Oprah Winfrey’s Awkward Conversation with Marathon Swimmer Diana Nyad, an ‘Atheist Who’s in Awe’

Diana Nyad is the 64-year-old marathon swimmer who made headlines around the world last month after swimming from Cuba to Florida, a 110-mile trip, without a protective cage. It took her about 53 hours. (Her record earned her no shortage of attention from skeptics, too.)

Yesterday, she appeared on Oprah Winfrey‘s “Super Soul Sunday” (a show you never heard about until this moment and will never watch again after finishing this post) to talk about her religious beliefs:

Here’s what awesome: It turns out Nyad is an atheist. She’s a Humanist, really, who sees something amazing and beautiful in the way we all interact and love one-another. She is amazed by the natural world. She believes it’s all over when she’s dead. She’s also very non-confrontational about her beliefs — if you believe in God, okay, no problem, but she doesn’t. She also has this wishy-washy idea of what a soul is — she calls it a “spirit” — and she believes it lives on after we’re gone. You could argue she’s really talking about a legacy or memory that we leave behind, something that’s not-at-all supernatural.

Here’s what’s not awesome: Oprah takes Nyad’s statement of “I’m an atheist who’s in awe” and suggests that Nyad isn’t really an atheist.

Oprah the Theologian proceeds to have one of the most awkward faith-based conversations you’ll ever hear with someone who doesn’t seem to understand how the host is trying to steer her away from outright proclaiming her godlessness:

Nyad:… I can stand at the beach’s edge with the most devout Christian, Jew, Buddhist, go on down the line, and weep with the beauty of this universe and be moved by all of humanity — all the billions of people who have lived before us, who have loved and hurt…

Winfrey: Yeah…

Nyad: … and suffered. To me, my definition of “God” is humanity. And is the love of humanity. And as we return to…

Winfrey: Well, I don’t call you an atheist then! I think if you believe in the awe…

Nyad: Okay…

Winfrey: … and the wonder…

Nyad: Okay…

Winfrey: … and the mystery…

Nyad: Okay…

Winfrey: … That that is what God is! That is what God is! God is not the Bearded Guy in the Sky.

Nyad tries to explain that, of course, God isn’t some bearded guy in the sky, but he’s not a Creator or “overseer,” either. We’ll never know, she adds. It’s all about faith and she’s not a faith-filled person.

But Oprah wasn’t satisfied with that, so later in the interview, she tried to get Nyad to admit she was still “spiritual”… because if you’re not religious, that’s the next best thing, right?

Nyad, unfortunately, took the bait and said she was indeed spiritual, though her explanation of what that meant wasn’t even close to what Oprah was talking about.

Winfrey: … Do you consider yourself a spiritual person, even as an atheist?

Nyad: I do. I don’t think there’s any contradiction in those terms. I think you can be an atheist who doesn’t believe in an overarching Being who created all of this and sees over it. But there’s spirituality because we human beings, and we animals, and maybe even we plants, but certainly the ocean and the moon and the stars, we all live with something that is cherished and we feel the treasure of it.

Winfrey: Well, I believe that and feel that so deeply. It’s why every time I enter my yard or leave, I say, “Hello trees!”

Sure, Oprah. Sure you do.

Nyad’s explanation is the same sort of breathtaking awe that scientists will often tell you they feel when they gaze at the stars or look through a microscope. It’s not religious. It’s not spiritual. It certainly has nothing to do with a Higher Power. It’s just amazement at how life, the universe, and everything works — how evolution made it that way and how lucky we are to be a part of it at all.

In Oprah’s mind, that’s not really atheism. Because she can’t fathom how atheists could ever truly appreciate life the way she does as a spiritual person.

There’s no contradiction in what Nyad is saying (though she could have been much more firm about what she does and doesn’t believe in). There is, however, all sorts of definitional waffling going on with Oprah. Despite her decades of interviews, she still hasn’t figured out how to accept the fact that some people just don’t buy into her nebulous spirituality.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Tainda

    Turn it around and say maybe Oprah is the atheist.

  • KMR

    Yeah, that’s what I was thinking. I do know the abundance of fundamentalists I associate with hate her so she can’t be all wrong.

  • islandbrewer

    I kept expecting Oprah to say, “But you’re such a nice person!”

  • Daniel Brown
  • h2ocean

    You would think Oprah might want to encourage atheism in her followers. That way she is not competing with other gods and ensure people are only worshiping at the altar of Oprah :)

  • baal

    We don’t have a god shaped hole in our lives and even if we did, I wouldn’t put Oprah (or any other person either) into it. I also think of worship as a fairly narrow term reserved for religious behaviour. Non-religious “worship” might better be described as a ‘___-geek’, ‘fan’ or ‘otaku’.

  • Kodie

    I don’t really understand this. Having awe at whatever, the “whatever” isn’t god or evidence of god. “God” would be the attribution of everything you’re in awe of to a conscious intervening and creative power, or maker, or whatever. You can be in awe of the material universe without attaching a maker to it. I hope Oprah gets a lot of letters about it, and maybe she’ll actually learn something.

  • islandbrewer

    When Oprah starts collecting a 10% tithe and instructs her fans to shun people who don’t like her, come back, then we’ll talk.

  • baal

    Gloss the link?

  • h2ocean

    Yea I am definitely being flippant in that comment :) I can’t help but see similarities between how fans cry at the sight of Orpah (or other people for that matter) and hang on her every word, and religious followers who cry during religious experiences and hang on the every word of their religious leader. There are obvious differences too though.

  • WallofSleep

    Well, she ain’t that bad, but she is one of the worst woo-peddlers out there on tv.

  • WingedBeast

    “God is that awe… and a bunch of supernatural powers, with angels that watch over you, and a 1-true-son, and that, when people talk to him, can actually understand him.”
    That’s a part of the conversation that always annoys me. “Hey, I believe that that exists. I don’t believe that the other parts, the parts that the vast majority of god believers believe are a part of a god or of God and the ones that make the word ‘god’ have any actual useful meaning… I don’t believe those exist.”

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    The best thing I can think of to say about Oprah is that she is responsible for Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker meeting.


  • islandbrewer

    Oh, I totally agree. Her fans are certainly approaching the asymptotic cult-point. If she ever consciously chose to use her power celebrity for explicitly evil purposes, I’d expect her to be living in a hollowed out volcano with a weather machine stroking a furry white cat.

  • C.L. Honeycutt

    I would pay good money to see Oprah as Dr. Evil in an Austin Powers remake.

  • WallofSleep

    Wait a sec, you mean promo-ing a talk show hosted by Jenny McCarthy doesn’t count as “explicitly evil”? Hmm… I better have my scale re-calibrated.

  • C.L. Honeycutt


  • C.L. Honeycutt

    Pick up a new irony meter while you’re out, in case Keyra or Darlene or Joseph show up.

  • WallofSleep

    “YOU get a shark with fricken’ lasers, and YOU get a shark with fricken’ lasers, and YOU…

  • guest

    Only Nyad knows what she believes and how she feels and perceives the world around here. Not you. Not Oprah, Not me. So stop putting words in her mouth. You’re projecting as bad as Oprah does.

