Commandment number 11: Thou shalt not plagiarize

That one must have chipped off when old Moses was lugging those stone tablets down the mountain. During his Conversations with God, author Neale Donald Walsch never talked about the punishment for plagiarizing, I guess.

Neale Donald Walsch, author of the best-selling series “Conversations With God,” recently posted a personal Christmas essay on the spiritual Web site Beliefnet.com about his son’s kindergarten winter pageant.

During a dress rehearsal, he wrote, a group of children spelled out the title of a song, “Christmas Love,” with each child holding up a letter. One girl held the “m” upside down, so that it appeared as a “w,” and it looked as if the group was spelling “Christ Was Love.” It was a heartwarming Christmas story from a writer known for his spiritual teachings.

Except it never happened — to him.

Mr. Walsch’s story was nearly identical to an essay by a writer named Candy Chand, which was originally published 10 years ago in Clarity, a spiritual magazine, and has been circulating on the Web ever since. Mr. Walsch now says he made a mistake in believing the story was something that had actually come from his personal experience.

Funny how the mind tricks a person, eh? Walsch has now apologized to Ms. Chand for the incident and is boggled by the realization that he’s been passing off someone else’s history as his own for a decade. He had completely convinced himself that it was his story he was telling.

Candy Chand doubts his sincerity.

“If he knew this was wrong, he should have known it was wrong before he got caught,” she said. “Quite frankly, I’m not buying it.”

Ms. Chand said that she had seen others take credit for writing the story twice in church newsletters, but that this was the first time she had seen a professional appropriate her words.

“I have strong issue with anyone who would appear to plagiarize my work and pretend it is his own,” she said. “That takes away from the truth of the material, it takes away from the miracle that occurred, because people begin to question what they can believe anymore.

“As a professional writer, when someone appears to plagiarize, they damage the industry, they damage other writers’ credibility and they hurt the reader because they never know what to believe anymore.

Now she’s worried people are going to think she stole it from him.

Memory is a funny thing. It’s so damned selective and subjective. I remember (har har) a time in high school where a friend started telling me about this funny thing that happened and I had to stop her and say, “Yes, I know. I was there.” She had no recollection of me being involved in what happened at all.

I think I believe him. I think the mind is a bizarre little haven for the weird and the wacky. I think it’s totally possible that, given enough time, a person can create memories of things they’ve never experienced. If he’d told the anecdote enough times over the years, I don’t find it at all surprising that he’d get to a point where he thought what happened had happened to him. The memory plays tricks all the time. Why should this be any different?

Oh, right, because he “remembered” the event and published it nearly verbatim of Ms. Chand’s copy-written experience. Big boo boo there.

Speaking of Mr. Walsch, she asked: “Has the man who writes best-selling books about his ‘Conversations With God’ also heard God’s commandments? ‘Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not lie, and thou shalt not covet another author’s property’?”

Yeah, I guess an eleventh commandment would have been overkill. Good thing that god was so succinct. Too bad Walsch wasn’t listening.

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Canadian Atheist Basically ordinary Library employee Avid book lover Ditto for movies Wanna-be writer Procrastinator
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