Oprah says God behind success of show
Oprah Winfrey, seen in this file photo, told her audience in her final show that God had led her life, even when she didn't realize it.
May 25th, 2011
07:13 PM ET

Oprah says God behind success of show

By Steve Almasy, CNN

(CNN) - Oprah Winfrey closed her sentimental final show with the words, "I won’t say goodbye, I’ll just say until we meet again."

Then, after a subtle pause, she added, "To God be the glory.”

With her work done, she walked through the audience and left the set of her talk show. During the show's 25-year run, she interviewed more than 30,000 people and won more than 40 Emmys. The credits rolled as she walked the hallways of the Harpo complex, saying goodbye to her staff.

She has been one of the most influential people in America, if not the world. Commentators looked at the power she held over her audience, and some people even likened her viewers to members of a cult.

Winfrey professed her faith and her belief in God, but over the course of the show, some observers saw her more as a spiritual person than a Christian.

In her last show, Winfrey took several minutes to speak to her belief that God - and her staff - were behind the show's success.

"People often ask me what is the secret to the success of the show," she said. "How have we lasted 25 years. I non-jokingly say, my team - and Jesus."

It was a remark that drew applause from the studio audience but also may make Christian commentators take notice.

Kathryn Lofton, who has watched more than 2,500 episodes of the show, said she had recorded the finale and would watch it later tonight. But her friends were texting her about the episode.

Lofton, a professor of U.S. religious history at Yale University and the author of "Oprah: The Gospel of an Icon," was intrigued that Winfrey had mentioned Jesus, since she had used his name sparingly on air.

"Early on (in her career) she was more comfortable in saying that but over time began to use this more universal language of 'spirit,'" said Lofton, who wrote about Oprah's final show for CNN's Belief Blog.

Lofton says Winfrey wants to be viewed as someone who "translates and understands herself as a Christian woman" but reflects a modern attitude about religion and religious institutions.

And that has angered a few folks.

In 2008, Winfrey endorsed the book "A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose," helping it sell more than 3.5 million copies after the talk-show host selected it for her book club. Winfrey and the book's author, Eckhart Tolle, took part in a webinar in which she angered some Christians by saying that Jesus didn't come to die on the cross.

"It really was about him coming to show us how to do it, how to be, to show us the Christ-consciousness that he had and that that consciousness abides with all of us," she told the audience.

One viewer even asked the question on the Oprah.com message boards: Is Oprah a Christian?

Pistis07 wrote: "I was surprised because I had always thought she was a Christian but after flicking through her website and watching clips of more shows where she seems to be promoting a type of New Age religion and books from 'New Age spiritualists,' I really doubt that she is a Christian in the way Jesus explained and most Christians understand. Or perhaps she's just confused about the nature of God."

It was an issue her critics seized on. They said she wasn't promoting the God of the Bible but instead was indoctrinating her audience into a New Age spiritualism.

Authors Josh McDowell and Dave Sterrett say as much in their book, "'O' God: A Dialogue on Truth and Oprah's Spirituality." Sterrett told Crosswalk.com in October 2009 that Winfrey "reflects the common American practice of choosing whatever beliefs seem most attractive and leaving the rest."

Her message in the final years of her show was that the truth of life was within the individual, several commentators have said.

"Christians aren't people who have gotten in touch with their inner selves, but those who actually have Christ living inside of them through the Holy Spirit," McDowell told Crosswalk.

What Winfrey tried to get across is her belief that there wasn't just one right way to be connected to God, Lofton argues.

"The only right way is the way that she herself articulates and embodies, which is multiplicity," she said. "You can be many things. There are many paths to God, she says. It's that multiplicity which very much marks contemporary religious life."

Winfrey wanted to make sure that everyone knew she wasn't being ambiguous about her faith. In her final show, she spoke of how God has always been there, a voice whispering. And that her faith, while it might seem different than the one taught in religious institutions, was at its roots the same: It all centers on one thing.

"Nothing but the hand of God has made this possible for me," she said. "For all of you who get riled up when I mention God and you want to know which God I'm talking about, I'm talking about the same one you're talking about. I'm talking about the Alpha and the Omega. The omniscient. The omnipresent. The ultimate consciousness. The source, the force, the all of everything there is. The one and only, G-O-D. That's the one I'm talkin' about."