  • Atheist Diva

    I visited Stratford-upon-Avon with my sister-in-law, who pretty much believes in every religion, although technically she’s a Buddhist Christian hippie. She was raised Catholic, so she crossed herself when we entered the church, and she lit a candle (you pay money to buy one). It was a rainy day, near closing, and we ended up being the last two people in the area where Shakespeare is buried. She knows that I love Shakespeare, so she left me alone there, and I told her how amazing that experience was–to hang out with my hero, Will, by myself (well, with the bones of his other dead ancestors) and she went on and on about how that was a miracle that he was buried in the church (no, he was a church rector) and that all of this had survived and didn’t I feel the joy and presence of a higher being, because obviously, that’s why all his houses have survived over centures & on and & on & on. Human intervention and chance caused the preservation of the houses, not God. But she saw HIS hand in everything, and didn’t understand how my joy could be less than religious, or at least “spiritual.” It wasn’t because I’m just not built that way.

  • ScienceWorksBest

    Oprah doesn’t understand that some of us sort fact from fiction via evidence, reason and by being critical thinkers. Faith is pretending to know when there’s no evidence to support it.

  • C.L. Honeycutt

    Cults of personality can be benign, at least in intent and at first.

    On a bit of a tangent, know anyone who has worked at Wal-Mart? Ask them about the company magazine and the morning meetings. Sam Walton’s family is most definitely attempting to craft a cult around his legacy, though the plastic shine may have been stripped off by the Great Recession.

  • WallofSleep

    Oi! With the current state of the GOP/religious right, Irony Meter repairmen are gonna be back logged well into the next century.

  • C.L. Honeycutt

    Just gagged on my drink, thankyewverymuch.

  • Greg Scott

    my Wowoo bullshitometer is pinging like crazy.

  • Atheist Diva

    P.S. I hate Oprah.

  • WallofSleep

    My work here is done.

  • Nichelle Wrenn

    I’ve had way too many people say just that to me and it makes me want to punch them. I’m nice, polite and respectful on the outside anyway, in my head is another matter, but since thoughtcrime is not a real thing it’s ok. That it directly tied in with my Humanism. of course.

  • WallofSleep

    Quick, man!!! Pull the plug on that thing now or you’ll cause a catastrophic overload!!! The instructions specifically state that such sensitive equipment should not be used in the presence of such powerful woo-nomena as the great Oprah.

  • islandbrewer

    Um… “horribly evil”? Wait …”intentionally evil”? Hrm …

    Fine recalibrating the lasers on the “Death Star.”

  • busterggi

    I note that O said she did not believe god is an old man in the sky who watches everyone. That has been the tradition literal Christian view all along, they have used the image millions of times, and most still fall back on it.
    Yet its so obviously embarrassing that many publically decry it and claim its never been the belief of them or their church. Talk about denying their lord.

  • MURupert

    It’s just the constantly shifting New Age Christian definitions of God. “God is Love” or “God is Awe.” Anything to change it from that guy in the book who killed all those people. It’s a way of being Christian without the baggage. And that’s okay, I prefer this kind to the “burn the heretic” kind. But they still lack the basic understanding that other people can believe entirely different things compared to them and still be good people. So they try to shift the definitions around to make you like “us” and not like “them.”

  • Madison

    God isn’t that feeling of awe one gets when seeing something spectacular. The definition of god is much more than that feeling of connectedness in humanity. I think those moments of awe are more amazing knowing that we are a product of our universe–not from some paradoxical, all-knowing, all-powerful god.

  • Matt


  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    I have [spiritual experiences] when I look at Hubble space telescope images and see galaxies that are ten billion light years away with civilizations that are long gone … People say science isn’t spiritual, but to me it’s more spiritual because it’s actually real.

    – Lawrence Krauss


  • Fentwin

    I was awed one day as I stood before the cat’s litter box. I had never seen a cat turd of such proportions. Was I standing before God then as well?

    Oprah’s words do fill me a sense of “awwww”, as in “awww, stuff it lady, you’re trying to sell us horse apples and we ain’t buying!”.

  • DesertSun59

    People constantly conflate ‘spiritual’ with the word ‘emotional’.

  • 3lemenope

    Some folks do, but I don’t think that’s what’s happening here. It sounds to me like Krauss is describing the experience of awe, which has many emotional associations but is primarily an aesthetic concept and is a more natural and reasonable conflation with the religious category of ‘spirituality’. Awe, in this context, is the apprehension of something that is too large (in some literal or metaphorical sense) to properly experience, and being overwhelmed by the sheer difference in that size and the insignificance of yourself as an observer.

    Looking through a telescope at the observable universe can certainly do that.

  • Kevin_Of_Bangor

    Don’t piss off Oprah’s Minge.

  • Kevin_Of_Bangor

    My mother loved Oprah and watched her every single day so I kind of know what you are getting at. If she promoted a book or product, my mom bought it and if she endorsed a candidate, she would vote for them.

  • Karl Goldsmith

    Shouldn’t Oprah just be shilling the lastest scam to her sheeple?

  • Ford Warrick Jr

    I think it is very difficult for some theists to understand an atheist perspective. The don’t really get it. I think Oprah feels, like many people, that we all have an intuitive sense of the divine, of a soul, and that atheists just deny these feelings or are not in touch with them. They want to believe that God is in everyone and don’t like the idea that is not true.

  • advancedatheist

    But Nyad has to presuppose the existence of mermaids to swim in the ocean. Otherwise if she drowned, her life wouldn’t have any meaning.

  • Brian T Hall

    there are different levels of atheism.. most gnostic Atheist don’t understand this.. I say half of the Gnostic Atheist are closer to bigots.. the other is understanding of the fact that there are so many types of atheist.. I’m my self is a Militant friendly agnostic apatheist. you have to think about this really closely, If God exist, it could be anything. God is unexplainable, you can’t put God on the periotic tables of elements.. so I’m undecided for life.. I’m stuck between a hard spot and a rock on if god exist.. but I do not in any way believe in any holly text.. why because its a absoluteness I do not believe in.. I believe in learning new stuff every day. I believe in the separation of church and state.. Being a humanist or a apatheist or a atheist dose not mean you are immune to bull shit or you are completely an Ass hole or Evil..

  • David Kopp


  • Latraviata

    I never understand this Oprah idolatry. People grant her almost messianic qualities.
    Somebody care to explain what spirituality actually entails? I am a 65 year old European psychologist and atheist and I still don’t know………

  • McFidget

    If “God” can be anything then the term god is undefined and thus useless. I think it is useless to even discuss the existence of anything so nebulous. I’m about as certain as is possible that the god defined by a literal interpretation of the bible is non-existent and very confident that the properties commonly attributed to a god (omnipotent creator or first cause as an intelligent actor) are impossible. If you are talking about anything else when you say god you really should be using a less ambiguous word.

