Why Oprah Winfrey Should Apologize to Atheists

The video below, part of The Atheist Voice series, discusses the recent controversy where Oprah Winfrey told godless marathon swimmer Diana Nyad that she wasn’t really an atheist because she was awed by the beautiful world around her:

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the project — more videos will be posted soon — and we’d also appreciate your suggestions as to which questions we ought to tackle next!

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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:

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Florida House Speaker Wants to Change the Law to Allow Football Coaches to Lead Athletes in Prayers to Jesus

This is the Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford:

He’s a Republican. Which is going to become painfully obvious after you hear what he wrote to a public school superintendent the other day:

If a football coach wants to lead a prayer with his players on the field after a game they should be able to do that. I believe that our law we passed (last) year would allow you to set guidelines for it. If not, I will work on a bill for it next year.”

Weatherford doesn’t get how the law works. Including, apparently, the law he passed last year. That legislation — the “Inspirational Message” law, which is really the “Christians are in the majority so we’re gonna pray harder than you” law — gave students the chance to deliver religious messages at public school events provided that they alone got to choose the speaker. It added that school officials — including football coaches — could not participate in or influence the decision of whether a prayer would take place or who would deliver it, a fact that Pasco County Schools Superintendent Kurt Browning reiterated to his principals last week.

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Why Are So Many High School Football Coaches Preaching to Their Athletes?

The video below, part of The Atheist Voice series, discusses how dozens of high school football coaches in the South are preaching Christianity to their athletes:

You can read more details about the story here.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the project — more videos will be posted soon — and we’d also appreciate your suggestions as to which questions we ought to tackle next! [Read more…]

Should This TV Commenter Have Been Fired For an Off-the-Air Comment About Gay Marriage?

I’d like your opinion on this:

Sports commentator Ralph Gurdy was recently fired from an NBC affiliate for saying — not on the air, but during a public function unrelated to his TV work — that gay people are born that way and that there’s nothing wrong with same-sex marriage.

That’s pretty weird and outrageous, isn’t it?

It didn’t actually happen (I made it up as a thought experiment; there is no Ralph Gurdy who’s a talking head for NBC), but this did: Sports commentator Craig James (pictured below) was fired from a regional Fox outfit because he was “not a good fit” and a “polarizing figure in the college sports community.” Fox also said that James, who had just one on-air performance before he was kicked out, had not been “properly vetted.”

So far, so uninteresting, but the problem lies in a further statement made to the Dallas Morning News by an unidentified Fox spokesperson who referred to James’s unsuccessful Senate run, during which the candidate said that being gay is a choice and that gay people will have to answer to God.

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