- Producer/Writer

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • God • Jesus • TV

soundoff (675 Responses)
  1. ajasatru

    May be God helped her to build the career. However, he did not help her to have a family- it is a shame that she has no husband, no kids but a lonely life.

    May 26, 2011 at 9:02 pm |
    • Harry

      According to the Bible, not everyone is supposed to get married if a single life helps them better carry out God's purpose. Marriage simply hasn't been in God's plan until now.

      May 26, 2011 at 9:10 pm |
    • Essence Prince

      To the person who said Oprah has a lonely life. Uhmmm, not everyone wants or needs kids in their lives. Look at all the headache bad kids in the world. I am glad I don't have any bad an ungreatful kids. I wish I was just like Oprah. I have a husband, no kids and I love it!

      May 26, 2011 at 10:39 pm |
  2. Mike S.

    I am a huge fan of Oprah. She is a great human being. I hope one day, she gets her own federal holiday!!!

    May 26, 2011 at 8:40 pm |
  3. Johnny B

    I used to be a believer in God but as I have gotten older I am more of an agnostic leaning toward atheism each day. I do not criticize others in their belief in God as one has to make up their own mind. But when I tell people how I came to my present belief (or non-belief) they jump down my throat and give me the old "you'll go to hell" and "you are wrong" arguments. This is without me criticizing their choice in their own belief system. It seems that you cannot have a rational and thought provoking discussion anymore.

    May 26, 2011 at 8:11 pm |
    • Hello

      Johnny look around this comment board. Hard to have a conversation when others choose to mock, condemn, name-call, etc. It's rare to find an individual to stand in their truth without having to create a scene. .

      May 26, 2011 at 8:38 pm |
    • LinCA

      Hello said: "It's rare to find an individual to stand in their truth without having to create a scene"

      Lemme guess, your "truth" is coming from the bible, correct? And your bible is the word of your god because it says so in your bible.

      If you fail to see the fallacy of that argument then you deserve all the mocking you get. And then some.

      May 27, 2011 at 1:31 am |
  4. Chris Mankey

    the human body is too complicated to be happened by chance. starting from our brain to our toe nail. Just like I said a person needs more than faith to believe in evolution.

    Evolution by natural selection is the opposite of chance. It takes a lot of faith to maintain such a high level of ignorance.

    May 26, 2011 at 6:52 pm |
    • Sybaris

      Oh the fallacy of intelligent design. You really need to study biology. This is an old PRATT (Point Refuted a Thousand Times)

      May 26, 2011 at 7:53 pm |
    • Wayne

      `The human body is too complicated to be happened by chance.' No one knows this. This is simply what you choose to believe. Stop accusing atheists of ignorance.

      May 26, 2011 at 9:17 pm |
    • Toby

      Your inability to understand evolutionary theory (and its admitted weaknesses) is at the heart of the "intelligent design" movement. This is not a theory, it is merely an argument from a position of ignorance. Because we do not know how the first cell self-replicated does NOT mean that a god or supernatural power (much less your god-of-choice) did it all. You should spend your time on the internet educating yourself on evolutionary theory, genetics, anthropology, and philosophical arguments against your own ideas BEFORE you utter ridiculous statements. Peace.

      May 31, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
  5. Chris Mankey

    "It's funny that you say that. History proves Jesus did exist."

    There is not a single account of any of the events of the life of jesus outside the gospels.

    "Your emotions are strong towards a God that you say doesn't exist"

    Wow, you believer just can't come up with any of new cliches.

    May 26, 2011 at 6:50 pm |
    • Hello

      Ever hear of Josephus? There are others as well.

      May 26, 2011 at 8:26 pm |
  6. doctore0


    May 26, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
  7. D.A.N.

    Just ask Opera who God is and she will certainly deny that its Jesus Christ. Much the same as the Muslims, her god is entirely different then the Creator of the Universe, the Christian God.

    May 26, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
    • LinCA

      Of course. That is because your god exist entirely and only in your own mind. Your god is a figment. He/she/it doesn't exist any more than the FSM or pink unicorns.