  • spookiewon

    I agree. I feel emotional when I see “Hubble space telescope images and see galaxies that are ten billion light years away” (and I don’t see evidence there are necessarily any civilizations long gone), but that’s NOT “spiritual.” “Spiritual” implies “spirit” and I don’t believe in spirits, or anything else supernatural.

  • brockbier

    Just tell them “I was going to say the same about you!”

  • http://www.autodidactic.biz/ Nashville Kat

    Things people don’t know because they never take the time to find out and that is Oprah who usually is over-prepared for any guest. A friend of mine wouldn’t come to my web page because it was atheist. I didn’t beat her up about it, but I wanted to say “I’m the same guy you’ve known for years. I just don’t believe in magic.” I guess she thought coming to my page would in some way cancel her ticket to paradise or that she might succumb to atheism. Personally, I thought it was because her faith is weak.

  • eric

    Aren’t you kind of doing the opposite? Conflating ‘spiritual’ with ‘supernatural?’
    I’m fine with Krauss using it to describe he feelings. I think the word is wide enough to cover atheistic awe and wonder, and I’m not giving it over to the woomeisters just because they want to brand it theirs.

  • closetatheist

    I’ve gone with “And you’re such a smart person!”

  • spookiewon

    Where are you finding these gnostic atheists? I have seriously never met one. I have never met an atheist who claimed to know NO gods exist. I am an agnostic atheist, but it doesn’t mean I don’t know SOME gods don’t exist. I am certain the god of the bible doesn’t exist, because he’s impossible; the laws of physics don’t allow an omniscient omnipotent being. But do I claim to know that NO gods exist? Nope. I think it’s unlikely, but one certainly may. But until I am presented evidence of one I don’t BELIEVE there is.

    Your post is word salad, full of misspellings and poor grammar and nonsense jargon. It makes no sense. How is it even possible to be a MILITANT APATHEIST? Seriously, you’re militant about something you don’t care about?

  • spookiewon

    The key is she “feels.” Theists seem to consider their “feelings” as evidence.

  • LutherW

    How about God is not Love, God is not Awe, God is not. (Period)

  • DavidMHart

    I remember a commenter (I think here on Patheos) saying something to the effect that they’d never seen anyone try to express any concept using the word ‘spiritual’ that couldn’t have been better encapsulated using either ‘emotional’, ‘mental’ or ‘imaginary’.

  • Tainda

    Where is Bitter Lizard with the “Anis”?

  • MURupert

    The problem is that the mystical and the religious have taken the language and made it their own. If I see a mountain range I feel uplifted or inspired. Some people would take those to be mystical words, but they really aren’t. I suppose the problem with the word spiritual is that it’s heavily tied to ‘spirit’ or ‘soul’ which are so heavily tied to mysticism. I don’t have a problem with taking the word spiritual back as long as it’s clear it has nothing to do with woo. I think Krauss and Sagan did that pretty well, but some atheists use their word choice to support mystical spirituality. They didn’t mean anything of the sort.

  • Thin-ice

    That’s weird, Eric, DesertSun doesn’t even use the word supernatural, so where did you dream that accusation up?

  • Ben JaMan

    Facepalm at 1:32 Oprah: “Oh Wow as it was for Steve Jobs”

  • Charlie

    “Hello trees!”
    Hello gag reflex!

  • AxeGrrl

    My facepalm happened much earlier, at 00:25-00:30, where Oprah says “so you’re an atheist?” and then “but you’re into awe”

    *banging head on desk*

    You believers don’t own “awe”, Oprah. What’s with that tendency on the part of some believers? to ‘claim’ these things as ‘their territory’…….awe, morality, charity, etc……the nerve.

  • John O’Brien

    What are you doing Mingy?!

  • C.L. Honeycutt

    I think she must have just watched Beauty and the Beast or something.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    Perfect time for “How do you know?”

  • Itarion

    Hey Oprah? When you start gardening, THEN you can say you care about your trees. I don’t think you care about a damn thing but ratings.

  • Itarion

    Well… There’s something about a spirit. And I think there’s some uality. Frankly, it kinda just seems like a catch-all term for the “Nones” who don’t want the stigma of irreligion.

    Then there’s the New Agey remix of oneness with everything. That one’s not too bad, it’s just a feeling of connection with the world and the universe at large. A la this, from Symphony of Science: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XGK84Poeynk

  • Name

    She loses me there at the end.

  • Infidel Poetry

    What the hell did I just watch?

    There was talking, but nothing of substance was being said.

  • Verimius

    Awe is a natural human emotion that we experience when we encounter something profound, mysterious, or very large (like the Grand Canyon). Unfortunately, in many people the feeling of awe has been co-opted by religion, and whenever they experience awe it is automatically misinterpreted as a religious experience.

    As we well know, awe can also be a secular experience. Really, it’s just a matter of conditioning.

  • Miss_Beara

    Where is Bitter Lizard?

  • Miss_Beara

    I am not built that way either.

    I was in London a few years ago and I went to Westminster Abbey, not because to be “closer with God” but to see the amazing architecture and history. Thankfully I was with someone that is not “see, God made this!” but later on I told my aunt and she still doesn’t understand how I could still be an atheist while seeing the Abbey, among other things. My mind does not work that way.

    Oh, and I hate Oprah too.

  • Miss_Beara

    Learn something? That is devil speak!

  • Latraviata

    Oh well, that clears it up……I guess….

    Once somebody asked me about my sprituality and I told her, well classical music and she nippingly replied, that has nothing to do with spirituality.

    Music, in particular classical music does a lot to me emotionally to the extend that I didn’t listen, or was not able to listen untill 2 years after the death of my younger son.
    I asked her, define sprituality, well… vaque mumbo jumbo with high flutter content.

  • Caprica

    I find Oprah to be the most patronising and rude of interviewers. She wants people to agree with her worldview for one reason. To confirm to her that her beliefs aren’t a load of bollocks. Which they clearly are. “Hello trees”. Give me a break.

  • PrimateZero

    Quick!!! Gary’s drowning in his own sick!

  • MelanieDawn

    I used to use the word “spiritual” exact as Krauss was doing, so I understand and agree with your point; but I think I shall use “atheistic awe and wonder” from now on. Clear, concise, and zero room for misinterpretation. :-D

  • DougI

    She must be right because I can’t experience a sense of awe and wonder and feel the need to shell out $40,000 for a hand bag. Nor can I experience the sense of awe and wonder and listen to Jenny McCathy spout off nonsense about vaccines. I guess I’m just not up to the standards of the morally superior Oprah.

  • DougI

    Don’t worry, I’m sure she’ll say, “But some of my best friends are Atheists.”

  • God’s Starship

    Haven’t you posted this before?

  • God’s Starship

    I think Oprah means well but she comes off really flakey in this. “Hello trees”…?????

  • graceie

    Oprah’s done some good, obviously, but there are things about her that I dislike. She promotes the most ridiculous types of pseudoscience, even in one article I saw in her magazine, “psychic surgery”, where charlatans pretend to stick their hands into people’s bodies and remove tumors, etc. Also, she promotes materialism, consumerism, and self-indulgence while at the same time claiming to be extremely spiritual. Seriously, if you want me to believe that you’re some kind of spiritual seeker/leader, don’t in the next sentence tell me that I need a $1300 coat to be happy.

