October 16th, 2013
03:20 PM ET

What Oprah gets wrong about atheism

Opinion by Chris Stedman, special to CNN
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(CNN) - To some, Oprah Winfrey appears to have an almost godlike status. Her talents are well recognized, and her endorsement can turn almost any product into an overnight bestseller.

This godlike perception is fitting, since in recent years Winfrey’s work has increasingly emphasized spirituality, including programs like her own "Super Soul Sunday."

But what happens when an atheist enters the mix?

A few days ago Winfrey interviewed long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad on Super Soul Sunday. Nyad identified herself as an atheist who experiences awe and wonder at the natural world and humanity.

Nyad, 64, who swam from Cuba to Key West last month, said “I can stand at the beach’s edge with the most devout Christian, Jew, Buddhist, go on down the line, and weep with the beauty of this universe and be moved by all of humanity — all the billions of people who have lived before us, who have loved and hurt.”

Winfrey responded, “Well I don’t call you an atheist then.”

Winfrey went on, “I think if you believe in the awe and the wonder and the mystery then that is what God is… It’s not a bearded guy in the sky.”

Nyad clarified that she doesn’t use the word God because it implies a “presence… a creator or an overseer.”

Winfrey’s response may have been well intended, but it erased Nyad’s atheist identity and suggested something entirely untrue and, to many atheists like me, offensive: that atheists don’t experience awe and wonder.

MORE ON CNN: Diana Nyad completes historic Cuba-to-Florida swim

The exchange between Winfrey and Nyad reminds me of a conversation I once had with a Catholic scholar.

The professor once asked me: “When I talk about God, I mean love and justice and reconciliation, not a man in the sky. You talk about love and justice and reconciliation. Why can’t you just call that God?”

I replied: “Why must you call that God? Why not just call it what it is: love and justice and reconciliation?”

Though we started off with this disagreement, we came to better understand one another’s points of view through patient, honest dialogue.

Conversations like that are greatly needed today, as atheists are broadly misunderstood.

MORE ON CNN: Behold, the six types of atheists

When I visit college and university campuses around the United States, I frequently ask students what words are commonly associated with atheists. Their responses nearly always include words like “negative,” “selfish,” “nihilistic” and “closed-minded.”

When I ask how many of them actually have a relationship with an atheist, few raise their hands.

Relationships can be transformative. The Pew Research Center found that among the 14% of Americans who changed their mind from opposing same-sex marriage to supporting it in the last decade, the top reason given was having “friends, family, acquaintances who are gay/lesbian.”

Knowing someone of a different identity can increase understanding. This has been true for me as a queer person and as an atheist. I have met people who initially think I can’t actually be an atheist when they learn that I experience awe and am committed to service and social justice.

But when I explain that atheism is central to my worldview — that I am in awe of the natural world and that I believe it is up to human beings, instead of a divine force, to strive to address our problems — they often better understand my views, even if we don’t agree.

While theists can learn by listening to atheists more, atheists themselves can foster greater understanding by not just emphasizing the “no” of atheism — our disagreement over the existence of any gods — but also the “yes” of atheism and secular humanism, which recognizes the amazing potential within human beings.

Carl Sagan, the agnostic astronomer and author, would have agreed with Nyad’s claim that you can be an atheist, agnostic or nonreligious person and consider yourself “spiritual.”

As Sagan wrote in "The Demon-Haunted World,":

"When we recognize our place in an immensity of light‐years and in the passage of ages, when we grasp the intricacy, beauty and subtlety of life, then that soaring feeling, that sense of elation and humility combined, is surely spiritual.”

Nyad told Winfrey that she feels a similar sense of awe:

“I think you can be an atheist who doesn’t believe in an overarching being who created all of this and sees over it,” she said. “But there’s spirituality because we human beings, and we animals, and maybe even we plants, but certainly the ocean and the moon and the stars, we all live with something that is cherished and we feel the treasure of it.”

MORE ON CNN:  'Atheist' isn’t a dirty word, congresswoman

I experience that same awe when I see people of different beliefs coming together across lines of religious difference to recognize that we are all human — that we all love and hurt.

Perhaps Winfrey, who could use her influence to shatter stereotypes about atheists rather than reinforce them, would have benefited from listening to Nyad just a bit more closely and from talking to more atheists about awe and wonder.

I know many who would be up to the task.