      And, considering that there isn't a single shred of independent evidence that your Jesus existed, he too is probably made up.

      Happy trails.

      May 26, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
    • Ab

      It's funny that you say that. History proves Jesus did exist.
      Your emotions are strong towards a God that you say doesn't exist.

      May 26, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
    • LinCA

      @Ab. And this historical evidence is where? And keep in mind that we all know that is says so in the bible, but unless it is corroborated by an independent source, it's all hearsay.

      May 26, 2011 at 7:01 pm |
    • Will

      I'm curious, who is Opera?

      May 26, 2011 at 7:09 pm |
  8. rachel

    Oprah had a good show. What God had to do with it escapes me.

    May 26, 2011 at 5:38 pm |
  9. jojo

    How pathetic can Oprah get? God has NOTHING to do with the way things on earth go. Oprah is a token. She is black and female...a double whammy token to be exact. She is probably a good person. But people who give God credit for whatever success or blessing or whatever, must also give God blame for disease, painful deaths, deformed children etc etc., as this is also part of His plan. She should take note of how she uses God's name......the red states have been abusing God's word by twisting it into hatred. Perhaps God is sending a message to the red states that enough is enough, and that HE is the only true God, not all you right winged evil doers. So, Opie, God is not responsible for your success because He is a JUST God.
    All that will come to light on judgement day....and it ain't gonna be this year............

    May 26, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
    • CRAIG

      Every breath you take is a gift from God. You just don't realize it.He holds all things together. Jesus

      May 26, 2011 at 7:19 pm |
  10. Reality

    Winfrey's support for abortion negates any thought of her being assisted by some all good and gracious god. She is simply another member of the Immoral Majority, those 76+ million "mothers and fathers" of slain growing babies who put BO in the White House and will do so again in 2012 with the help of Winfrey's support and money.

    And all because 76+ million "women and men" either forgot to take their daily Pill or left their condoms in their pocket. No Respect-for-Life candidate has a chance in 2012.

    What BO can do to at least lift part of the Immoral Majority leader label?

    He says abortions should be "safe, legal and rare" but says nothing about the basic tenet of proper human conduct i.e. Thou Shalt Not Kill. And where is BO's sense of indignation that abortions are not rare and that these acts of horror demean the Golden Rule considering that he says he is a Christian. And where is his sense of indignation that women who use the Pill do not use it properly resulting in an failure rate of 8.7% as per the Guttmacher Inst-itute statistics. Using these and other Guttmacher Insti-tute data, this failure of women to use the Pill properly results in ~1,000,000 unplanned pregnancies every year. And the annual abortion rate in the USA is?? ~1,000,000 as per the CDC.

    And do males use condoms properly? No, as said failure rate for this birth "control" method is 17.4%!! Again using Guttmacher data, said failure rate results in another ~1,000,000 unplanned pregnancies every year.

    The Guttmacher Inst-itute (same reference) notes also that the perfect use of the Pill should result in a 0.3% failure rate (35,000 unplanned pregnancies) and for the male con-dom, a 2% failure rate (138,000 unplanned pregnancies).

    May 26, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
    • jojo

      You're an idiot. Bet you live in a red state where God is telling you devils, that if you don't stop abusing His word, this is what you are going to get. There is only one God, and that's not YOU. God will take care of what is Gods. You people who think you can change God's word are doing the devils work. Shut up, behave, and allow God to judge.

      May 26, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
    • rachel

      It's not okay to kill unborn babies. It's not okay to kill full grown adults. The Christians though seem to okay the full grown adults bit.

      May 26, 2011 at 5:40 pm |
    • Reality

      Please post the following on your mosque, church and synagogue doors:




      Added details upon request.

      May 26, 2011 at 11:45 pm |
  11. Colin

    The confusion (or, at times, deliberate obfuscation) with chance and evolution comes from two vital roles played by chance in evolution.

    The first is the likelihood of survival. An organism that is more suited to its environment is more likely to survive and pass on its genes. A slightly faster lion, taller giraffe or better sighted hawk is more likely than its slower, shorter or more myopic brethren to live long enough to breed and pass on its genes. No rocket science here.

