Earlier this week Oprah Winfrey interviewed endurance swimmer Diana Nyad, who recently completed the swim between Cuba and the US at age 64. Nyad said she is an atheist who appreciates the awe and beauty of nature. Winfrey was gobsmacked and actually said Nyad can’t be an atheist because only believers can appreciate the beauty of nature. Winfrey expressed a typical, and false theist meme about atheists.
You can check out the full interview on Oprah’s website.
Winfrey’s program is on her OWN channel and the theme is “Super Soul Sunday” which is a block of programing that is full of new age “spiritual” clap-trap that gives a platform to wackos like Deepak Chopra, Wayne Dyer, and other people who make money on the self-help chicken dinner circuit.
Her idea is that to be a full person you have to be “spiritual” but only in her own defined way. Unfortunately we atheists are all too familiar with her reaction.
Dave Niose, past President of the American Humanist Association, is familiar with it too:
Oprah, however, apparently found this description unsettling, for it seems that in her view atheists must be cold, emotionless rationalists. “Well I don’t call you an atheist then,” Oprah responded to Nyad’s disclosure. “I think if you believe in the awe and the wonder and the mystery, then that is what God is.”
What is most alarming about Oprah’s revelation is that she doesn’t even realize its invidiousness. Atheists, to her, don’t feel that deep, emotional connection to the universe. She has drawn a circle that includes people of all faiths, but excludes atheists, thereby confirming negative attitudes toward nonbelievers.
Oprah, exalted by so many but oblivious to the fact that she is dehumanizing atheists, does more to perpetuate negative attitudes toward nonbelievers than Pat Robertson or James Dobson ever could. The general public takes comments from Robertson and Dobson with a grain of salt – but Oprah, as a media tycoon and a beloved celebrity whose opinions are taken seriously by millions, has just confirmed that atheists are “the other,” outsiders who just don’t belong in the in-group.
Some people think it is just that Winfrey is not familiar with atheists, but I find it ironic that someone who promotes the idea that people should “awaken to their best selves and discover a deeper connection to the world around them” would dismiss someone who is doing exactly that without god.