Chris Stedman is the assistant humanist chaplain at Harvard University, coordinator of humanist life for the Yale Humanist Community and author of Faitheist: How an Atheist Found Common Ground with the Religious

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Atheism • Belief • Celebrity • Ethics • Faith • God • Inspiration • Nones • Opinion • Spirituality

soundoff (4,964 Responses)
  1. Vic

    I didn't have a chance to follow up on the following since right after I posted it yesterday:


    Well, I believe it is more sophisticated to believe in God and attribute this existence to Him as His creation (God did it) than just simply opt out and not believe in God (Atheism.) An intelligent mind realizes its limits and that there must be/is something bigger than and outside of its limits that is behind all of this existence. On the contrary, not believing in a Supreme Being (God) that created it all is taking the easy way out and very simplistic thinking.

    I don't think Oprah is out of line in her remarks; she addresses the reality of spirituality in human beings, whether all acknowledge it or not.

    On a separate note, isn't it ironic that the author's last name is "Stedman," which is the same as Opera's boyfriend's first name?!

    October 17, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
    • Just the Facts Ma'am...

      "An intelligent mind realizes its limits and that there must be/is something bigger than and outside of its limits that is behind all of this existence." but only a moron would put a face to that something without any evidence, give it a name and start attempting telepathic communication...

      October 17, 2013 at 2:08 pm |
      • benhazin

        The physical universe in all of its wondrous complexity is the totality of all possible evidence of the existence of God. What other evidence could there possibly be. Yet atheists reject the universe. Fibonacci Numbers as a natural constant of existence plainly show that the universe is not guided by randomness but by design. Check out Fibonacci Numbers!

        October 17, 2013 at 2:47 pm |
        • Steel On Target

          My god I can't stop laughing. Your proof of your god is in the Fibonacci Numbers? ahahahaahahahahaha. Talk about seeing the virgin mary in your morning toast.

          October 17, 2013 at 3:02 pm |
        • benhazin

          Not at all. Fibonnacci Numbers just give the lie to the Atheist claim that the universe is based on random occurences. Check wit Dr. DeGrasse or any good physicist.

          October 17, 2013 at 3:08 pm |
        • Steel On Target

          You clearly have no idea what you are talking about. Sounds like you pulled that one from the creationist hand book.

          October 17, 2013 at 3:20 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      " isn't it ironic that the author's last name is "Stedman," which is the same as Opera's boyfriend's first name?!

      I thought so.

      October 17, 2013 at 2:08 pm |
      • Patty Biller

        yes, I found that strange. Not a common name, either...

        October 17, 2013 at 2:09 pm |
      • FYI

        Oprah's boyfriend is Stedman Graham. This author is Chris Stedman. Coincidences happen.


        October 17, 2013 at 2:27 pm |
      • toddh

        Obvious that the "author" only got his opinion published because of that "coincidence". Do you think anyone would have listened to him if his name was Joe?

        October 17, 2013 at 2:40 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      I agree with this:

      "believing in a Supreme Being (God) that created it all is taking the easy way out and very simplistic thinking."

      October 17, 2013 at 2:10 pm |
      • Vic

        LOL! It's nice that we can get a kick out of our disagreement!

        Original quote:

        " On the contrary, not believing in a Supreme Being (God) that created it all is taking the easy way out and very simplistic thinking."

        October 17, 2013 at 2:17 pm |
    • OKfine

      Your thinking is very black and white. Theist, deist, agnostic, atheist, believer in a god figure, yes a god but not one that interferes with the lives of humans, don't really know if there is a god, there is no evidence of god therefore there is no god. I am a Deist but cannot believe in the supernatural or the spiritual that would require irrefutable proof that does not at present exist.

      October 17, 2013 at 2:14 pm |
      • Vic

        See, that's the problem, right there!

        That's very limited thinking and simplistic in nature!

        What we sense and detect is very limited BUT IS NOT THE LIMIT!

        October 17, 2013 at 2:21 pm |
        • Observer

          You can't get much more "limited thinking and simplistic in nature" than to believe EVERYTHING the Bible says. If people want to believe in unicorns and people turning into salt, they really shouldn't talk about others being "simplistic".

          October 17, 2013 at 3:05 pm |
  2. Gort1

    JUST ANOTHER INTOLLERANT CHRISTIAN...rich or poor, its the same.

