Oprah’s recent screw-up about atheism.

I was going to start this blog with a link to a video of Oprah Winfrey’s recent interview with swimmer Diana Nyad which caused a stir amongst the atheist community. The only footage I could find online was on a site that I don’t want to link to anymore, so I’ll let you find it for yourself. If you can’t bear to watch her I’ll summarize the relevant material to today’s post. She interviewed Nyad who described herself as an atheist and is still in awe of the universe. As she described how she was awe-struck about everything about nature that filled her with wonder, Winfrey cut in and said then Nyad wasn’t really an atheist. She said that the things that Nyad described was God, and whether she called it that or not, then she was in awe at God.

How ignorant can one person be? The sad truth is that Winfrey isn’t totally unintelligent. To build a business empire the size that she has does require some intelligence and skill, and even to host the talk shows she has in the past requires some basic knowledge of what she’s talking about. As we see time and again even intelligent people succumb to the fallacies of religion. But hey, I’m not even going to spout off this time about what her religion is. I don’t care. Still, she shouldn’t be so insensitive to other people’s beliefs or lack thereof. We can all be amazed by the cosmological accidents we call the universe and life. Having that sense of awe doesn’t automatically make it God.

How is she to say who is an atheist or not, anyway? Many arguments that religious people offer when they try to apply logic to religion can be turned against them. This one is no different. I could easily point out to her that she isn’t a Christian because she doesn’t follow this scripture or that edition of the Bible. When it comes down to the matter of changing the definition of something, then we can all play that game. Just because you can’t wrap your head around the fact that what somebody is describing something other than God doesn’t mean you can just apply the term to what they’re describing.

I don’t agree with capitalism but I recognize that we’re in a capitalist society so I play along in order to live. I don’t always agree with democracy but I recognize that we’re in something resembling one. Like these examples, I always had a bad feeling about Winfrey and the things that she does but I recognize that she’s important in the media. If I had a book to promote getting it on her book club would help. If I was an actor or professional musician I would want to get on one of her shows in order to plug my work. I get it. But I was always trepidatious about the things that she says or promotes. I know that she isn’t always well received and I usually find myself taking sides with others that critize her.

It could be that because she’s in the public eye so much that she’s bound to say or do something that will give her detractors some ammunition. To be honest I’m sure there’s a lot of things that she’s said that I would even agree with. In this case, sadly, what she said isn’t just something to make fun of just her for but it’s also an example of a larger issue of ignorance in this world. Religionists are good at making circular arguments and rhetoric and this is yet another example of a prominent figure doing just that. I just hope that as the atheist community in the States is rapidly growing her ratings go down.


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