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. JulioCG

    Talking about offended...
    I hate it when people try to tie Atheism and Secular Humanism together. I, for one, am an Atheist and a Nihilist. I know plenty of people like me, and plenty of others who are different but who would also bristle at the thought of being considered a Humanist. Please, don't tie belief in a deity to moral belief. One can certainly influence the other, but they are totally different topics.

    October 22, 2013 at 1:53 am |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

      Say what you want about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it's an ethos.

      October 22, 2013 at 7:23 am |
    • Voice of Reason

      Why are you a nihilist? Do you loath yourself SO much that you want to ABSOLUTELY cease after your body dies?

      That's just sad.

      October 22, 2013 at 9:05 am |
      • 3rd party

        I can't speak for him but I'll answer for myself. It is not a matter of what you want to happen it is a matter of what you expect to have happen. I do not expect that my personal preference will have anything to do with what happens when I die. My personal preference has had very little to do with what has happened while I've been alive.

        October 24, 2013 at 8:11 am |
        • Crom

          I'll drink to that. Cheers!

          October 24, 2013 at 9:07 pm |
  2. Verimius

    What happened to all those people who died before Jesus was born?

    October 21, 2013 at 10:11 pm |
    • Observer

      Tough luck. Same for all the western hemisphere people for 1,500 years until the foreigners could pass their religious beliefs onto them.

      October 21, 2013 at 10:16 pm |
    • Crom

      They didn't have to deal with all these crazy jesus-freaks, so I guess it must have been heavenly.

      October 21, 2013 at 10:27 pm |
    • common sense

      The Bible explains clearly that Salvation has always been by grace through faith. Those living before Jesus were saved by their faith in the coming messiah, Jesus. Read Hebrews chapter 11.

      October 22, 2013 at 7:36 am |
      • Richard Cranium

        What about those who died in glorious battle...they still got into Valhalla, didn't they?

        October 22, 2013 at 8:07 am |
        • common sense


          October 22, 2013 at 8:17 am |
        • Richard Cranium

          Why not, since they dies in glorious battle, that's all you need to enter Valhalla, why would they not get in?

          October 22, 2013 at 8:30 am |
        • common sense

          There is no Valhalla, it is a demonic deception recognized as such and rejected by the Norsemen when the gospel of Jesus Christ reached them. It appears a few idiots have readopted the lie here in the new world. Progress?

          October 22, 2013 at 8:40 am |
        • Richard Cranium

          So your made up beliefs are better than their made up beliefs. I see.
          How do you know there is no Valhalla ( and do not use bible refernces...it is not proof as I know it was made up by men, and is false in too many places for it to be divinely inspired, that is obvious)

          October 22, 2013 at 8:45 am |
        • Honey Badger Don't Care

          Common Sense, you have a very uncommon view of common sense.

          Real common sense would tell you not to believe something unless there was good evidence for its existence. There is none for your god.

          October 22, 2013 at 8:46 am |
    • Kebos

      They're covered under God's grandfather clause. BTW, who is God's grandfather, anyway? Zeus?

      October 22, 2013 at 8:14 am |
  3. saggyroy

    Oprah using stereotypes to judge atheists...well isn't that the pot calling the kettle....

    October 21, 2013 at 8:34 pm |
    • Crom

      BLACK? Having a problem finishing your sentences now? Time for your meds, granpa.

      October 21, 2013 at 11:51 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      I think you meant, "isn't that the black calling the kettle pot" ( Archie Bunker)

      October 22, 2013 at 8:08 am |
  4. William

    Go, God, Go!


    October 21, 2013 at 5:43 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      Yes go...as far away as possible.

      October 22, 2013 at 8:08 am |
      • Greg

        You can tell Him to go away...but He'll always be there for you.

        October 22, 2013 at 1:30 pm |
  5. Barcs


    October 21, 2013 at 4:30 pm |
  6. niknak

    This board is about as lively as a babble study class.
    Not only are you believers full of sheet, but your are mind numbingly boring to boot.

    October 21, 2013 at 3:01 pm |
    • RM

      Are we are in Hell already? Does anyone notice the confusion, the hatred, the pure evil that oozes from humanity?

      October 22, 2013 at 9:17 am |
      • bananas

        Give it time, honey. Patience. U will be burnt to a crisp. Promise

        October 24, 2013 at 6:24 am |
  7. Tony

    I still have yet to hear a good definition of what it is to be "spiritual" without being religious.

    If you're definition is experiencing awe and wonder then you haven't accomplished or created anything new.

    Can anyone help me out here?