    October 17, 2013 at 1:59 pm |
  3. JesusChrist

    Hey, I just wanted to let everyone know that I am Jesus Christ and I've got mail.

    October 17, 2013 at 1:58 pm |
  4. Jdubbs

    If there was no God, there would be no Atheist's.

    October 17, 2013 at 1:57 pm |
    • sybaris

      So If Zeus didn't exist there would be no Atheists

      So how your logic fails?

      October 17, 2013 at 2:03 pm |
    • Don

      Because there is no god, there are atheists.

      October 17, 2013 at 2:04 pm |
    • cd_emmer

      you mean if there was no belief in god. in which case, you are correct

      October 17, 2013 at 2:18 pm |
  5. RaisedfromthedeadYeast

    Funny how religious people can't conceive of the wonders of the earth and nature being what they are just in and of themselves. There "has" to be "something" bigger or else their minds somehow can't handle the simple truth that there's really nothing more to it. The beauty of a sunset, or a school of fish on a coral reef, or a puffy cloud is just a natural occurrence and nothing more. Some people just have to complicate things or else they're not happy.

    October 17, 2013 at 1:57 pm |
    • Just the Facts Ma'am...

      Some people just love their superstltions.

      October 17, 2013 at 2:04 pm |
    • toddh

      To RaisedfromthedeadYeast: you didn't do anything to affect that sunset, that school of fish, that coral reef or that puffy cloud. Hence they are all beyond you. It's not that complicated ... you are not the center of the universe and there are powers you don't understand.

      October 17, 2013 at 2:07 pm |
  6. sly

    I don't spend a moment thinking about religion, although it is amusing to read bloggers here defending their opinions.

    Just remember folks:
    -Everyone has an opinion
    -No one's opinion is right or wrong

    Period. Those are facts. The only facts when it comes to religion. All else is just personal opinion. Period.

    October 17, 2013 at 1:56 pm |
    • sybaris

      Well that would be nice but when your President bombs the crap out of a country and kills tens of thousand of innocent civilians because he believes his god told him it was the right thing to do then rational minds need to step up and expose the delusion.

      October 17, 2013 at 2:06 pm |
      • sly

        Wars are always about the American Dollar.

        We've never bombed another nation over religion.

        Now ... there are religious extremists that supposedly kill over religion, but even then, I suspect it's more basic: we killed them, so they kill us.

        Why would anyone want to kill over religion? That's like killing someone for being a Red Sox fan. Low class.

        October 17, 2013 at 2:13 pm |
        • kswitch

          people will absolutely kill over religion. leaders won't go to war over religion, but they will propagandize an economic war via religion. people won't sign up to die for for someone else's riches, but they will sign up to die on behalf of the one true god, whatever name it's taking that millennium.

          October 17, 2013 at 7:21 pm |
  7. toddh

    Okay, look at the picture of this person who claims to know it all. Like a coward he refuses to look at the camera, has a smug, holier-than-thou expression, hates how he was born so he has mutilated his ears, too lazy to shave and get a real job he makes money from preaching his religious beliefs to others, gets his “opinion” published SOLELY because he steals Stedman Graham’s name to try to validate himself. ‘nuff said.

    October 17, 2013 at 1:55 pm |
  8. JC

    The bigger the gage in your ear, the less I pay attention to your opinion. Sorry.

    October 17, 2013 at 1:53 pm |
    • myweightinwords

      Why, exactly?

      What difference does it make whether I have piercings or other body modification? How does that affect my intelligence or ability to reason or engage in conversation?

      October 17, 2013 at 2:13 pm |
      • JFCanton

        Lack of satisfaction with one's body as-is doesn't exactly have a positive association...

        October 17, 2013 at 2:45 pm |
        • myweightinwords

          Who says that piercings or other body mods have anything to do with a lack of satisfaction in one's body?

          Mine don't. Admittedly, the piercings I still have were mostly about fitting in (I was 9 when I got my ears pierced the first time, and 14 the second time). I had other piercings I got for reasons revolving around pleasure that I have since had to allow to close after one of them ripped.

          My tattoos have nothing to do with being dissatisfied with my body. Each of them has meaning to me however, two of them convey a spiritual meaning for me.

          So I repeat the question. Why should the gauge of hole in a person's ear cause you to disrespect their intellect or opinion?