  • Kodie

    Am I the only one who remembers her with these “gratitude journals”?

    Am I the only one who remembers when her show began and she was competing with Phil Donahue for the weirdest, most unlikely topics? He might have had some kooky guests on, but she really upped the stakes for a while and generated the kinds of talk shows like Jerry Springer and Maury Povich are now, and Sally Jessy Raphael, Ricki Lake, and Leeza Gibbons were coming up with following her lead. There used to be, like, a dozen shitty talk shows coming up with worse garbage than the day before, all chasing her amazing ratings.

    And then she got into gratitude journals, and became a guru.

  • Erp

    I doubt Shakespeare was a church rector since a rector is a priest. He would have been buried there because he was a prominent parishioner who could afford it. As a prominent parishioner he might have been a church warden though I suspect there would be records of that.

  • WillBell

    I wonder how Oprah would have reacted if Nyad had made reference to The Magic of Reality by Richard Dawkins (which sort of goes along with her point), would that make Richard Dawkins not an atheist since he clearly believes there is wonder to be found in the world?

  • UWIR

    And Rich Wilson didn’t even use the word “emotional”. What, DesertSun is allowed to read between the lines in people’s post, but people aren’t allowed to read between the lines of DesertSun’s posts?

  • Kodie

    I put her in a different category, she’s a talk show host (or was) and she’s allowed to be silly. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t have more power to influence than she should. But there are other shows with apparently actual doctors in them, namely, Dr. Oz and The Doctors, where one would hope to get actual medical advice from professional people – the kind you’re taught to take more seriously. I like to think most people could watch a show like Oprah’s and realize she’s not really an authority on anything, while a doctor gives a stamp of approval on pseudoscience, you’d believe there might be something to it.

    I don’t watch either of these shows regularly, but I know I saw some BS on Dr. Oz with centering chakras, and I saw a psychic cold-reading audience members on The Doctors. I am not as disappointed if I see these things on a show like Oprah’s than I am to see real doctors peddling this shit. Oprah’s gullible, her audience is gullible, but people really listen to doctors. People are gullible, so that is plain irresponsible and pandering to ratings above accurate information.

    I also… somewhat suffer from a very close relative who believes what the tv says. Too much. I could say something but it’s not true until it’s on tv, and then they are telling me like I don’t know. I could possibly win a debate against Oprah, but not against a doctor, since what do I know, I’m not a doctor.

  • Elddim Eman

    I’m with you. What else is spirituality than music, art, literature, invention, inquiry, creativity? I’m more and more convinced of this. Spirit, meaning literally “breath” and connoting the “breath of life,” is in living and experiencing the world. Spirituality cannot be found in some articles of faith about an incorporeal being who can tinker with physics based on a whim. What’s inspiring about THAT?

  • rg57

    Listening to that discussion, not just the parts you typed, I don’t buy that Nyad is an atheist either. Who (honestly) could blame Oprah for coming to that conclusion? She came to it perhaps a bit early, but she was correct after all.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    Hey, keep me out of it! I didn’t use any words, I just quoted Krauss :-)

  • QuestioningKat

    Interesting, I went to Westminster Abbey and was astounded by the beauty built off politics and political connections as a way to show off wealth and influence. No God there, but clearly lots of power and lots of $$$.

  • QuestioningKat

    People are conflating our emotional, aesthetic response with the process in which something came about physically. I was asked if I could see “God in the creation” of a mountain. Believers cannot see the physical separate from their concept of God. To them everything is “of God.”

  • domj

    Wow, the author of this piece is awfully defensive! I come from a family of neopagans and atheists and you know, we have conversations like this and no one feels disrespected or defensive. Hemant Mehta, it looks to me like you bring to it your own shadow projections. Why the hangups about what is atheist vs. agnostic vs. animist vs. “vaguely spiritual”? If you’re an atheist but believe the soul lives on, well, let’s argue about whether you’re entitled to call yourself an atheist until everyone’s miserable and mad at each other, lol. Seriously, let’s just share the conversation without getting all uptight. “How horrible that Oprah asked questions, and expressed her own opinion about the definition of a word! What a terrible thing!” Just because a woman is trying to find common ground doesn’t mean she is ATTACKING. That’s a patriarchal projection that holds us all back.

  • domj

    I suspect she didn’t mean you to feel judged, but she wanted you to experience what she has experienced because she loves you and wants that for you. If you haven’t had an experience of unity consciousness, you can only know about it second hand. There’s nothing WRONG with that–it doesn’t make you inferior. It just means you haven’t had the experience, and thus you don’t perceive the way she does. Because her experience of unity consciousness has great value to her, she wishes that you, as your sister, could have it, too. If I’m eating a great meal, I want my husband to try a bite. What people who have experienced unity consciousness know in their bones helps them to stay grounded in times of trauma–to know that you’re part of creation and don’t have to fear the annihilation of your ego and memories. Some atheists achieve that. No biggie.

  • domj

    Have you ever met a New Ager who believes “God is love” who doesn’t believe you’re a good person simply because you’re an atheist? I know hundreds of New Agers. Can’t think of one who would think that way…not one.

  • domj

    When you feel you’re being stared at, do you turn around and see someone looking at you? Why did you have faith that you were being stared at? We have no evidence to support the body’s ability to perceive being stared at–so therefore, you’re giving in to pure faith. But then…you’re right. Could it be that we don’t have the ability to measure and observe absolutely every phenomena? Doctors use to scoff at the notion of germs, which couldn’t be seen. And the effect of germs was surely due to something else, not invisible bugs or some such. Faith is a knowing that can’t be validated by another person…but intuition can be incredibly helpful for navigating life. Patriarchy will always shame women who rely on intuition and not science and the hierarchical order of knowledge.

  • domj

    Real as compared to what? Define reality.

  • domj

    Spiritual is the sense of awe combined with the sense of unity and timelessness. The “self” is not separate, and eternal–even if one’s memory and ego may not be. Those who have experienced unity consciousness disagree on whether one’s memories live on in the collective unconsciousness or become erased upon death.

  • domj

    Woomeisters. Wooo wooo. Not very respectful, but hey, I’ll own it.

  • domj

    No judgment there. :)

  • domj

    Gratitude journals: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/22/science/a-serving-of-gratitude-brings-healthy-dividends.html?_r=0
    Sneer at them if you like. Dismiss the evidence of their value in people’s lives if you like. But please, don’t show up at one of my parties, Debbie Downer!

  • gtrgrl96

    “…life, the universe, and everything…” – nice reference! :)
    there was an episode of “oprah” where she went to europe, and i think maybe it was holland where she met with a group of ladies to discuss life there. you should have seen her face when they told her most of them were atheist – visible discomfort…

  • BoGardiner

    “”How horrible that Oprah asked questions, and expressed her own opinion
    about the definition of a word! What a terrible thing!” Just because a
    woman is trying to find common ground doesn’t mean she is ATTACKING.”