    October 21, 2013 at 2:28 pm |
    • Colin

      In my experience people in the USA who say they are "spiritual but not religious" tend to mean that they don't belong to any particular church, but still have a general belief in the supernatural elements of Christianity (most notably, a spirit that survives physical death) and generally adhere to what they consider to be the Christian moral code.

      October 21, 2013 at 2:33 pm |
      • Tony

        I hear that and it seems to be accurate.
        But, spiritual but not religious isn't really something that's concrete, so if someone were to say I'm spiritual, that could mean almost anything, possibly including being subject to "wonder and awe."

        I guess what I'm getting at is for my money, being "spiritual" is a pretty generic and bogus term to use.

        I think you're right about the supernatural bit too, and I find it ironic that believers will drop the 7 day creation but, but still hang on to something like eternal life.

        October 21, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
        • Sean Lynch

          Tony, The thrill of awe, wonder, humility and perhaps a sense of connectedness is part of the human spectrum of emotional experience. I get this feeling from discovery in science. I believe this emotional upwelling is a component of personality some are more likely to posses than others. I define spirit as the inner quality or nature of a person, and spiritual feelings described above go to the core of my being. I could be described as "spiritual but not religious" and that would be accurate, but I am an atheist. I am without belief in a soul, the supernatural or deity.

          October 21, 2013 at 5:20 pm |
        • Brenda

          Sean, I feel sorry for you. We have a soul, a spirit, and a body. that's a fact.

          October 21, 2013 at 9:01 pm |
        • Sean Lynch

          Brenda; to me facts are based in evidence which can be measured to a degree of certainty. I feel sorry for those who do not understand the awe and wonder of the universe that scientific understanding of nature affords, in the same way I feel sorry for a cashier that cannot do arithmetic without a calculator.

          October 21, 2013 at 9:14 pm |
        • Observer


          "Sean, I feel sorry for you. We have a soul, a spirit, and a body. that's a fact.'

          A "FACT" can be proven. You have an "OPINION".

          October 21, 2013 at 9:07 pm |
        • Tony

          I feel that on a regular basis too, but I'm still not sure why it needs to be branded as "spiritual." It seems that it would be much more accurate to just say "I'm filled with wonder and awe at nature and the universe."
          By your definition only people that have a sense of awe, wonder, and humility are spiritual. If that's how you define it then I think you've defined everyone into the "spiritual but not religious" category. I really think everyone experiences awe at some point in their lives, so I don't understand the need to assign a term that has so much other baggage to something that's not really complicated.

          October 22, 2013 at 7:26 am |
        • Tony

          Why do you feel sorry for Sean?

          October 22, 2013 at 7:27 am |
      • banana


        October 21, 2013 at 11:36 pm |
        • Crom

          You deserve it more than anyone here, I bet. They'll show up and take you away and we won't have to see your stupid retarded idiocy anymore and that will be just fine with me. Just a matter of time, I suppose. You miss it, don't you?

          October 21, 2013 at 11:57 pm |
        • Sean Lynch

          Make room in your heart for the isolated and the ill.
          It takes all colors to make a rainbow, and a fruit salad wouldn't be complete without the bananas.

          October 22, 2013 at 12:10 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      I can help you out....which way did you come in?

      October 21, 2013 at 2:43 pm |
      • Tony

        Through the out door.

        October 21, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
    • Barcs

      I'll answer in one word. Buddhism

      October 21, 2013 at 2:45 pm |
    • niknak

      It is a bad term, TonyTiger, but I agree with Colin.
      The ones I know say it because they have education and just can't go along with the established religions and their childish stories of creation, but they just can't let go yet of the whole "soul" thing.

      Some use it to quell the believers in their lives when asked if they believe in god.
      "I'm spiritual" gets them out of most of the awkward situations the believers put people in, like at work or a BBQ or even family gatherings.

      Think religion light.

      October 21, 2013 at 2:48 pm |
      • Tony

        I'm becoming more and more convinced that saying "I'm Spiritual" actually means "I really don't want to talk about this, please leave me alone."

        A better term would be something like a "Cafeteria *Insert former religion here*" and just pick and choose the good stuff that makes me feel better.

        October 21, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
    • Susan StoHelit

      Usually I take it as meaning that they consider more than just the material world – things involving the human spirit – love, compassion, potentially concepts that include life after death (no, this doesn't involve a god – many such quote 'energy is neither created nor destroyed'), gaia, etc.

      October 21, 2013 at 6:58 pm |
      • Tony

        I understand, but why use the term "spiritual" when it usually has a religious connotation? I don't understand the need to use the word spiritual.

        October 22, 2013 at 7:29 am |
        • Susan StoHelit

          Religions adopt plenty of words – why should they get ownership?