          October 17, 2013 at 3:09 pm |
  9. The Truth

    I have a higher order question for atheist: how does it feel to BELIEVE you are just here on this planet for no reason and regardless of what you do it is really ultimately for nothing? To me that would make me feel worthless and like a ship with no..... It also contradicts the very structure of our world (i.e., from laws, to rules, to government, to nature, to parenting, to you name it)!

    October 17, 2013 at 1:53 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      We exist so why not make the best of it? Why do you feel the need for an end game? Why not be content with the life you have?

      And no it doesn't contradict the notion of rule of law at all.

      October 17, 2013 at 1:57 pm |
    • ooo

      We only believe the first part. That there is no reason for us to be here (at least no supernaturallly driven reason). As for what we do with our lives, you would get a million different answers from a million different atheists. We are individuals, just like you !


      October 17, 2013 at 1:57 pm |
    • sly

      Cool, thanks for sharing.

      For me, being an athiest has zero impact on my life. I've never been in a church in my life. I spend my Sundays watching football. That makes me feel good.

      I love my life. Great job. Make huge bucks. Sleep with real cute babes. Play a lot of baseball.

      Life is good. I hope religion makes your life good also. After all, it's great to have a bunch of happy folks around.

      October 17, 2013 at 1:57 pm |
    • Joey

      I feel pretty good about it.

      October 17, 2013 at 1:58 pm |
    • Just the Facts Ma'am...

      I believe that the first life on this planet was likely not the first life in the universe. This however does not mean I believe in God/gods. I believe that life having gained a foothold here and thrived and adapted and gone through many many faces and having an extremely low porbability gives our life far more meaning and purpose than that of a deity generated universe. As the tiny microbe adapting itself into a human space traveler over the billions of years on this planet we have a far greater responsibility to keep this life moving than we would if it was just some supernatural beings universe where the deity already knows everything that is ever going to happen. With a God driven universe man takes a backseat and can merely continually ask "Are we there yet?" and has no responsibility to the planet or to other humans because only the creator deities wishes should be adhered to if the deity gets to decide some future fate. As an evolved being I have a responsibility to all those single celled organisms that came before and allowed me to exist and thus we have a responsibility to the future of our planets continual evolution. If you don't have a creator deity who you think is just going to come along and clean up the earth you have a greater responsibility in taking care of it. Life becomes more valuable when you discard the childish belief in God/gods that there is zero empirical evidence of.

      October 17, 2013 at 1:59 pm |
    • RaisedfromthedeadYeast

      That's because for some unexplained reason you have self-worth issues. Maybe it's something from your childhood? I think you can get help for that. No, it's not called a priest, it's called a psychiatrist.

      October 17, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
    • Commenter

      The Truth,
      "To me that would make me feel worthless and like a ship with no...."

      So by all means make up a fantasy that makes you feel good - or believe the fantasies and supersti.tions of ancient Israelis.

      October 17, 2013 at 2:05 pm |
  10. boyamidumb

    Giving goodness and wonder a name – no matter what it is – it is not wrong.

    The wrong comes with people deciding what "god" is the true "god" and what that "god" determines is "right or wrong."

    We live on an amazing planet.

    People are capable of amazing good AND amazing evil.

    We think we are the "intelligent" rulers of the planet, yet our actions destroy the very host we are dependent upon for survival.

    God. The Devil. Ignorance. Stupidity. It is life.

    Our job, to sort it all out and try to understand what to do that is right for all of us, all of the creatures on our planet and for the planet. Nothing else really matters...... call it what you will.

    October 17, 2013 at 1:51 pm |
  11. Peter Q Wolfe

    Hey Christians does God have two-way calling cause he/she or it doesn't listen to the downtroddened in this world? Not now nor ever just look at countries with Bound Labor like Nigeria, India, China and other places of this proof. Moving forward the least religious people including Oprah don't follow ethics just look at The Atlantic Monthly recent study on charity of proof in this year's study in Spring 2013. Lastly, proof also consist the study of Berkley shows that rich people have less empathy than do poorer people, so religon was made-up by the rich to exploit poor ignorant people for their own gain is my view.

    October 17, 2013 at 1:51 pm |
    • Responding to the Pride

      Ah yes. Another atheist wishing we didn't have to live in a world with freedom of choice and (admittedly) the horrible consequences which follow. Another atheist wishing for the robot-slave paradigm that takes any bad things away instead.