    Could you have disingenuously twisted his post beyond recognition any further? I think not.

  • Tainda

    I don’t know and it gives me the sads :(

  • CL

    Oprah makes me gag. That said, I don’t think it’s fair to say that Nyad wasn’t being honest (to herself or Oprah or the rest of us) when she said “I do [consider myself spiritual]. I don’t see any contradiction in those terms [spiritual and atheistic].” Just because you don’t see yourself as spiritual, that doesn’t mean that she doesn’t. You say the breathtaking awe is not spiritual; just because it isn’t for you doesn’t mean the same is true for others. You are acting the same as Oprah here – trying to make Nyad fit into your version of atheism – and it’s not working.

  • cyb pauli

    “We have no evidence to support the body’s ability to perceive being stared at–”

    Is this a joke? The feeling of being watched is critical to many species. It’s one of our (homo sapiens) core instincts.


  • cyb pauli

    Please dont invoke the patriarchy when it’s entirely unwarranted… please. *facepalm*

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    Reality is that which we can agree on via evidence, given a few assumptions such as that we are not a brain-in-a-jar.

    Various people who understand and regard the same evidence can explain (given time and background of the listener) how we know that the galaxies we’re looking at are nine billion years old. It’s agreed upon, not because everyone likes the answer, but because it’s what’s verifiably true, within a margin of error.

    The same cannot be said about “God is love” or “we all share one spirit” or “What trees are saying”. If you let ten psychics interview a tree, they will get ten different answers from the tree. Well, maybe fewer because there is a cultural background to the kinds of things people say. One answer gets more popular, and others tend to gravitate towards that answer. Bloodstone doesn’t attract wealth, it’s just that that was the first thing somebody made up, so others ‘agree’, not because there’s any evidence for it, but because they don’t want to admit that the first guy is not actually wearing any clothes.

  • Clos

    she defined herself as a non-believer when she defined away “God” as
    internal “feelings of awe” rather than a separate entity that exists. So
    if “God” is a subjective feeling rather than an objective reality, then
    I will disagree with her and
    randomly choose an inner feeling and define “God” as that unpleasant
    feeling of “frustration” like when you can’t find a puzzle piece for
    this spot over here, damnit!. And at that instant we are at a
    stalemate-there is no argument that will prove or disprove either of our
    opinions. To be clear, I am not making fun of belief in God, I’m just
    saying that she *defines* the divine in a way that is ultimately a
    matter of subjective opinion.

  • Edward Bass

    Ugh….reminds me of the few times someone has asked me “how can you not believe in God????” When I feel like a jerk, I ask back “I just do. Why do you believe in a god?”

  • RuBall

    I’ve watched Oprah’s show for many years when it was on daily syndication and I always got the impression that Oprah is trying to understand where you’re coming from. Clearly she doesn’t understand Atheism but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t want to be set straight. and this interview wasn’t very good because Diana was a bit wishy-washy with all that soul business toward the end of the clip. Not all atheists believe in souls. I think if anything, this should be an opportunity to reach out to Oprah for her to understand and share with her audience who atheists are since the average person doesn’t really understand atheism either. I hope Oprah takes this a step further and does a show on it. She’s not as closeminded as people think; I give her credit for trying to understand. It just didn’t happen in this clip.

  • http://ceceliawebber.com/ Jared Scheib

    Nyad herself says that her perspective is that she would consider herself spiritual, affirmative in response to Oprah’s assertion of that label, which is not the same as “it’s not spiritual,” Hemant. The issue from my perspective here seems to be that everyone wants to claim definitions of words/ideas for themselves (such as god, soul, spiritual), not understanding that others define things differently and neither is more accurate than the other since it’s just people representing their perspectives in words. Oprah seems to come off a slightly smug to my eyes, maybe expecting to ‘prove an atheist wrong’ (total conjecture), but either way I didn’t find this interview to be so problematic – they just seem to have different perspectives and define their terms differently. As Nyad says, “we can never know.”

  • One Love

    When someone tells me she’s an atheist, my immediate reaction is, “What God don’t you believe in?” There is NO one definition of God. For some people God is nature, or the Universe, or the Higgs Boson, or Goodness, or Love, or Brother/sisterhood, or any combination of these and other things, ad infinitum. I’m sure there are some true atheists in the world, people who believe in no form of God. I’ve yet to meet one, and it’s quite clear from her responses that Nyad isn’t one.

  • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

    Actually, the definition of a god/deity is pretty set. It’s a superpowerful, nonhuman entity that exists in special places or dimensions. It usually meddles with humanity and demands worship, but not always. It often demands some sort of sacrifice or tribute, but not always. Oh, and this entity always has absolutely no evidence whatsoever of its existence other than the claims of those who believe in it. God is always a purely faith-based idea.

    God is never defined as nature, the Universe, the Higgs boson, or an emotion or abstract concept. An anthropomorphic version of those, yes, but not those things. Those are themselves, which means they cannot by definition be deities. They also have evidence for their existence, yet another disqualifying aspect. So if you asked me which God I didn’t believe in, I’d say “all of them”. I don’t believe in anything supernatural.

  • Anna

    What Feminerd said. I don’t believe in anything supernatural. No gods, no souls, no spirits, no afterlives.

  • baal

    I’ll believe in any god that someone provides sufficient evidence for. Until then, I’m with Anna and Feminerd.

  • kylegyan

    She is a member of the Transcendental Meditation cult founded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and she believes in all sorts of nonsense. Yogic flying, world peace through self deception, yagyas to create anything in life, that TM is a panacea cure all, etc. etc. etc. etc. Oprah has fallen down the rabbit hole and doesn’t know her elbow from her —hole!!!

  • One Love

    Interesting. Not sure where you got your definition, Feminerd, but I don’t think I personally know anyone who believes in God by that definition, and I know a lot of religious and/or spiritual people. Christian Science (which I am not affiliated with, just using it as an example) defines God as, “Life, Truth, Love, Mind, Soul, Spirit, Principle.” I have also seen the Higgs Boson referred to very seriously, non-ironically, as the God Particle. I have heard God defined as First Cause, and that which motivates us to do good. There are as many definitions for God as there are people (try looking up pantheism), and you are as entitled to your definition as anyone. What I find unreasonable (what bothered me about this article too), however, is for you to set up your definition as a straw man, that you can then easily knock down, while pretending it’s the same as everyone else’s definition.

  • The Other Weirdo

    Unless somebody is honestly prepared to posit Gaia from Foundation, I would say let them argue all they want and let the rest of us get on with what’s important in life.

  • One Love

    100% spot on, Jared.

  • The Other Weirdo

    It gives you the ability to say, “I’m spiritual, not religious.” This is carte blanche to believe any old(or new, your choice) crap you want without having anybody question you or even go to church on Sundays.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    “I have also seen the Higgs Boson referred to very seriously, non-ironically, as the God Particle.”

    Only by people who don’t know what Higgs Boson is.