          Spiritual has a meaning, it is not solely religious, nor primarily religious. There's no reason not to use it.

          October 22, 2013 at 3:47 pm |
        • Tony

          I'm not saying they own it, but if your original definition of spiritual as being "more than the material world" is accurate, how can there not be a supernatural (ie religious) connotation? As far as we know, we exist in a totally physical universe and nothing can exist outside of its physical limits.
          Things like emotions are technically physical things, as they're brought on by chemical (physical) reactions in the brain.

          October 23, 2013 at 1:42 pm |
    • fintastic

      I think Einstein said it best...........

      "It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it."

      October 22, 2013 at 10:07 am |
  8. aallen333

    Why roll the dice with your soul. If believers are wrong, there will be nothing after death; However, their beliefs will have directed them to try to live better lives and help others do the same. But if unbelievers are wrong, there will be a judgement after death; However their beliefs will have influenced many to follow their example of unbelief and to face the terrible consequence of rejecting God and His Son.

    October 21, 2013 at 1:30 pm |
    • What IF


      This is another tired repeti.tion of Pascal's Wager - thoroughly refuted since the 17th century.

      - What if the real "God" is Allah, or Vishnu, or Zeus, or Quetzalcoatl, or any of the other of thousands which have been dreamed up over the centuries? Some of them are very jealous and vengeful and will relegate you to nasty places for not worshiping them. You'd better cover your butt by believing in ALL of them and fulfill their wishes and demands.

      - What if the real "God" prefers those who use logic and reason and punishes you as a silly sycophant?

      - What if the real "God" detests those who believe something just to cover their butts in eternity?

      October 21, 2013 at 1:37 pm |
      • JA

        Beat me to it.

        October 21, 2013 at 2:24 pm |
      • aallen333

        If you are wrong, there are no do overs...

        October 21, 2013 at 2:35 pm |
        • Watch Out

          Allah, Zeus, Ra, Vishnu
          Whatcha gonna do when they come for you?

          October 21, 2013 at 2:39 pm |
        • Joey

          I know, that is why I worship all of the gods that have ever been invented by humans throughout all of human history (Except Jesus of course, as he is obviously not real). Thus, I don't have a lot of spare time, but at least I covered all of my bases.

          October 21, 2013 at 2:48 pm |
        • Doc Vestibule

          Where do you find the time to sacrifice all those animals and children?

          October 21, 2013 at 2:52 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      You're right. I believe in things that can be supported with observable, repeatable, and measurable evidence.


      October 21, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
      • EnjaySea

        Oh. Pretend I didn't say that. I responded the wrong thread.

        October 21, 2013 at 1:51 pm |
      • aallen333

        If I'm wrong, so what. If you're wrong, it'll be the biggest wrong you ever made...

        October 21, 2013 at 2:37 pm |
        • Sean Lynch

          aallen333 If I'm wrong, I will stand by my decisions which are based in the closest thing humanity has to understanding truth -science.
          I will stand in judgement of an evil and morally reprehensible creator who by design did everything possible to hide himself from discovery and then devised an inescapable plan of eternal torture for those who would pursue a true understanding of nature-those who treat others with kindness and compassion because they see life as fleeting and precious and very difficult to endure at times. A cowardly creator who hides and who instilled logic and reason and forgives everything but disbelief in bronze age mythology that was the product of scientifically ignorant minds.

          October 21, 2013 at 5:38 pm |
        • sam stone

          aallen: your argument is foolish. your threats are empty

          October 21, 2013 at 6:45 pm |
        • Tony


          How long do you stay up at night wondering if you're wrong about Islam?

          October 22, 2013 at 7:30 am |
        • Susan StoHelit

          If you're wrong, you'll be in Hades, while the lucky loyal followers of Odin will be in Vallhalla. Is that a reason to change your mind about the nature of reality?

          But you're wrong about the nature of your wager. If you are wrong, you waste your one and only life, the ONLY existence you have, living by rules and prejudices of ancient goatherds and following con artists. It's a horrible thing.

          October 22, 2013 at 3:50 pm |
      • Paul

        "I believe in things that can be supported with observable, repeatable, and measurable evidence."

        So you don't believe things that you can't observe in the unobservable past?

        October 21, 2013 at 3:20 pm |
        • EnjaySea

          Yes, I do believe in well-documented, corroborated, and plausible events in history. Christian mythology is well-documented, but uncorroborated, and extraordinarily implausible.

          What, you say! Uncorroborated? Why there were 4 gospels that all said the same thing! Yeah, but the other 3 copied the stories from the first one. That's not corroboration, that's plagiarism.