      October 17, 2013 at 1:59 pm |
  12. Jcraw

    I had a atheist co-worker who didn't believe in anything supernatural - no gods, no devils, no heaven, no hell, no ghosts, no angels, no demons, no good lucks, no bad lucks. She was so boring!!!

    October 17, 2013 at 1:51 pm |
    • sly

      Sounds like maybe she wasn't very exciting.

      I once knew someone that insisted there was no Santa Claus. And he was rather boring as well.

      Oh well, not everyone is exciting.

      October 17, 2013 at 1:59 pm |
    • tagapay3

      So her job wasn't to entertain you but to perform her duties as assigned?
      How did you cope?
      More importantly, how are you still employed?

      October 17, 2013 at 2:26 pm |
  13. Paul

    And yet, in the end, atheists would love nothing more than the eradication of religion and its influence over society. That is the "No" of atheism. The negative that always lingers because it's part of that worldview.

    On the same front, as a Christian, I sure would love for atheism to disappear. It's fruit has proven to be rotten over the centuries. Nations that have it at their forefront have abused more people in the 20th and 21st centuries than "Christian" nations. Atheism is an evil that needs to be abolished. It has nothing good to offer humanity. It denies the existence of a loving God, and they that adhere to it are, as the Bible says, "fools" (Psalm 14:1).

    This is where all the atheists will reply with all the "evidence" showing that the God of the Bible isn't loving, but hateful, vengeful and evil. For those watching such things, keep in mind that most atheists have never read the Bible through even one time, even though they seem to be perfect experts of the biblical texts. Furthermore, they pull context all to pieces and apply their own morality, which doesn't exist if there is no God, to God's actions, thus making themselves gods. They really are a confused bunch. It's sad.

    October 17, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
    • Observer


      Nearly all of the violence between nations today is due to religion. Not atheism.

      Worst killing spree of all-time (if you believe the Bible) was when God wiped out humanity in the flood. How many survivors?

      October 17, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
      • JC

        20 million killed by Stalin? 40 million killed by Mao? Sorry, but modern religous violence just can't compete with modern atheistic violence.

        October 17, 2013 at 1:55 pm |
        • Observer

          What percentage of the entire world were killed by them?
          How many people were left in the entire world when God got done?

          October 17, 2013 at 1:58 pm |
      • Nemo

        Really? Just Religion? And here I thought Nations more often went to war over territory, resources and nationalistic ambitions.

        October 17, 2013 at 1:57 pm |
    • Andy

      Well stated, sad indeed!

      October 17, 2013 at 1:55 pm |
    • Joey

      I'm amazed that anyone can read the bible and not walk away an atheist. Spending all of my schooling in Christian schools and reading the bible everyday is the main reason I don't believe in god or Jesus.

      October 17, 2013 at 2:01 pm |
      • JFCanton

        This kind of comment is the very best way to demonstrate the horribleness of our education system (including religious schools, evidently). Just because stuff is written on a page doesn't mean that it was countenanced by the writer!

        October 17, 2013 at 2:28 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Is any religion at all better than no religion?
      Or would you rather it be only YOUR religion that guides all mankind?

      The "atheistic" regimes to which you refer aped the forms and rhetoric of religion and their leaders made themselves gods in their own cults of personality.
      Communist leaders like Pol Pot and Stalin would not have been charismatic enough to gain converts had they not learned the discourse of dogmatic persuasion from religious inst/itutions.
      Pol Pot spent 8 years at a Catholic school in Phnom Penh and Stalin 5 years at a Russian orthodox seminary. Historians have noted their speaking and writing styles ape those of the Church in being 'declamatory and repet.itive, with liturgical overtones”.
      Atheism is not the prime cause for these tragic regimes – the misdirection of faith is.
      Like religion, they demanded blind obedience and obsequious submission from their followers. They tolerated no free-thinkers and enforced dogmatism – a trick they learned from their religious educations.

      October 17, 2013 at 2:01 pm |
    • Sara

      I don't believe in any gods, but I am glad of the diversity of the historic religions and of the continued diversity of belief today which I think teaches us about humanity and keeps our minds open for future knowledge that may be radically different than we expect. What I don't support is beliefs that refuse to adapt and grow in the face of science and new understanding, and unfortunately there are many religions that have written themselves into a corner. But even with all we know, there is room for a wide variety of beliefs as long as a few basic ethical rules are shared so we can coexist.

