Atheists are up in arms and demanding an apology from Oprah Winfrey after the talk show queen’s slightly awkward exchange with record-breaking swimmer Diana Nyad.
Some activists have launched an online campaign, claiming Winfrey disparaged non-believers during the buzzworthy interview. Boston Atheists, an affiliate of American Atheists, took particular issue with the host’s claim that she doesn’t consider Nyad, a self-professed atheist, a true non-believer.
“In response to Oprah Winfrey’s biased comments against atheists in an October 2013 interview, the Boston Atheists are asking for support in asking her for an apology and some gesture of acknowledgment and affirmation toward the secular community,” reads a statement on the group’s Facebook page.
The organization suggested that Winfrey have the group’s president, Josiah D. Van Vliet, in studio for an on-camera interview to discuss the secular community.
In an effort to raise awareness, Boston Atheists has created a number of images that take aim at Winfrey’s statements on atheism. Each features quotes about atheism and an unflattering image of Oprah — and the group is hoping fans will share them.
The frustration follows the host’s discussion with Nyad, 64, who recently broke records by becoming the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without a protective cage.
When Nyad told Winfrey that she’s an atheist who finds herself “in awe,” the OWN founder and host seemed perplexed that Nyad would call herself a non-believer, while claiming she’s so overtly enamored by her surroundings. The swimmer, of course, saw no such conflict, as TheBlaze previously reported.
“I don’t understand why anybody would find a contradiction in that,” Nyad said. “I can stand at the beach’s edge with the most devout Christian, Jew … and weep at the beauty of this universe.”
Rather than embracing a theological construct that includes a “god” who oversees, directs or has an omnipresence, Nyad simply believes that “God is humanity” and the collective “love of humanity.”
“I don’t call you an atheist, then,” Winfrey responded. “I think if you believe in the awe and the wonder and the mystery that that is what God is … God is not the bearded guy in the sky.”
This exchange left former American Humanist Association President David Noise so frustrated that he joined Boston Atheists in hitting back at Winfrey’s claim. In an article for Psychology Today, Noise accused the TV host of disparaging “millions of atheists by telling her audience that, in her opinion, atheists are incapable of awe.”
Here’s just a snippet of Noise’s stance on the matter:
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.
To those among Oprah’s legion of loyal viewers who may have held anti-atheist prejudices, this now validates their bias. That’s right, those atheists just aren’t like the rest of us, they can now say, nodding their heads. While we religious people of the world are appreciating the wonder and awe of life, those atheists are just one big buzzkill!
While Nyad didn’t seem offended by Oprah’s statements, it seems many secularists were. Will the talk show queen apologize? We’ll have to wait and see.
(H/T: Friendly Atheist)