          October 22, 2013 at 5:21 pm |
        • I wonder

          Yes, Enjay, if not actual plagiarism, it could have been mimicry.

          It's just weird that Paul of Tarsus didn't know any of that stuff. Yeah, I know he was busy bloviating about other things, but you'd sure think that he'd at least know The Lord's Prayer - purportedly direct from the lips of Jesus (and Paul allegedly heard directly from him). Paul said that we don't even know how to pray. Know why? It wasn't composed until after Paul died.

          October 22, 2013 at 5:33 pm |
    • mk

      Why live your entire life in fear?

      October 21, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
    • mk

      "... their beliefs will have directed them to try to live better lives and help others do the same."

      This is where the fallacy lies: your religion makes you a better person.

      October 21, 2013 at 1:55 pm |
    • niknak

      F you and your god and your "moral superiority."

      Last time I checked, you believers get divorced at a higher rate, make up the lion's share of the prison population, have less education, have more children out of wedlock, and are less likely to be happy compared to us non believers.

      October 21, 2013 at 2:19 pm |
      • banana

        P R I S O N ! Girlfriend

        October 21, 2013 at 11:34 pm |
        • Susan StoHelit

          It's the truth – go review the stats.

          In prison, there's a disproportionately SMALL number of atheists/agnostics. We are less likely to commit crimes than the general population.

          October 22, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
      • Passing observation

        Of course most of the prisoners have "found Jesus" and probably while they were in there. It looks good on a resume in there or at least they think so.
        Find out what they were before they got caught.

        October 22, 2013 at 9:25 pm |
    • Colin

      Has it never seemed absurd to you that a god would create a race of humans, provide absolutely no evidence of his existence and then spend all eternity torturing those who drew the eminently reasonable conclusion that he does not exist?

      October 21, 2013 at 2:38 pm |
      • niknak

        Even more absurd is creating people, like tribes in the Amazon, who will never even hear about Jeebus or the babble, then torture them for all eternity for "not believing" in it.

        But apparently this "all loving father" thing is really just a cruel a zz whipe and only seems to care about people worshiping it.
        I guess after making the universe and all, it had nothing better to do for 13 billions years except wait around for us to come along and stroke it's ego.

        If it exists, phuck it all the more.

        October 21, 2013 at 2:53 pm |
        • Paul

          "Even more absurd is creating people, like tribes in the Amazon, who will never even hear about Jeebus or the babble, then torture them for all eternity for "not believing" in it."

          That's a straw man argument – something atheists are good at. Try asking what happens to those who have never heard of Jesus instead of making assumptions.

          October 21, 2013 at 3:22 pm |
        • Richard Cranium

          That's an easy one, and you will let your bible do the thinking so you think there is only one answer. In addition to your answer, people who have not heard of your god, will sometimes make their own up, like those who created your bible.
          People who do not kknow, oftem make up their own answers...your bible is a prime example of that.

          October 21, 2013 at 3:30 pm |
        • Brother Maynard

          Paul sez
          "Try asking what happens to those who have never heard of Jesus instead of making assumptions."
          I'll play
          What happens to those who have never heard of Jesus - FAIR WARNING I'm setting you up for a big fall !!

          October 21, 2013 at 3:34 pm |
    • Observer


      If you're wrong, then many of you have used a false book to try to justify making gays feel guilty for "how God created them" or used it to pretend it talks about abortion or to justify telling people they deserve to be in hell. That's one huge "oops!"

      October 21, 2013 at 3:26 pm |
      • banana

        Shut up hoghead. U support snake

        October 21, 2013 at 11:32 pm |
    • Brother Maynard

      aallen333 sez:
      "Why roll the dice with your soul"
      Define 'soul' first

      October 21, 2013 at 3:57 pm |
  9. Fred

    Atheism is a belief system by definition.

    October 21, 2013 at 9:10 am |
    • Sara

      No, a belief system contains multiple connected beliefs. Atheism is either the lack of belief ingods (zero beliefs) or the belief there is no god (one). In neither form does it reach the definition of a belief "system".

      October 21, 2013 at 9:18 am |
      • Darwin

        Not sure your definition of "belief system" is anything more then your own fabrication...

        October 21, 2013 at 11:41 am |
        • Sara

          Well, you could try looking it up then, or maybe getting through freshman year at your local community college which would hopefully cover such basic concepts. Go ahead...look it up and post the definition that shows me how wrong I am. I'm not in the habit of defining terms your average 20 year old understands, but if you come back with gibberish, I'll waste 10 minutes for you.