      October 17, 2013 at 2:11 pm |
      • Ari

        So you're saying we'll never coexist in peace, then. You seem to think everyone is rational. What a joke.

        October 17, 2013 at 2:56 pm |
        • Sara

          I don't know who you mean by "we" or why you think I believe everyone is rational? To the contrary, I think we're all pretty irrational in only mildly varying degrees. I think some groups can coexist, others not.

          October 17, 2013 at 7:28 pm |
  14. Venn

    10 telltale signs you are on your way to becoming a lonely atheist
    1. When you are at your girlfriend's house, you cannot stop scowling at her mother's pictures of Jesus.
    2. You own more pocket protectors than shirts.

    3. You tell your girlfriend that she is merely a result of blind random natural forces and there is nothing particularly special about her. Of course, this lets her know that you are an insensitive liar and she starts crying (see: Atheism and deception).

    4. American atheists are significantly less likely to get married than the general population and atheism is significantly less appealing to women. When you had problems finding a wife, you refused to consider the possibility that you could be the problem and instead blamed it on womankind.

    5. You spend countless hours arguing with your girlfriend on the true definition of atheism and insist you are not diluting the definition of atheism given in most encyclopedias of philosophy.

    6. You fly into an uncontrollable rage when your girlfriend brings up shockofgod's question.

    7. After your last girlfriend dumped you, you reminded yourself that you still have a lot of atheist subscribers at your YouTube atheism channel and your Reddit atheist friend list is quite large. In addition, your mother no longer believes you are going to get married.

    8. You try to convince every woman you meet to visit atheists' websites.
    9. You think Richard Dawkins has machismo or try to debate Conservapedians on the true definition of the word machismo despite the definitions the Merriam Webster dictionary offers.

    10. Your girlfriend tells you that there needs to be better communication between you two so you buy her a Star Trek USB Communicator that will allow you two to "Stay connected Starfleet style" via Skype and IM programs.

    October 17, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
    • Observer

      11. You don't believe in unicorns.
      12. You don't believe in talking non-humans.
      13. You don't believe in dragons.
      14. You don't brag about a book that supports slavery and discrimination.
      15.. You don't think people can turn into salt.

      October 17, 2013 at 1:48 pm |
      • ChancesAre

        16. You are not IGNORANT!!!

        October 17, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
      • Lawrence of Arabia

        I'll be willing to bet that you DO actually believe in unicorns...

        The Hebrew word re'em is mentioned eight times in the Bible, and signifies some kind of horned animal that could possibly be the now extinct aurochs – a wild ox related to a cow. In the Latin Vulgate however, the translators used the words “unicornis, unicornium, rinocerota, rinocerotis, and rinoceros” whose English rendering in the KJV is “unicorn” for the name of this horned animal each time it occurred: Job 39:9-10, Numbers 23:22, 24:8, Psalm 22:22, 29:6, 92:10, Deuteronomy 33:17, and Isaiah 34:7. Depending upon the context of the passage however, the authors either use the word “rhinoceros” if the intent was to speak of two horns, or “unicornis” if the intent was to mean a singular horn. In Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary, the word “unicorn” has this as its entry: “An animal with one horn: the monoceros. This name is often applied to the rhinoceros.” It goes on to say under the entry for “rhinoceros” that: “a genus of quadrupeds of two species, one of which, the unicorn, has a single horn growing almost erect from the nose. This animal when full grown, is said to be 12 feet in length. There is another species with two horns, the bicornis. They are natives of Asia and Africa.” Even today, the scientific name for the Asian one-horned rhinoceros is “Rhinoceros unicornis,” (the same word as mentioned in the Latin Vulgate) while the two-horned black rhinoceros is the “Diceros bicornis.”

        October 17, 2013 at 2:08 pm |
        • Observer

          It's usually a sign of desperation when someone has to go back to an almost 200 year old dictionary for support.

          October 17, 2013 at 2:28 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Sounds like you've got women issues. I've been married for 18 years with two children and there were no gods involved whatsoever.