    The second role chance plays is that the very characteristic possessed by the parent that gave it the edge is more likely to be inherited by the child. Once again, no surprise here. One look around you will confirm that children tend to favor their parents.

    In neither case, however, is anything certain. It is not certain that the faster lion will outbreed its less endowed siblings. It might, for example, be killed as a cub by marauding hyenas or die of disease or drought. Nor is it certain that its speed will be passed on to its offspring. Some tall parents have short children, some fast lions, slow cubs. However, the chances of an offspring inheriting the advantageous trait of its parents and passing it on to its children are slightly better than for those that do not have the advantage. A fitter, more prepared athlete is not guaranteed, but certainly more likely to win a given athletic event than his more portly compete.tors.

    So far, easy. But here is the key. The way in which any child will differ from its parents will generally be small (such as eye color, height etc.) but, given enough time and enough generations, and provided some external element is selectively favoring specific traits, the differences will add up. Over thousands of generations, so much cu.mulative change builds up that the great-great-great etc. grandson will be so different from its great-great-great etc. grandfather as to amount to a new species.

    If, for example, a dog breeder only ever allows the fastest male dogs to breed with the fastest female dogs, after many years of such selective breeding the resultant dogs will differ so much in body shape, leg length and, perhaps, lung capacity from their ancestor as to be considered a separate breed. No one set of offspring will differ greatly from its parents, but it will differ a little more from its grandparents, and even a little more from its great-grandparents etc., until we go all the way back to the original dog, which will be quite different in appearance.

    In point of fact, this has happened. The best example is Greyhounds, which differ considerably from the original Sighthounds from which they were bred. Likewise, when the trait chosen was ability to smell and track, one result, after many generations, was the Bloodhound, while selective breeding for the ability to herd sheep has resulted in the Collie and German Shepherd (note the name).

    All breeds of dog alive today descended from wolves. In fact, it is likely (but not certain) that they all descended, ultimately, from a small pack of wolves that were domesticated in either the Middle East or Manchuria some 10,000 years ago. In any event, every last one of them, from the Teacup Chihuahua in Paris Hilton’s purse to the Great Danes of European car advertisements, are the cu.mulative result of selective breeding down different paths from the original wolf.

    While there has not yet been enough time for different dog breeds to amount to separate species as opposed to breeds, that is just a matter of degree. Given enough time, and many thousands of years are generally required, the added up effects are so great that breeding and producing viable offspring with the original breed is no longer possible, and thus the new species emerges. The first signs of this can already be seen in dogs. The ability of a Chihuahua to mate with a Great Dane or Irish Wolfhound, absent artificial insemination, is probably approaching the theoretical at this point, regardless of which breed is the female.

    Evolution is, in fact, a work in process, as dog breeders all over the world, along with horse breeders, wheat farmers, rose growers and all other professions that depend on the traits of plants or animals to make their living, selectively breed for desired traits. Even the most cursory of research into any branch of horticulture or animal husbandry quickly reveals that the size, variety, health, longevity and resistance to disease of most of our domesticated plants and animals were the thing of dreams as recently as 100 years ago. Indeed, biotech companies like Monsanto would quickly fall behind the compete.tion if they did not spend millions each year on Darwinian selective breeding programs.

    May 26, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
    • rachel

      Colin, trying to reason with a christian is impossible. You, however well intended, are wasting your time. Take it from me, my family has so many of them. They don't hear us. They don't want to.

      May 26, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
    • LinCA

      Rachel. Most posters that have the capacity for reason don't expect to convince any christian. That is typically a waste of time. The real audience is the undecided; the people that are still on the fence.

      May 26, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
  12. darkstar

    Get a freaking grip! Yahweh had nothing to do with your damn show's success because GUESS WHAT??? HE IS IMAGINARY!

    Why can't human beings simply take responsibility for their own actions, whether good or bad?


    May 26, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
    • Hello

      Responsibility for your actions and what you bring to the table...ummmmmm I think that concept is written in the Bible amongst other sacred writs.

      May 26, 2011 at 8:29 pm |
  13. maggie


    the human body is too complicated to be happened by chance. starting from our brain to our toe nail. Just like I said a person needs more than faith to believe in evolution.