          October 21, 2013 at 11:21 pm |
      • Kev

        Merriam Webster Dictionary:Main Entry: athe·ism Pronunciation: \ˈā-thē-ˌi-zəm\Function: nounEtymology: Middle Frenchathéisme, from athée atheist, from Greek atheos godless, from a- + theos godDate: 15461 archaic : ungodliness,wickedness 2 a : a disbelief in the existence of deity b : the doctrine that there is no deity

        So, then is atheism a mere lack of belief in something, or is it a belief (as opposed to a belief system whatever that means) in the doctrine that there is no deity?

        October 21, 2013 at 3:03 pm |
        • Sara

          Do you belive in the doctrine that there is no Easter bunny?

          Get past that silly terminology, yes, atheism is used in both ways, and yes, I consider that a problem but it is unlikely to go away.

          October 21, 2013 at 11:25 pm |
        • Kev

          What difference does it make what I may or may not believe in have on the point regarding atheism being considered a belief?

          October 22, 2013 at 9:47 pm |
      • Tom, Tom, the Other One

        Proabably atheists who enoy debating beliefs about gods do have well-considered beliefs on the existence of gods. I'm sure there are people for whom belief in gods never rises to the level of consideration. I admire them, but some of us have to get our hands dirty.

        October 21, 2013 at 11:27 pm |
    • Lisa

      Sure, we believe in things that are real, or as real as hard evidence can suggest.

      October 21, 2013 at 9:34 am |
      • Lisa

        In context, I suppose, I should clarify that atheism is just an answer to one particular question: do gods exist? Yes, you're a theist, no you're an atheist. Both are answers that people personally decide for themselves, and we can, and have argued about how people have made those decisions in places like this, and elsewhere. When it come to what I actually believe in, the above pretty much sums it up.

        October 21, 2013 at 9:39 am |
        • banana

          O dodo. How could we live without knowing that?

          October 22, 2013 at 4:59 am |
    • Cleetus Alreetus Alrightus

      Atheism = lack of belief in god. Not a "belief system".............. Stop pulling crap out of your dumb azz.

      October 21, 2013 at 9:43 am |
    • Bill

      I’m a Christian but I don’t think Atheism is a belief system.


      October 21, 2013 at 9:49 am |
      • Steve

        Yes Bill, Friends.

        October 21, 2013 at 11:24 am |
    • mk

      The only thing that signifies an atheist is the fact that they do not believe in a god(s). Other than that, there is no "system". There are no books or rules, there are no conjectures about what happens when we die, there are no leaders to be followed, nothing.

      I could use the word "belief" to say "I don't have a belief in a god(s)", but that would be like saying "I don't have a belief in elves". Do you believe in elves, Fred?

      October 21, 2013 at 10:42 am |
    • EnjaySea

      It's a-theism, not a-belief.

      We don't believe in a god. That doesn't mean we don't believe in belief. There are lots of other things I also don't believe in: Santa Clause, the Tooth Fairy, unicorns, and ghosts, to name a few. You can call those belief systems too if that makes you feel better.

      October 21, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
    • JA

      If atheism is a belief system, then bald is a hair color and not collecting stamps is a hobby.

      October 21, 2013 at 2:25 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      No Fred, it literally means without god.

      October 21, 2013 at 2:41 pm |
      • I wonder

        Well, the "-ism" part of the word tags it as:

        a : act : practice : process
        b : manner of action or behavior characteristic of a (specified) person or thing
        c : prejudice or discrimination on the basis of a (specified) attribute

        I suppose one could say that atheism is a lack of theism, however.

        October 21, 2013 at 3:17 pm |
      • Paul

        And "agnositc" means "ignorant"

        October 21, 2013 at 3:25 pm |
        • Observer


          Speaking of ignorant, have you read the Bible yet to see what it says about slavery?

          October 21, 2013 at 3:28 pm |
        • Paul

          Yes, I have. I'm not ignorant about what it says. But you believe the opposite. And since you made the claim that the Bible supports it, the onus is on you to defend your position. Once you do, I'll be glad to show you how you're wrong.

          October 21, 2013 at 7:53 pm |
        • Sean Lynch

          The bible supports slavery throughout Paul -not just the OT:
          Leviticus 25:44-46
          Exodus 21:7-11
          Exodus 21:20-21
          Ephesians 6:5
          1 Timothy 6:1-2
          Luke 12:47-48

          October 21, 2013 at 8:06 pm |
        • Observer



          (Lev. 25:44-46) “Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. You can bequeath them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly.”

          October 21, 2013 at 7:59 pm |
        • Paul

          So if a journalist reports that there's slavery going on in some part of the world, that must mean the the journalist supports slavery because he or she reported on it?

