About Me

I write the biweekly “Beliefs” column for The New York Times and also report for The Atlantic, The Nation, This American Life, and elsewhere. I have four daughters and two dogs.

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The new, NEW Calvinism


If you can identify the man in the picture above, you don’t need my talk. But if you can’t, come here me speak at CUNY this Friday. Details here. (What else are you doing with your lunch hour?) I wrote about the topic in the Times here.


Get ’em started young . . .


My wife has been working very hard to expand state-funded pre-K education here in Connecticut. You can read her op-ed about it here — it begins with the kind of lede I’d have been proud to write:

Prior to the start of school this past fall, a friend’s second grade daughter told her younger sister, who was about to enter kindergarten, what to expect: “Some kids won’t know the alphabet. You see, not everyone went to a good preschool like we did.”

My friend’s daughter was right.

The picture above features a kindergartner. That is its only relevance.



How dirty is this dawg?


Did I screw the pooch on this one, by not noting that the pooch was screwing around? On Saturday, I wrote in the Times about the late, exercise-obsessed Bangladeshi guru Sri Chinmoy (above), whose followers like to run vegetarian restaurants (and running-shoe stores).

I have since received four emails from irate readers who said that I gave free publicity to the posthumous cult of a sex pervert. Here is one such email, reproduced with the writer’s permission:


Dear Mark, 

I think you should know that there is another side to the Sri Chinmoy Centre / Legacy. It is a much darker side than anyone still remaining in the centre would ever like to be told. 
I was a follower of Sri Chinmoy for 22 years. I loved my spiritual life and I love my teacher. To me Sri Chinmoy was God. Chinmoy claimed to be an Avatar of the highest order and most of his disciples believed him, Myself being one of them. I joined the centre in December 1986 at age 18 and I left the centre on February 14, 2009.
The philosophy was great. Live in the sunlit path of the heart, be humble, be a good person. However the realiy was Sri Chinmoy did not practice what he preached. 
The centre is a cult. It took me a few years to realize that after I left. When you join it does not seem that it is because everything you hear and see seems so good. However when I look back at my life with Sri Chinmoy I can see how he clearly manipulated his disciples to get what he wanted from them.
In the end, I left because one day in December 2006, on one of our annual Christmas Trips, Sri Chinmoy decided I was ready to be given a special privilege because I had served him devotedly for twenty years and because God-The Supreme had special love for me.  We were in Antalya, Turkey. Sri Chinmoy asked me to come up to his hotel room to have sex with another woman while he watched. 
Needless to say, I was horrified. Up to that point I truly believed in Sri Chinmoy. He was my God, he was my life, my All. That night changed everything. I was shattered. At first I was in shock, then I was afraid, then sad and finally angry. Everything he was teaching was a lie. We were supposed to be living a life of celibacy. No sex with anyone. Not with a man or a woman.
There is more to my story but it is too much to write right now. 
My story is not the only one out there. There are plenty of former disciples to tell you the real story about Sri Chinmoy. 
Please stop writting articles that promote this cult as real spirituality. It is a centre based in lies and most of the leaders if not all of them know the truth.  


I have no idea if these charges, or others like it, are true. And Chinmoy is dead, which makes it hard to investigate this matter conclusively, or fairly. My column was really about followers who run vegetarian restaurants, far less about the man himself. Nevertheless, I print the letter so buyers can beware.



But what are the overdue fines?


The picture of this micro-library in front of someone’s house, in Washington Heights, was posted to Facebook by my friend Chuck. Pretty terrific.


“Thank you, sir, may I jog another?”

“Thank you, sir, may I jog another?” was the cheeky headline of an old Outside article about the followers of the late Sri Chinmoy, a guru who preached long-distance running to his followers. In Saturday’s Times, I catch up with some of those followers, like the man above, who have a penchant for running vegetarian restaurants. (There may be one near you.)

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