      October 17, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
    • Square Root

      PZ Myers

      “ If we're going to expand our base and we're going to draw in more people to recognize the virtues of living in a secular world, we need to appeal to more than just that geek and nerd subset of the population. We need to have a wider base. ...I seriously believe that we're on the cusp of a crisis. We're not there yet but it's looming in front of us. Will we adapt and thrive and change the world? Or will we remain an avocation for a prosperous and largely irrelevant subset of the population? Will we become something more than a scattered society of internet nerds? That's what we have to do.

      October 17, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
      • Square Root

        Evolution News and Views:

        “ A crisis looms, in Myers's view, because he looks around himself and sees a not very promising basis for a mass movement. He's right. There is indeed a quality of geeky isolation from reality, common sense, and the fullness of life that I see as a motif in atheist and Darwin activism alike.[5]

        October 17, 2013 at 1:58 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      try to debate Conservapedians on the true definition of the word machismo despite the definitions the Merriam Webster dictionary offers

      I'm very happy with the Oxford English Dictionary definition myself.

      October 17, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
    • Roger

      Did you just pull that out of your as@ or did you read it in the bible?
      What an arrogant, ignorant, closed-minded individual you are! WOW, unbelievable!

      October 17, 2013 at 1:57 pm |
    • Sara

      In your little het.erose.xual story here the entire thing could be rewritten for women complaining they are single when the reality is that men don't want to get involved with irrational religious nut jobs.

      I'm a woman, btw, and don't think all religious people are nut jobs, just that your story has some big holes that might be patched up with a few months in therapy.

      October 17, 2013 at 2:18 pm |
      • Patty Biller

        You are CRAZY, woman!!! Really feel sorry for you. Take your hatred, and begone!!!

        October 17, 2013 at 2:35 pm |
        • Sara

          Faith, is that you again?

          October 17, 2013 at 2:39 pm |
  15. Drew

    I've been an atheist ever since high school. I grew up Christian. I celebrate Christmas cause its fun. I honestly do not care what anyone else believes. I try to be a good person because its the right thing to do not because I'm trying to please a God or get into a heaven. Other atheist bother me when they fight over things such as the ten commandments being on a court houses steps. While I think they honestly never should have been put there, it doesn't harm anyone. I think organized religion can be dangerous as well as anyone who says they speak for a God.

    October 17, 2013 at 1:44 pm |
    • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

      Then you would not have a problem with the wisdom of Islam being printed and placed in public?

      October 17, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
      • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

        Not on private property.

        October 17, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
      • Drew

        I don't care what religion it is. I would expect a reasonable person to understand what I meant.

        October 17, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
      • MarkinFL

        Islam is equally valid/invalid.

        October 17, 2013 at 1:53 pm |
    • sonjia

      I agree Drew. I am a recovered Catholic- after spending my formative years in parochial school, I chose to start thinking for myself. I am not bothered by other people's beliefs, nor am I offended if someone greets me with a "God Bless You." I do the right thing when no one is watching because I choose to live my life with grace and integrity. We are all on life's journey and we deal with life's ups and downs in our own way. Who am I to judge someone that believes? That being said, I do take issue with someone forcing doctrine down my throat or telling me I am going to hell because of my choice. I live in the south, and I think some of the faithful need to be reminded that tolerance, acceptance and love flow both ways. What would Jesus do? 🙂

      October 17, 2013 at 2:04 pm |
      • Ric H

        Thou shalt not Judge pretty much covers that. However, we need laws and structure because there are those amongst us who pursue and commit chaos even to the point of doing evil. No one should be able to legislate beliefs, nor violate the human or civil rights of another human being. No community or church or team of rabble rousers should be allowed to persecute those who believe differently than they do. When they do, they are almost universally proving what cowards they are, by going after the little guy, who commits the little transgressions. Tell me seriously, have you ever heard some one say, "I am going to find and stop THE Antichrist (Satan incarnate) and make him fear human beings so he will stop his tyrannical abuse of human life." Only punks and bullies go after the little guy! Punks! Bullies!

        October 17, 2013 at 5:24 pm |
    • sonjia

      I agree Drew. I am a recovered Catholic- after spending my formative years in parochial school, I chose to start thinking for myself. I am not bothered by other people's beliefs, nor am I offended if someone greets me with a "God Bless You." I take it in stride and never start an argument.

