Oprah’s Bias Against Atheists

-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger

oprahOn a recent show of Soul to Soul, Oprah interviewed Diana Nyad, the long distance swimmer who, at age 64, swam from Havana to Key West. During the interview Oprah mentions that Nyad told the producers that she (Nyad) is “not a God person.” Nyad responds: “I’m an atheist.” Oprah responds incredulously: “But you’re in the awe.” Oprah just can’t believe that an atheist could feel awe. While atheists often use reason to understand reality, they have the same emotions exhibited by non-atheists. Atheists just don’t feel the need to affix the “God” label to their feelings.

Nyad saw no contradiction between her atheism and her ability to experience awe, or as she calls it: “weep with the beauty of this universe and be moved by all of humanity.” Oprah was having none of this when she said “I don’t call you an atheist then. I think if you believe in the awe and the wonder and the mystery, then that is what God is.”

Nyad, maybe sensing Oprah’s uneasiness, offered a concession to the faithful by saying that her “definition of God is humanity and the love of humanity.” That an atheist would make a theist uneasy indicates the theist’s lack of confidence in their worldview. The comfort of theists is not a primary concern for those who advocate reason.

Nyad also went on to explain she’s a “spiritual” person and believes in souls that live on after death. While atheism is not a set of beliefs, it is simply not believing in any god, most atheists don’t accept the other beliefs that accompany God belief. For all the reasons that belief in God unreasonable, belief in the soul is also unreasonable. Nyad’s beliefs freely crisscross the atheist-theist divide.

Oprah’s prejudice against atheists reinforces negative stereotypes. Her viewers will see Oprah’s prejudice as a trait to be imitated and the cancer will spread. For her viewers who already hold anti-atheists biases, those biases have been validated.

Many Christians have characterized Oprah’s beliefs as a form of pantheism, where the universe, or nature, is identical with divinity. While Oprah calls herself a Christian, pantheism is generally not accepted as part of Christian theology. Oprah’s promotion of Eckhart Tolle and his books has done nothing to ingratiate her with Christians.

Overt displays of bigotry against non-believers are tolerated if not encouraged by our society. Studies show that atheists are among the least liked people. This dislike keeps many atheists in the closet. The anonymity of the internet allows atheists to come out on-line while maintaining their disguise at other times. On the internet, people can learn counter-arguments to theological claims and use their own mind to decide which is more compelling.

H/T: Dave Niose, JT Eberhard, Jerry Coyne, Mano Singham, Hemant Mehta, David Edwards.

261 thoughts on “Oprah’s Bias Against Atheists”

  1. Okay I’m done. …. I have had a computer for two years now. I am amazed at the value and access to knowledge this allows at my fingertips.
    I have found a gazillion (okay,…a whole bunch) links to Cognitive Evolution and Religion.

  2. Dredd, LOL The NSA is the New American God.

    S/HE sees you when you’re sleeping, s/he sees you when you’re awake, s/he knows when you’ve been good or bad, so be good for goodness sake.

    …… Shouters and Pouters be Afraid, BE VERY AFRAID!!!!

  3. davidbluefish 1, October 21, 2013 at 11:25 am

    … “Conscience is the inner voice that warns us somebody may be looking”…
    It is the military NSA that is looking.

    Conscience is self-censorship.

    Like Word Press on Comments, only with less paranoia.

  4. WOW !! …..Ask and Google, …. Ye shall Receive.


    I recently returned from an amazing conference on the Evolution of Conscience in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The idea that conscience might be an evolved trait was originally proposed by Darwin in The Descent of Man (1871), in which he suggested a conscience gave humans a crucial moral compass to navigate our complex social world (as in H.L. Mencken’s notion that “Conscience is the inner voice that warns us somebody may be looking”). If Darwin was right, conscience is just a product of natural selection like eyes and ears. It appears that the gathering in Santa Fe, 140 years on, was the first ever conference to focus on the origins and role of conscience in human evolution.

  5. Nal 1, October 20, 2013 at 8:06 pm

    Here’s a tossup question:

    How can a timeless spaceless god finds the time and space to impregnate an underage Palestinian virgin, so that she can give birth to himself, as an eventual human sacrifice to himself, the save us all – you guessed it – from himself?
    By creating atheists?

  6. P Smith, I’m talking MODERN world. The religion is still living back in the Middle Ages. Chrissake!! Shoot yourself in the foot and make a stupid point.

  7. DavidM,

    Let’s pick-up where we left off:

    “It is the idea that something mystical happened to place Abraham outside of the path that natural laws had placed all of humanity upon.”

    “The idea . . . Abraham . . . mystical . . . natural laws . . . all humanity . . .”

    Indeed; as you state — it is an idea.

    It can hardly be little more than an idea though; as what of the other cultures existent in the world at the time of Abraham? Why should Abraham and his relationship with his god speak for “all of humanity,” when Abraham had little knowledge of what would be the future antipodes; the future heathens — out there in the rest of the world, unknown to poor Abraham, and it would seem, his god?

    Abraham, his god, and the three monotheistic traditions spawned from this unique blend of self-serving thought seems to me the antithesis of understanding and far removed from the banner of righteousness that you so apparently claim.

  8. Blouise,

    A friend of mine once wanted to open a car wash named The Immaculate Contraption – “Cleanliness Is Next To Godliness, Wax $2 Extra”.

    He was really high at the time.

  9. Nal,

    Stop reading Luke, he’ll give you a headache.

    And then there is the Immaculate Conception … dogma gone wild.

  10. Let’s count the way non-Christians added to the education of the world

    Egyptian about 3000 BCE — the earliest base ten counting system

    Arabic (who were Muslims) numerals: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

    1. Ora lee , you do know all of our ancestry can be traced back to the middle east & Africa . We all came from these ancient peoples. In fact my Irish, Norwegian, French, Polish Parents make up my Haplogroup K1a which makes me Druze, Ashkenazi Jewish, Kurd. If you havent checked your DNA yet: 23andme.com can hook u up for $99. If your a male its a must to do both your male and female ancestors. So enjoy the ancients.

  11. “This is what is wrong with theists, they selectively glorify the authorities they agree with and pretend they are infallible and everybody else must be much stupider.”

    Well said, Tony C., but is not a malady which afflicts just the religious. Historians jump to mind. And politicians. See Elaine M.’s latest post

  12. nick spineless –

    Is your ignorance due to poor education, or did you choose to be?



    The Moors in Spain had universities and libraries a thousand years ago, at the same time christians in Europe were sleeping next to pigs in their barns.

    Until, of course, the christians came along to kill, burn and destroy anything and anyone that wasn’t christian. Most of the knowledge Europeans gained came when they started reading the muslims’ books that they didn’t burn.

  13. The best way to renounce in your own mind the God existence thing is to watch these Sunday morning preachers. Holy moly nothing but apCray in the ouyeah if you know what I mean jelly bean.

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