          You read the word "slave" and you think antebellum slavery. But that's not what was going on. In Bible times, "slavery" was more a matter of social status. People sold themselves as "slaves" when they could not pay their debts or provide for their families. The word is more acurately translated as "bondservent" and it was completely voluntary. And there were laws on how they were to be treated. They were not allowed to be mistreated.
          The antebellum type of slavery was outlawed. "Anyone who kidnaps another and either sells him or still has him when he is caught must be put to death.) Exodus 21:16

          October 21, 2013 at 9:35 pm |
        • Observer


          So now your story is that the Bible supports slavery, but it's the "good kind". You know, the kind where you can beat your beloved elderly female "servant" with a rod WITHOUT PUNISHMENT.

          Your switching story and excuses keep getting more and more ridiculous.

          "They were not allowed to be mistreated." Absolute nonsense. Read a Bible someday.

          So being beaten with a rod is not "mistreatment" to you. I pity any kids you might have if you are that cruel to them..

          October 21, 2013 at 9:45 pm |
        • Paul

          "So now your story is that the Bible supports slavery, but it's the "good kind"."

          You used the word "slavery" as its used in the context of the antebellem south. I told you that's not what was going on. They worked for someone for food. They also worked to pay off debts. Again, it was voluntary. But if you need to keep on misunderstanding it to justify your atheism, there's nothing I can do about that.

          October 21, 2013 at 10:50 pm |
        • Observer


          "Again, it was voluntary"

          (Exodus 21:7-8) “If a man sells his daughter as a slave, the rules for setting her free are different from the rules for setting the male slaves free. If the master wanted to marry her but then decided he was not pleased with her, he must let one of her close relatives buy her back.” [God]

          Where does it say SHE volunteers and sells herself? Where does it say SHE wanted to marry him?

          Please read a Bible so you have some clue what it says.

          October 21, 2013 at 11:01 pm |
        • Get Real

          "So if a journalist reports that there's slavery going on in some part of the world, that must mean the the journalist supports slavery because he or she reported on it?"

          "Moses" was not just "reporting" what was going on. He claimed that "The Lord spake all these words..." and slave ownership- for-life was fine. Oh goody, they could not "kidnap" them – they could only buy them or collect them as spoils of war - well, isn't that SPECIAL!

          It is you who are twisting things to hang on to your fantasy.

          October 21, 2013 at 11:23 pm |
        • Get Real


          It is so obvious that these laws came from the minds of ethnocentric Hebrew moguls. Perhaps they did help to unite and to tame the unruly primitives, but there is/was nothing "divine" about them.

          October 21, 2013 at 11:39 pm |
        • Paul

          You're a moral relativist, right? You believe that morals are relative to different cultures in different times? Then WHY are you judging them based on what you think is moral? It would be irrational for you to do so. You're basically refuting your moral relativist position. But anyway, back to the issue of the Bible and slavery:


          October 22, 2013 at 1:41 am |
        • Paul

          Side note: I'm NOT Paul Copan. We just happen to have the same first name.

          October 22, 2013 at 1:42 am |
        • Observer


          "Observer, You're a moral relativist, right?"

          That's your term, not mine. I believe that morals should be based on trying to examine the realities of life and LOGICALLY anticipate the results of behaviors in terms of benefitting all of us. That is why I find some much "immorality" in the Bible and obviously most Christians do also or they'd follow it closer.

          Apparently unlike you, I believe that most people are "good" and have the intelligence to reason what is likely to happen based on their "moral" choice. The ancient Greeks didn't believe in God, yet were famous for their education, scientists, mathematicians, etc. Certainly, they were too smart to run around killing everyone and they didn't need a book to figure this out for them.

          October 22, 2013 at 1:50 am |
        • Maxwell's Demon

          "You're a moral relativist, right? You believe that morals are relative to different cultures in different times? Then WHY are you judging them based on what you think is moral? It would be irrational for you to do so. You're basically refuting your moral relativist position."

          Non sequitur

          October 23, 2013 at 1:01 am |
    • Sean Lynch

      Fred: "Atheism is a belief system by definition."
      "A"- without
      "theism" – beliefs in gods.
      An atheist lacks belief in god(s) Fred.
      Atheism is not a "belief" that gods do not exist, it is lack of belief.
      It is very difficult for many to understand the difference.
      Consider the following:
      Faith-belief without evidence.
      Faith-belief in spite of evidence.
      What distinguishes the two?

