Apparently a group of atheists are upset because Oprah suggested
that people feeling awe and mystery were not, in fact, atheists.
Well Oprah's view
of religion is not exactly standard.
Religion is not "feeling spiritual"; religion is a
defined set of supernatural beliefs based on traditional and faith about the
origin of the universe and, usually, humanity's
role in the world. A traditional western view of G-d is not a prerequisite to a
religion - a faith of many gods is a religion - but a mere feeling of awe is no
more a religion that a feeling of fear or loathing or lust.
Story from Independent:
Winfrey has caused a stir among atheists by suggesting that
non-believers a cannot experience "awe" and "wonder".
In an interview with American swimmer Diana Nyad on her
show Soul to Soul,Winfrey questioned
her guest about whether she could claim she was an "atheist in awe".
Nyad: "You told our producers you're
not a God person, but you're deeply
Nyad replied: "Yeah, I'm
not a God person. I'm an
atheist", prompting Winfrey to
question: "But you're in
Nyad said: "I don't
understand why anyone would find a contradiction in that.
"I can stand at the beach's
edge with the most devout Christian, Jew, Buddhist and weep at the beauty of
this universe, and be moved by all of humanity.
"So to me, my definition of God is humanity, and is the
love of humanity."
who has spoken about her Christian faith on television before, replied by
telling Nyad that her beliefs did not fit with traditional atheism.
"Well 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. That is what God is. It's not the bearded guy in the sky," she said.
Nyad continued: "It's
not bearded, but there is an inference with God that there is a presence, that
there is either a creator or an overseer. I don't
criticise anybody because we will never know, we will never know until our last
"Just for me, I'm
an atheist who's in awe".
Continuing to press the point, Winfrey said:
"So do you consider yourself a spiritual person, even as an atheist?"
Nyad replied: "I do, I don't
think there's any contradictions 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.
spirituality because we human beings, we animals, we plants and maybe even the
ocean and the stars, we all live with something that is cherished and we feel
the treasure of it."