A train of thought: I read this book called "SHAM: How the Self-Help Movement Made America Helpless." The book makes a strong case that self-help has taught us to think we are all either recovering victims or that we are entitled to anything we want. The author claims that empowerment talk doesn't really empower anyone. People who are fat, can say, "being fat is more than okay and I demand respect for my fattitude." Boys are feminized and told to stop being aggressive. And a lot of people want to be victims and they see themselves as recovering alcoholics, sex addicts, gamblers, etc. So the message in our culture has been everyone can say "But I'm the real victim," or "I deserve to win, be happy, and get everything I want without working for it. I'm special for simply believing I can, even if I can't." That is a very simple summary of the author's argument. The popularity of new age beliefs has coincided with the popularity of tons of self-help literature. The belief in karma and constant learning from lifetime to lifetime can be made to easily fit the model that "everyone is special whether they try to do good or not," that self-help literature sometimes promotes. The idea that we are all on a spiritual journey and we are all spiritually equal, whether we be murderer or average citizen, is actually older than self help or new age beliefs. The idea that we are all "sinners" is there in Christianity. The idea that we are all suffering because we are blind to our own craving and ignorance exists in Buddhism. Like self-help, religion promotes the idea that there is something wrong with us and / or the world. But traditionally, religion has also promoted the idea of accountability. People will reap what they sow, says religion. In the predominantly Christian West, reincarnation has been gaining ground on the we-only-live-once model of belief. The importance of competition, making good in this life, facing consequences in this life, are all less important when you believe in reincarnation and trust karma to sort it all out over the eons. Holding people accountable for their actions is no longer the job of the courts, the police, the judges. And when people say they are a victim of alcoholism, sex addiction, and so on, are they really that far from saying they are victim of karma? It's because of that blurred line between the self-help attitude and the spiritual beliefs that see karma as a nice way to make self-help jargon sort of "true" that burns me out. A murderer does have the right to seek God in his heart. I hope he does. I even believe that God can reward him for that in time. But I would be uncomfortable with letting him off the hook because someone believes that karmic law will have the final word. Compare it to raising kids. We don't let our kids play in traffic with the attitude that karma will teach them in the long run. We punish them to make them think about their actions. It occurs to me that whether one believes in karma or sin and punishment, it might be important to emphasize the importance of accountability. What we have seen with the growing popular views on karma, is that accountability is barely mentioned. The "law of attraction" and "synchronicity" are given greater attention. And the belief in "enlightenment" which is a concept that hasn't been around very long in the west, is often seen as a final stage in a spiritual self-help regimen in which we will finally feel like we are "O.K." It's something I've wanted to put into words after reading this book. I think it's worth thinking about. Hope some of you agree.