      October 21, 2013 at 5:56 pm |
    • sam stone

      say it all you want, d-bag. doesn't make it so

      October 23, 2013 at 6:15 am |
  10. Sean Lynch

    Sadly fellow creatures I must turn away from this blog because comments coming into my inbox are being removed faster than I can view them in context. Whether a system error, or an overly exuberant moderator flagging posts that don't mention Oprah's opinion of Atheists I don't know. The problem seems specific to this particular CNN belief blog and the random chilling hand of silence seems to be applied equally to theist and atheist comments alike. Thanks to atheists and theists alike for sharing with me. Nytol.

    October 20, 2013 at 11:59 pm |
  11. Dale Little

    "Does Oprah owe atheists an apology?" CNN, are you serious? Bill Maher slanders Christianity almost daily and you ask if Oprah owes atheists apology because of one statement she made reflecting her opinion. If Maher owes Christians an apology, then maybe Oprah owes atheists an apology and if Maher doesn't owe Christians an apology, then neither does Oprah owe atheists an apology.

    October 20, 2013 at 11:03 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      here's the difference...
      when bill rags on christianity for hiding child molesters, not following logic to it's conclusion, attacking science, etc. - those things are true and are rightfully criticized.
      when oprah is so narrow-minded to say atheists can feel love or see beauty - that's just plain ridiculous. it's insulting. it shows a child-like understanding of atheists.

      have a valid complaint about atheists? go for it. but saying ridiculous stuff like that just shows oprah is ignorant enough to play into stereotypes.

      October 21, 2013 at 4:25 am |
    • tallulah13

      She should apologize to her followers for giving them bad information which may end up with them making fools of themselves should they parrot her in future conversations.

      October 21, 2013 at 10:11 am |
    • Sara

      I have no idea what Maher says, but I can't imagine how what anyone else says would be relevant to the question at hand. Was Oprah wrong? Yes. Does Oprah understand that she was wrong? That we don't yet know. Does Oprah being wrong hurt atheists? I would argue yes. because it implies a negative connotation and understanding that aren't reality and that leads to less acceptance? Would apologizing help? Yes, because it would bring the common misunderstanding into the public eye. Should she apologize, then? Yes...if she understands why she was wrong.

      October 21, 2013 at 10:17 am |
    • Maxwell's Demon

      If he has slandered Christians, yes, he owes them an apology. Do you have examples of these slanders?

      October 23, 2013 at 12:59 am |
      • Observer

        Bill Maher is a COMEDIAN. He says outrageous things for laughs and effects. I am not claiming that I agree with his taste in comedy, but that is his profession. There are plenty of comedians that say things that are disgusting to people. That doesn't make them right, but it comes with the territory, to a certain extent. Oprah presents her opinons as serious.

        October 23, 2013 at 1:07 am |
  12. sam stone

    What is a religious person, max? You and your handles love that term. You love "gods" too. "God" is too suggestive of the one you complain about 24/7. You no- the one only deluded republican uneducated rich bigoted two faced shallow do-gooding hypocrites believe in. Yes, the one only pedophile priests and popes believe in and money grubbing televangelists go for, u no! Nothing like Hitler. We have never found anything about that fine christian gentleman that requires a critique. Nothing like Pat Robertson saying something as aweful as trying to be more loving toward your hubby. My gosh man. Hitler never would have forced someone to do something that evil.

    October 20, 2013 at 9:11 pm |
    • Max

      You should apologize for theft, faith, you freaking hypocrite.
      You should apologize for being incoherent, a liar, poor grammar, and trying to censor opinions that differ from your own.
      You should apologize for this:
      Karie called Bible Clown a “disgusting, deviant perverted virus,” and a “Bozo,” before ending with this prediction:

      “Hell is coming for you love. Special dungeon just for u and u won’t be able to die. LOL.LOL.”

      Her various troll names:
      dodo murdock
      bootyfunk (stolen)
      point being
      Dr E
      sam tone
      Meredith S. (Stolen from a 9/11 widow!!
      sam stone (stolen)
      yudhisthira mahabharata jr
      Pharisee DM

      And you should apologize for you CONSTANT name stealing, and using the name of Jesus for doing so. You are, in fact, a hypocrite, and as such, your opinion and proselytizing is a sham and should be dismissed.

      You are shameful. Grow up, you tedious little nothing.

      October 21, 2013 at 3:05 pm |
      • bananas

        I understand you are envious, but don't go nuts. So I'm better than you. Big deal.

        You should know that preparing a defense for your threats is probably a good idea. You are free to do as you wish.

        October 21, 2013 at 9:18 pm |
      • Observer


        Bananas claims to be a Christian. He/she is a constant liar with no regard for honesty, integrity and morals.

        It would be interesting to find out how many Christians want to claim bananas as one of them and a typical Christian. There's a chance that none of them are proud of Bananas either.