      I do the right thing when no one is watching because I choose to live my life with grace and integrity. We are all on life's journey and we deal with life's ups and downs in our own way. Who am I to judge someone that believes? That being said, I do take issue with someone forcing doctrine down my throat or telling me I am going to hell because of my choice. I live in the south, and I think some of the faithful need to be reminded that tolerance, acceptance and love flow both ways. What would Jesus do? 🙂

      October 17, 2013 at 2:06 pm |
  16. Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

    "Though we started off with this disagreement, we came to better understand one another’s points of view through patient, honest dialogue. Conversations like that are greatly needed today, as atheists are broadly misunderstood."

    Not if you read the postings of many of the atheists here!

    October 17, 2013 at 1:44 pm |
    • Drew

      Lets not generalize. There's people on both sides of this question that can lack civility. Its a sensitive subject. People have strong feelings when it comes to religion and politics.

      October 17, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
      • sly

        Politics I can understand.

        But why would anyone care too much about someone else's religion?

        Irrelevant to me. I never consider religion when talking to someone, doing anything. Period. Never crossed my mind, not in a good way, not in a bad way.

        Irrelevant. Whether the Niners win this Sunday – now that is relevant.

        October 17, 2013 at 2:07 pm |
  17. brad1001

    I don't care what you believe as long as you don't step on me blue suede shoes.

    October 17, 2013 at 1:42 pm |
  18. Jerry

    Who in the hell does Oprah Winfrey think she is. Since she is so oppionated toward those who are not of the same faith as she, she should really listen to her guest. In the future her esteem guest should wear raincoats and rubber boots – because the next big "Oprah" event will be her "walking on water" impression of Jesus Christ.

    October 17, 2013 at 1:42 pm |
  19. King V

    Oprah doesnt represent Christianity. She sounds more like a moral-relativist and, ultimalty, someone who considers herself infalliable. Like Richard Dawkins.

    October 17, 2013 at 1:39 pm |
    • Brian

      That's a straw man argument Richard Dawkins never considered himself infallible nor did he imply it. The only person I know of who openly claims to be infallible is the Pope.

      October 17, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
      • toddh

        The Pope does not claim to be infallible. For chrissake educate yourself before making such stupid statements.

        October 17, 2013 at 2:02 pm |
    • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

      You are right, she does not represent Christianity as you understand it, she represents a kinder more loving version. You could learn a lot from her.

      October 17, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
      • Ari

        She represents no one but herself and so far she's making herself look pretty stupid. Do you worship Oprah or something?

        October 17, 2013 at 3:01 pm |
  20. Lomunchi

    Please note the anger and bitterness expressed here by the 'athiests'. If you folks really believed there was no god to know you'd be; 'meh', not outraged. Me thinks you protest too much. Could it be that what you DO believe in is all vapor as well?

    October 17, 2013 at 1:38 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      The naturalistic worldview is not concerned with ephemeral "vapourous" subjects – only that which is tangible and observable to all.

      October 17, 2013 at 1:42 pm |
    • Observer


      Listen to hypocritical believers screaming to deny gays equal rights or pretending the Bible EVER mentions abortion while they are yelling at pro-choice people in front of doctors' offices.

      Then come back to reality.

      October 17, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
    • Patty Biller

      Right on! I have gotten more hateful comments. That is what deception and evil do to one's heart. Hardness, too!

      October 17, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
      • Lucifer's Evil Twin

        Get over yourself... we don't 'hate' you, we just think you're stupid...

        October 17, 2013 at 2:13 pm |
      • Steel On Target

        Way to play the martyr. You guys do it so well.

        October 17, 2013 at 2:58 pm |
      • Joey

        Love the believer, hate the belief. Sound familiar?

        October 17, 2013 at 4:04 pm |
    • cribbooky

      You sound angry and bitter to me.

      October 17, 2013 at 1:48 pm |
    • myweightinwords

      Perhaps they are simply tired of being told what they believe by others who clearly have no way of knowing what they believe?

      Perhaps they are simply "returning fire" for all of the anger and hatred hurled at them by those who claim belief?

      October 17, 2013 at 2:06 pm |
      • Ari

        Gee, ya think?

        October 17, 2013 at 2:50 pm |
    • God

      Atheists and agnostics don't have a problem with me at all because I don't exist. The anger stems from mortal humans putting on big funny hats and pretending to know what I REALLY think and what I REALLY mean. I really hate that.

      It's always about people and politics. It's never about me.

      October 17, 2013 at 2:56 pm |
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About this blog

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.