    May 26, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
    • Colin

      Maggie, do you accept what I said about our two closest relatives or not?

      BTW – no biologist thinks "it all happened by chance". It took 4,700,000,000 years of terrestrial and bilogical evolution.

      May 26, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
    • QS

      "a person needs more than faith to believe in evolution."

      Yeah, like intelligence, logic, rationality and reason.

      May 26, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
    • Lil Bunny

      amen sister!

      May 26, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
    • jojo

      How much acid have you taken??????

      May 26, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
  14. Martha

    I don't think God gives a damn. If he does, probably he should be paying more attention to more important problems in the world.

    May 26, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
  15. maggie


    What is wrong with the dirt. the dirt keeps us alive every day. Do you realize most of the elements in the dirt are in your body?

    May 26, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
    • Colin

      I realize that 98.4% of me is pure chimpanzee – our closest relative, and that 97% of me is all gorilla – our next closest relative.

      May 26, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
    • Nonimus

      Do you realize that the ratios of elements found in the Earth's crust bear little resemblance to ratios of elements found in the human body?

      May 26, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
  16. atypical

    "god," I would think, could care less about material success, status, wealth, noteriety, etc. . . .
    I would think, "god" would be more interested in how people treat each other, more concerned about virtues like compassion, courage, understanding, social equality.
    just saying. . . ."god" isn't looking favorably on some and not others. oprah is not any better than the ordinary person walking on the street, or begging for a dollar for a beer.

    it is the time of the Nunti Sunya–the era of transparency, equality and expansion

    May 26, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
  17. manyfaucets

    I think I am going to throw up. God? Yes, because Oprah is special and God loves her best. What a load of malarkey.

    May 26, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
  18. Colin

    I had a famous friend in Australia who rose to the top of his television career despite his sever dyslexia.

    He attributed his success to his faith in his dog.

    May 26, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
    • QS

      HA!! 🙂

      May 26, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
    • Colin

      Yeah QS – it's an oldie, but god I love that joke for some reason.....

      May 26, 2011 at 4:55 pm |
    • jojo

      Now, THAT I BELIEVE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      May 26, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
  19. jon

    Oprah is gone – let's move on!

    May 26, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
  20. mst

    Many years ago, when Oprah first came on, I was a guest on her show for a book that i wrote. I remember her coming into the green room where all her guests were sitting and ignoring each and every one of us. She only talked to some models that were appearing on the show and a representative from Tiffany's who had some expensive jewelry that the models were going to wear. I was only on the show for about five minutes and sat right next to her. Once agan she completely ignored me, but when the lights came on, she was all smiles. I know that I'm a lowly peon and all, but i thought it was very rude of her not to speak to any of the guests on the show. She didn't even say hello.

    Unfortunately, the segment I was on was pre-empted by the Iran contra hearings and the book sold so poorly that it is now out of print. When I tell people about my brush with the Mighty O, they are incredulous. Most can't believe that she was so rude and unfriendly;I thought that one woman was even going to hit me. Why would I make this up?

    I don't know about Oprah's walk with God, but she strikes me as a cold and unfriendly person who really only has time for the rich and famous.

    May 26, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
    • jon

      mst – I am sure you are correct in your analysis of Oprah. Most, if not all, of these kinds of people are just frauds, who put on the "happy face" when it suits their purpose.

      May 26, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
    • Nonimus

      "Why would I make this up?"
      For the attention... why else?

      Not that I have any reason or desire to disagree with your account, it very well may be accurate. I just don't like this argument for believability. Too many people make it, when there are actually any number of psychological reason why someone would make up a story that was not true.

      May 26, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
    • Hello

      I am sorry your experience was such a downer. Oprah can talk and entertain – she is good at it. I wasn't a diehard fan, but over the years and the little snidbits I read about her is that she is a introvert. She rather be alone. I think she does care about people though. It is still apparent she has lots of layers and emotional things to work through. I never did care for her whole book club thing....telling people what to read and only releasing the info when she wanted too so libraries nationwide couldn't prepare for the masses. I am sorry about your book too, but keep writing. You have a gift.

      May 26, 2011 at 8:49 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.