    If you want to spread your definition of God to encompass pretty much anything then my cat believes in wheat grass and sleeping on my lap. I guess my lap is ‘God’.

  • The Other Weirdo

    Why is that being a jerk?

  • http://ceceliawebber.com/ Jared Scheib

    Thanks, One Love. Though to be sure I’m writing only out of frustration with all of the “I’m right!” and dismissiveness going on. I should have said actually that Hemant is not wrong in saying “it’s not spiritual”, but rather that that’s his perspective, and they both seem valid to me. If that’s how he sees it, despite Nyad’s very words to the contrary, then that’s totally cool from my perspective except insofar as it seems to dismiss what she said is her perspective. I myself used to claim that others’ “spiritual” accounts were merely “emotional experiences that they didn’t understand.” Now, I just see both perspectives as valid. The problem seems to lie in people believing that they know what is right/true, denying others’ perspectives as valid. It seems to me like so many people, Oprah and Nyad and Hemant (at least in connection with the “it’s not spiritual” comment) etc., isn’t taking everyone else’s perspective into account, which I’m identifying myself as having done in my initial response as well! It seems very difficult for many, myself included, to do :)

  • One Love

    To your cat, I wouldn’t be at all surprised.

  • DFS1906

    Oprah talks out of multiple sides of her mouth. Because she also still claims to be a Christian


  • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

    The only people who unironically call the Higgs boson the God particle are, um, uneducated. It was supposed to be called the Goddamn particle because it was so very hard to find, but the publisher wouldn’t allow cursing, so it got shortened to the God particle.

    Every single definition of God requires the belief in supernatural things that have no evidence. I don’t believe in things without evidence. Soul and Spirit- no evidence. First Cause- no evidence. That Which Motivates Us To Do Good- evolved empathy, no need for any sort of supernatural explanation, and no evidence. What is incorrect about my definition of a god? What specific part of that definition pisses you off? What is unreasonable about requiring some sort of evidence for one’s claims?

    You will also note that I gave the definition for a deity/god. I never said anyone had to think there was only one deity/god, nor did I forget to include anthropomorphic versions of things that do exist. Next time, read what I wrote instead of what you want to see, mmkay?

  • One Love

    Still agreeing with you. :^)

  • jesus_v_gojira


  • The Other Weirdo

    Because the most uncomfort-inducing people in the world are atheists. Oprah for the win!

  • Bob Roberts

    “What God don’t you believe in?”

    All of them. I don’t believe in all of them.

    The Higgs Boson is an elementary particle, not a deity. Goodness is the reification of a moral virtue, not a deity. Nature is all that is the case, to paraphrase.

  • One Love

    I did read what you wrote, both the first time and this time. And what I see is “THE definition for a deity/god” [caps for emphasis mine]. That is simply not legitimate. If you had written, “My definition. . . .” I would have no problem with it, except from the perspective that you assume it is everyone else’s definition as well. I gather you still haven’t looked up the concept of pantheism, if you are still saying that every definition of God requires a belief in things that have no evidence.

    As to your assertion that only the uneducated refer to the Higgs boson as the God particle unironically, allow me to educate you. Higgs boson particles are what allow mass to exist–everything from your toenails to the planet saturn, and the Higgs field, made up of countless bosons is what maintains the universe, allowing it to exist. Religious Jews say a prayer every day to God “who maintains the universe.” So, I really don’t see how you can say that calling it the God particle is so farfetched.

    Personally, I believe the only people who speak the absolute truth on the subject of God are agnostics. To say, “I don’t know if there is a deity,” is a purely honest statement. Most religious beliefs do require a faith in something that can’t be proven, as you keep pointing out. But true atheism requires an arrogance to say, if I can’t prove it with empirical evidence, it doesn’t exist. Both religious people and atheists are ultimately making a statement of belief, not of fact.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    The vast majority (if not all) atheists are ‘agnostic atheists’. We don’t believe any gods exist, but we know it’s not something that can be proven.

    Saying “if I can’t prove it with empirical evidence, it doesn’t exist” isn’t arrogant, it’s dumb.

  • Sean Meaney

    At superposition all life is the same life so String Theory invalidates Religion and Evolution because One Organism does not evolve into an alternate version of itself – it is separated into parts by change in possibility. It also means Life created the universe from Superposition.

  • One Love

    I agree, but I’ve heard far to many people say that. The term ‘agnostic atheist’ is a little disingenuous, don’t you think? Not completely, but a little bit. Are you equally comfortable with the term, ‘agnostic religious person’? Because I’ve known a few. Saying “I don’t know whether or not there is a deity, so I choose to believe there isn’t,” really isn’t that much different than saying, “I don’t know whether or not there is a deity, so I choose to follow this religion” because it gives me comfort/makes my parents happy, etc.


    I’ll have what he’s having.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    The term ‘agnostic atheist’ is a little disingenuous, don’t you think?

    Not in the slightest. I only bring it up when people start telling me that if I’m an atheist, that I think “But true atheism requires an arrogance to say, if I can’t prove it with empirical evidence, it doesn’t exist.”

    ‘Atheist’ is just an easier label, but it doesn’t mean I think gods are 100% impossible. None of us do.

    Are you equally comfortable with the term, ‘agnostic religious person’?

    Of course. Many are. The ones who scare me tend to be gnostic theists.

    “I don’t know whether or not there is a deity, so I choose to follow this religion” because it gives me comfort/makes my parents happy, etc.

    I think in general you’re using ‘agnostic’ as “I don’t know”, and maybe that’s correct for “agnostic” alone. But when it’s in front of atheist/theist, I think it’s practically “I can’t know”. The confirmed agnostic theists I know don’t choose a religion just because it gives them comfort. They really think they’ve got the right religion. They just understand (as do atheists) that they really can’t know 100% unless/until a god reveals itself in an unambiguous way- so much so that it would convince all people of all religions.


    I think what Oprah really believes is a mixture of new age monist pantheism. If you follow of quick montage of Oprah Winfrey‘s “Super Soul Sunday” with guests like Julia Roberts, Marianne Williamson and of course Deepak Chopra that should be very clear since they all believe this and that all religions are equally beneficial in true spiritual value.

  • Kodie

    As to your assertion that only the uneducated refer to the Higgs boson
    as the God particle unironically, allow me to educate you. Higgs boson
    particles are what allow mass to exist–everything from your toenails to
    the planet saturn, and the Higgs field, made up of countless bosons is
    what maintains the universe, allowing it to exist. Religious Jews say a
    prayer every day to God “who maintains the universe.” So, I really don’t
    see how you can say that calling it the God particle is so farfetched.

    You are attributing anthropomorphic qualities to it – that is what is far-fetched about your assertion. How does praying to that which maintains the universe supposed to do any good? Do you think the Higgs boson cares about what you want? Do you think it exists on purpose?

  • Kodie

    The generally understood definition of a god is one with consciousness. Either way, it’s made up. If you want to call something god because it feels that way to you, you’re still making it up as you prefer. There is no god that isn’t a personal perception or reading of what’s going on and making up why. “For some people, it’s…” just stop right there. If there is a god or not, it’s a definite thing. It’s not whatever you want it to be. Whatever you think is god, you have to demonstrate how well it aligns with the generally understood definition of a god, and we can agree to call it god. “Ad infinitum”? By your list, money definitely qualifies as a candidate.

