Fact check: Former pastor authored ‘Paradox of Our Time’ essay, not George Carlin

The claim: Comedian George Carlin authored a viral essay criticizing modern society

A viral image credits the late American comedian George Carlin with a harsh critique of modern life. Carlin, who died in 2008, was known for his humorous social commentary and criticism of materialism. 

Text in the image, which was shared on Facebook June 4 with attribution to Carlin, reads: 

“We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much. We have multiplied our possessions but reduced our values. We take too much, love too seldom, and hate too often. We’ve learned how to make a living but not a life. We added years to life, not life to years.”

Similar recent posts shared a longer version of the quote. They’ve been shared thousands of times over the past month, according to CrowdTangle, a social media insights tool. 

However, Carlin isn’t the source of the quote in the post — it comes from a piece published in 1995 by a former pastor. The quote has spread with false attributions for 20 years.

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USA TODAY reached out to several accounts that shared the post.

Facebook user Michelle Weyhand responded “I stand corrected” when USA TODAY contacted her about her post but left the original false claim on her timeline.

Quote from pastor’s piece

Former pastor Bob Moorehead authored and published the piece, known as “The Paradox of Our Time,” in his 1995 anthology “Words Aptly Spoken.”

Moorehead was a pastor at Overlake Christian Church in Washington state for more than 25 years before he was accused of sexual misconduct and resigned in 1998.

Moorehead has described the book as a “collection of my favorite monologues I’ve written and used over the years in sermons and on the radio.”

George Carlin died in 2008 of heart failure. (Photo: David G. Massey, AP)

The version shared June 4 varies slightly from the piece Moorehead originally published. The phrase “and pray too seldom” has been removed. 

In the years since it published, the piece has been inaccurately attributed to Carlin, the Dalai Lama and an unnamed Columbine High School student, among others. Snopes debunked several of those attributions in 2001.

Carlin said he didn’t write it

Before his death, Carlin responded to allegations that “The Paradox of Our Time” was his work.

Carlin said on his website that several misattributed works circulating the web were “embarrassing.”

“One of the more embarrassing items making the internet/e-mail rounds is a sappy load of s— called ‘The Paradox of Our Time,'” Carlin wrote.

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He said the ideas in the piece “are all expressed in a sort of pseudo-spiritual, New-Age-y, ‘Gee-whiz-can’t-we-do-better-than-this’ tone of voice.”

“It’s not only bad prose and poetry, it’s weak philosophy,” Carlin wrote. “I hope I never sound like that.”

Our rating: False

The claim that Carlin authored a viral essay criticizing modern society is FALSE, based on our research. A former pastor authored the piece. Before his death in 2008, Carlin criticized the essay’s tone and dismissed claims that he authored it. The piece has circulated with false attribution to Carlin and other sources for two decades. 

Our fact-check sources:

  • USA TODAY, Oct. 15, 2015, 7 things we learned about George Carlin from his exhibit
  • Bob Moorehead, Dec. 1, 1995, Words Aptly Spoken
  • Seattle Times, May 21, 1999, Elders Now Say Moorehead Is `Guilty’ Of Misconduct
  • Goodreads, accessed June 13, Bob Moorehead > Quotes > Quotable Quote
  • Snopes, March 19, 2001, Did George Carlin Pen ‘The Paradox of Our Time’?
  • Wayback Machine, GeorgeCarlin.com, Sept. 30, 2004, DON’T BLAME ME
  • Michelle Weygand, June 1, Facebook
  • Reset.Me, June 4, Facebook

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