "spirituality." In 2008, CBS's Katie Couric celebrated what she saw as a combination of American spirituality and lack of religious belief: "This survey seems to have a lot of good news. People think prayer and faith is very important in their lives and they don't think it's their way or the highway when it comes to salvation." In November 2009, CBS's Martha Teichner touted a poll claiming that Americans were increasingly abandoning organized religion for spirituality.
The mass media has taken upon itself the task of transforming religious belief into a pile of feel-good mush - when they aren't actively seeking to destroy religion altogether. And testimony from religious experts like Zacharias confirms that assessment.