    People seem to need goals and some sense of structure to make sense and order out of the world for themselves. There is no need to go about putting titles like “god” on this shit. I believe in all that shit. I believe in the power of money, the power of love, the power of nature, that doesn’t mean a whole lot to me if you want to say I’m an atheist because some flakey people want to worship something just because it’s their favorite thing.

  • Kodie

    Did I dismiss their value in some people’s lives in my post? I just said Oprah used to be a peddler of trash, generated an audience for trash, encouraged a lot of imitators who are in business to this day, and then she got mystical and shit. I personally think she woke up and followed the dollars. A lot of people feel empty and she gave them things. Her favorite things.

  • Kodie

    Religious people generally seem gnostic to me. They are agnostic of course. They don’t know if there is a god or not. Maybe you’ve heard the argument using Pascal’s Wager in which a theist chooses to believe in god – not just an indefinable spiritual idea of a god, but usually a specific sect of Christianity they prefer – just in case. What they usually didn’t think of is they can still choose the wrong one. If you have a lot of choices and only one may be right, how does choosing one of them solve the problem of afterlife insurance? And would any god prefer that to be your rationale for belief? What kind of fool do you take god for, if that is your reason?

    Anyway, yes there are agnostic theists. But I don’t know if your reading of an agnostic atheist is accurate. You say, “I don’t know whether there is a deity, so I choose to believe there isn’t” is generally inaccurate. I find no credible evidence for a deity, so there is no reason to act like there is one is more to the point. You don’t know what he wants. It is all superstition, and it is all told in stories passed down for ages. How can anyone act like there is a god unless they believe they have to do their little ritual to get the bonus? There is evidence that if you put in a day’s work, you get a day’s pay. There is no evidence that when you die, you go somewhere awesome.

    There are some things we do with natural consequences, and there is coincidence and statistics, and yet a long list of harmless things that religious people superstitiously avoid and warn against doing because someone invisible will punish you, or there is some magical cause and effect between unrelated events, like karma to watch out for. It’s not that we’re choosing to believe there is no god because we have to choose one way or another. It just doesn’t make reasonable sense, when you give it thought, to believe in a god who is not so far evident, and is only spread via rumor.

    How do you choose what to believe and what not to believe? How do you consider the information you receive, and whether it has truth value or stinks of implausibility?

  • Kodie

    I said ‘maybe’.

  • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

    Uh, yeah, I know what the Higgs boson is. It’s an excitation in the Higgs field that allows other particles to have mass, actually. The Higgs field doesn’t really affect anything bigger than a quark/gluon. And that is a huge stretch, to argue that religious Jews are really praying to the Higgs field instead of an invisible sky wizard. I grew up Jewish; they really aren’t praying to excitations in an energy field. I promise. Again, you are also ignoring the etymology of the term “God particle”, which is that it was supposed to be called the Goddamn particle because it was so elusive.

    And yes, pantheism is also a belief which has no evidence. It believes there is a divine in everything, or that everything is part of the divine. You will note a key word in that sentence- believe. There is no evidence for any sort of divine anything whatsoever, so yes, pantheism is yet another branch of superstitious nonsense for which there is no evidence.

    And I am not saying that gods most definitely do not exist. I can’t say that with any absolute certainty, because proving a negative is logically impossible. Certain deities I can point out as definitely not existing (the Abrahamic deity/deities among them) because of logical impossibilities in the way they are constructed, but there is no way to definitely disprove the existence of all possible deities. On the other hand, there’s about as much evidence for a deity as there is for faeries, ghosts, unicorns, leprechauns, tanukis, dragons, flying spaghetti monsters, invisible pink unicorns, and a teapot floating in space, and I don’t think any of them exist either. It isn’t arrogant to say that without evidence of existence, the only rational conclusion is to say it probably (>99.99999% certainty) doesn’t exist. How dare you call my atheism (disbelief in any gods combined with the acknowledgment that deities are theoretically possible) not true atheism? I am an agnostic atheist, as is every atheist I have ever met.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    “Joseph O Polanco has no clue what evolution is.”

    – Rich Wilson

  • http://springygoddess.blogspot.com/ Astreja

    Because “true spiritual value” is subjective and therefore not measurable, and cannot be assigned an external value with any degree of accuracy. The value (or lack thereof) occurs first in the mind of the believer and may or may not translate into actions observable by others.

  • islandbrewer

    Gosh, I don’t know how to assess if they’re all “equally beneficial in … spiritual value,” but none of them are any more batshit insane than Jehovah’s Witnesses.

  • islandbrewer

    “The teachings and beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses are completely incompatible with a functioning modern society. They are, thankfully, a small minority. Their willful ignorance results in their having no influence over government or science policy.”

    - Me

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    Read carefully. Then ask the correct person (Oprah).

  • Mankoi

    I’d still say the interview is pretty problematic. I agree with you that if Nyad identifies herself as spiritual because of her stated beliefs, then no argument from me. I wouldn’t call it spiritual, but she does, that’s fine.

    Oprah’s statement is still very problematic though because it shows her belief in atheists as all being cold, unfeeling robots. She’s in the wrong for the same reason there’s an issue with claiming Nyad’s beliefs don’t make her spiritual. You can’t have someone who isn’t part of the group trying to define the group. I don’t call myself a spiritual person, so I can’t tell spiritual people what it is or isn’t. That’s setting up a strawman. Oprah isn’t an atheist, so she has no standing to say what an atheist is or isn’t. She’s saying Nyad doesn’t belong in that group because she doesn’t match Orpah’s strawman. Really, even people in the in-group don’t get to make the definitions. For example, Christians often point to the fundamentalists and say they aren’t “real” Christians.

    Basically, Oprah’s comment is dismissive and stereotyping, and extremely problematic as a result. It’s not actually very far removed from if she’d said “You can’t be an atheist, you’re so nice!”

    Oprah can define her terms differently all she likes, but the way she defines it stereotypes the people who actually call themselves atheists unfairly, and her definition is completely irrelevant in the face of an actual atheists definition. On top of the stereotyping, it’s insanely disrespectful to expect someone else to confirm to your definition of what they are. Which is kind of what happened with the comment that Nyad wasn’t spiritual. So, while I agree with you on the issue there, the interview is still very problematic.

  • islandbrewer

    You’re just kind of posting random links, now. You should take a break from the internet. Maybe just spend an evening in, quiet, on the couch, with a new book.

    Hey, here’s one:


    Would you read it, or would you avoid it because it challenges your worldview?

  • islandbrewer

    Why do you think posting replies on public forae are some sort of private conversation from which you can dismiss people? You are the most rude and disrespectful person ever to invade this blog, including Emmet, Vincent Findley, hell – you’re rivaling Dennis Markuze, now. None of our profanity comes close to the horrid comments you make.

