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Divine Plagiarism?
1.21.2003 by Julian, every Tuesday.


JP recently forwarded me an email he had received, promoting a new book entitled Oh My God! Are You Talking to Me? (My Conversations with Jesus). He thought I might want to review it for Tangmonkey. Here is the email message:
Friend (I hope!),

Yeah, yeah: I know. I probably sound like a loony or some religious fanatic. Please just give me a minute of your time and thanks in advance.

It is true. Jesus and I have really spoken and He wants me to tell you some of the things He said. Just check out the sample chapters like: Love, Man's Reason For Being, or Why Man Chooses Wrongly and you will be absolutely convinced to order this book!

JESUS SPEAKS!

In a new, non-fiction book by Peniel titled: Oh My God! Are You Talking to Me? (My Conversations with Jesus), you will hear what He says.

Oh yeah, I should also say that Jesus speaks to a young man, now living in Oklahoma. They have been casually talking for 23 years. They have talked about every imaginable subject, and this book is the transcript of twenty of those early conversations. More books will follow- no doubt!

How did this book come about? In 1979, twenty-three-year-old Peniel writes down all of the questions haunting him. He wonders, "Whom could I even ask?" Dejected and frustrated, he sighs, "God only knows?" The words echo in his mind: "God only knows." But, this voice isn't his. Its not asking, it's answering. There is no quiet desperation in a whimpered question; rather a strong, self-assured statement of Truth. Fear creeps over Peniel as he sits in the dark and puzzles, "must be an active imagination." In astonishment, he continues asking- and Jesus answers.

What is it? Author Peniel explains that this book is a transcript of a young man's casual conversations with Jesus. This book explores the various questions that we all ask in life: What is Love? Why are we here? Why Man Chooses Wrongly? The style is casual and conversational, like between a father and a young child. Jesus' words are clear and simple as He explains each answer.

When is it available? Galleys and electronic versions are available now. The printed paperback is being published by Metropolis Ink and will be available by April 2003.


This sounds like a pretty unusual book, but what’s even more unusual is that I read another book just like it a couple of years ago. That book, entitled Conversations With God is by a guy called Neal Donald Walsh. It was your typical new-age fare: simplistic, feel-good philosophy using simplistic, feel-good interpretations of traditional religion to back it up.

Like Peniel, Walsh claimed that the book was a transcription of actual conversations he had with God. He sat down one day, pondering over life’s Big Questions, and felt his pen moving under the control of some other power. Through Walsh's pen, this power revealed that it was God, and went about answering the questions in a straightforward, casual, conversational way.

If nothing else, Walsh understood human psychology very well, because all the ideas in the book seem to make a lot of sense and are quite attractive. They are coherent and intuitive. They are the type of things you want to believe. It’s a great book for gullible new-age believers and tough-minded cynics alike, the former because they’ll find it profound and convincing, the latter because its full of examples of the way that type of book makes itself seem profound and convincing.

So I read the email and the sample chapters of the book by this Peniel guy, and it seems to be almost identical in both concept and content. The only difference is that Peniel’s book is a little more wacky and humourous and the writing is a little less polished. Peniel doesn’t seem to take himself quite so seriously as Walsh (which can be interpreted as either a good thing or a bad thing).

So my theory is that the book is plagiarized (Note: I am not in any way suggesting that Peniel, Penielite G.G.G Press or Metropolis Ink Publishing has or will publish plagiarized work). Conversations With God and its sequels were best-sellers, and Walsh has a lot of personal investment in his books. From his website I learned that he has even started a “foundation” (read: cult) centered around his books. So how can he possibly accuse this Peniel guy of plagiarism? If God spoke to him, why wouldn’t he have given the same message to someone else? In order to prove that Peniel plagiarized, he would have to admit that the message didn't really come from God, which would undermine his own credibility. Peniel is simply a clever guy who realized this and decided to cash in.

Of course I can’t really substantiate any of this until I receive my review copy of Oh My God! Are You Talking to Me? (My Conversations with Jesus, but I’ll keep you updated.




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