  • islandbrewer

    “Encountering the contrary views of a Judas” is far from actually reading and understanding an entire book.

    Hey, and you also failed to answer the question! Nice to see you still can’t actually engage.

  • Kodie

    Right, because you knock on doors to bother people. Of course you have experience with rejection.

  • C.L. Honeycutt

    Could you say that without the gender attack?


    I think everyone has a pretty good idea of what the core tenets of Oprah’s new age spirituality PC values above all are. How about Martha Stewart??? I think she shows a strong tendency of reversion to harsh puritanical Protestant values. She hates idleness, nothing is CLEAN, the table needs to be perfect and represents your soul and so forth. So I find her much more intersting and complicated than Oprah especially with her doing hard time prison redemption for sin.

  • ahermit

    Ms Winfrey should read Andre Comte-Sponville’s “Little Book of Atheist Spirituality”

    I know a lot of atheists hate that word, but Sponville makes a good case for it being that sense of awe and wonder we all know.

  • novabeatnik

    Really disrespectful. imagine an atheist saying in reference to religious faith. “but you don’t Really believe that “

  • Jamie Novick Fox

    Hi trees!

  • http://ceceliawebber.com/ Jared Scheib

    I hear everything you’re saying and appreciate the thoughtful response, but note that I said “from my perspective this isn’t problematic” :) I agree with everything you’re saying in the sense that Oprah seems to be stereotyping and attempting to assign her definitions onto Nyad, which I suppose is the same thing happening now here with the definition of “problematic” between you and me :) Regardless of the words, I suppose I felt that it wasn’t very problematic to me because to me Oprah’s misunderstanding with Nyad seems kind of petty, and Nyad defends herself with confidence. Ultimately, Oprah comes off as arrogant, and that’s to her detriment. It’s hard to imagine many people coming away from this interview feeling that Oprah wasn’t “in the wrong” considering how Nyad spoke about her own views. Will anyone think less of atheists now because of this interview? I doubt it because I think she presented a very reasonable position and explicitly said multiple times that she has her own views and doesn’t judge anyone else’s, so the only person judging is Oprah. Do you feel that people will learn to discriminate against or judge atheists as a result of this interview?

  • Marcos

    the look on oprah’s face, that smug sort of condecending look. it goes to show you that no matter how many millions a person has and how many charities they head… if the burden of religion burns deep inside them they become pompous blowhards out of reflex….

  • Mankoi

    Well, yeah, actually. It’s Oprah. It doesn’t really matter as much what Nyad said. I’m glad she was able to defend herself, but a massive amount of people look up to and respect Oprah. There’s a reason people joke about her being a religion all to herself. Just by being Oprah, she has a lot more sway than Nyad does over her viewers. I don’t think she’s going to make anyone think negatively of atheists, but she validates the stereotypes people already hold. And to many people, she’s a person of authority. She’s not a crackpot, or a creationist. I think for a lot of people, what they’re going to remember is “You’re not really an atheist” and not the response. Not to mention the people who think that atheists really do believe in god deep down, who will dismiss Nyad’s comments as her just not understanding that she really does believe in god.

    Loathe as I am to link to Psychology Today, this article actually sums it up fairly well. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/our-humanity-naturally/201310/why-oprahs-anti-atheist-bias-hurts-so-much

  • Honza Stehlík

    Hello trees!

  • Marf

    Oprah herself is defining God in such a watered down way that it is nothing like the dogmatic, traditional monotheism we see involving itself in politics in the worst way. Yeah, Oprah’s wishy-washy sort of theism isn’t identical to Nyad’s atheism, and so Oprah questions and challenges her. That her right as an interviewer. Of course she’s still presenting Nyad as a hero, and the whole conversation is friendly and respectful. The difference in opinion is over semantics. Nyad makes her lack of belief in a personal god crystal clear. She makes her lack of belief in a divine presence abundantly clear. She also makes it clear that those are why she labels herself an atheist. Oprah takes no issue with Nyad’s lack of belief. Oprah’s issue is with the word “atheist”. Well guess what? Tons of atheists for quite a long time have had a problem with that word too! Tons of atheists have redefined “God” to mean something that is essentially not-God. Google Einstein and the god of Spinoza! Go check out the “skeptic” wing of the freethought movement and you’ll find lots and lots of people who lack belief in a personal god but who refuse to call themselves “atheists”. It certainly doesn’t help that we now have a bunch of people capitalizing the term “Atheist” and associating it not only with lack of personal belief, but with a particular critical and outspoken attitude toward religion. Given the “New Atheist” movement, how many people who don’t share that attitude want to accidentally be associated with capital A “Atheistm”? Look, I’m all about the mission to make “atheist” (LOWERCASE – capitalizing it is STUPID.) a descriptive term with a neutral connotation that merely means “someone lacking belief in gods.” That’s a fight I take on and I proudly call myself an *atheist*. But I’m not going to accuse every person who understand “atheist” to mean something more cynical or arrogant or materialistic of being discriminatory against nonbelievers.

  • graceie

    Oh boy, I have many relatives who believe Oprah and various doctors who peddle quack treatments on tv, including Dr. Oz. I understand your point about doctors being more responsible for spreading misinformation than someone with no expertise in medicine. I suppose there’s also a distinction that could be made between doctors who truly believe the pseudoscience they promote, and those who know it is false but will lie about it to make a profit.

  • Mercedes Marton

    I do not like Oprah for one big reason. She is super Narcissistic.

  • Mercedes Marton

    Once I walked by one of these Wally Worship moments in the store (when I still poked my head in once in a while) And I was like….”shit…. Is this real? Do they make the worker do this pledge and stuff?” It reminded me of the OLD communist era where you had to pledge your undying love for the communist party every day or else….

  • Mercedes Marton

    It’s called Christianity Lite. Same taste 0 calories.

  • Mercedes Marton

    Any time they say “God” I substitute it with “Aliens” in my head. Immediately the whole thing start to make sense

  • Mercedes Marton

    they hate her only because she is a philanthropist. I dislike her for different reasons

  • Mercedes Marton

    You are right. My son who is 3 is in constant awe from things that he experiences first time. That does not mean believes in God. (And I hope he will not) He believes in Curious George, Elmo and Pocoyo

  • Mercedes Marton

    Personally, I think it was because her faith is flaky.

  • teasaidh

    Dear Leader….

  • teasaidh

    lol. Yep, christianity-lite. All the religion – half the crazy. :D

  • http://ceceliawebber.com/ Jared Scheib

    I see. Yeah, I don’t know. Personally I’m glad that it happened because the strong defense by Nyad (regardless of her views) and apparent discrepancy between their perspectives may cause many people to think more critically. If someone would take Oprah’s words/thoughts for themselves, regardless of what her opinion is, I wouldn’t care to have them believe it because it’s dogmatic. So from my perspective, this provided a fine opportunity for viewers to possibly peek behind the curtain a bit. It seems that it could go both ways, and I think your perspective is equally valid.

  • Zachary_Bos

    Did you see that your post is quoted in the magenta-colored image?