        October 22, 2013 at 10:14 pm |
        • dm murdock

          don't judge, dorothy.

          anyway, y r u surprised? u teach they r not to blame, they r merely deluded, brainwashed unintelligent worthless hateful bigots, at least according to your belief system/doctrine

          October 22, 2013 at 10:29 pm |
  13. sam stone

    Personally, agreed. Point being, so, I am thinking that we should all confront snake and insist she apologize for her violent threats and together let her know how everyone one of us will not stand for that kind of illegal behavior again.

    October 20, 2013 at 8:55 pm |
    • sam stone

      You agree, point being, so, right Observer?

      October 20, 2013 at 8:57 pm |
      • Max

        You need to grow the heck up already, and stop stealing names in the name of Jesus. Point being, you're a hypocrite, and you have no credibility.

        October 21, 2013 at 3:24 pm |
        • bananas

          I recommend repentance, fasting and unceasing prayer

          October 21, 2013 at 9:19 pm |
        • bananas

          When u realize u r blind, sight is around the corner. God holds u in the palm of his hand while u seek for him like mad; all the while u blindly travel nowhere fast when all u r looking for surrounds and sustains u

          October 21, 2013 at 10:21 pm |
  14. aallen333

    Deductive reasoning should point anyone with an opened mind toward a creator. The shear complexity and diversity of intelligent life eliminates any possibility of this complexity and diversity occurring without someone orchestrating it. It would be the same as saying a symphony can be created without an intelligent mind creating the precise instruments, without intelligent minds wielding the instruments and a without a maestro directing the intelligent minds. In fact claiming life can occur by mere chance and coincidence without any director is far more incredulous because as complex as a symphony can become, it does not even come close to the complexity and precision of life.

    October 20, 2013 at 8:30 pm |
    • cookworth

      Then who created the immensely complex and intelligent creator?

      October 20, 2013 at 8:57 pm |
      • bananas


        October 20, 2013 at 9:14 pm |
        • bananas

          Or Shirley. Could a been Shirley.

          October 21, 2013 at 9:20 pm |
      • Paul

        Your assuming God needs a creator. Whatever BEGINS to exist, must have a cause. Since God is eternal, He doesn't need a cause.

        October 20, 2013 at 9:57 pm |
        • Cpt. Obvious

          Why assume that god is eternal? And why assume that all things that begin to exist must have a cause? Are you familiar with the properties evident in quantum fields? Virtual particles pop in and out of existence trillions of times each second at every possible point in the universe. No cause that we can determine. It may as well be magic, but we know that it occurs.

          You're just assuming what you want to in order to continue to believe what you want to with no other good reasons. You're not interested in scientific fact or logical deduction, you're interested in your talking points.

          But while you're doing al that stupid sh!t, why not get the "your" / "you're" distinction down, m'kay?

          October 20, 2013 at 11:11 pm |
        • Susan StoHelit

          Nope – you can't say the amazing universe must have a creator – but that something more complex than the universe – an all powerful being able to create a universe from nothing – doesn't require a creator.

          October 21, 2013 at 2:06 am |
        • sam stone

          And you are assuming that a creator is synonymous with a god

          October 21, 2013 at 3:24 am |
        • Lisa

          Who says God is eternal? Sure it's in the Bible, but that's only the opinion of some ancient men about the god they worship. How could such a being actually exist?

          October 21, 2013 at 8:13 am |
    • tallulah13

      The deductive reasoning of ancient humans led them to believe in creators. It's quite understandable how scientifically naive people would reason that a super-human was responsible for everything. Now that we can understand many of the mechanisms that allow the universe to function, belief in god is left firmly in the realm of wishful thinking or ignorance.

      October 20, 2013 at 9:08 pm |
      • bananas

        Well said, Tallulah. Well said. Amen

        October 20, 2013 at 9:16 pm |
    • Sean Lynch

      @aallen333, It's easy to to be incredulous. Consider the vast scale of time. Success is rewarded with survival and reproduction over time. Failure is less likely to propagate. Success builds upon previous gains...constantly but randomly improving over eons...billions of years. Have you considered how many average human lifetimes a hundred, thousand, million or billion years is? How many summer days?
      We see patterns because brains are organic self programming pattern matching machines.
      If you could repeat your life a hundred million times in a changing environment and rarely repeat the same mistakes, and slowly but constantly improve your performance what could you become in those endless summers?

      October 20, 2013 at 9:50 pm |
  15. Atheist Superhero

    Get out and buy the new comic book series on atheist superheros!


    October 20, 2013 at 7:21 pm |
    • Paul

      Looks like the atheist superheros use the same straw man fallacies.

      "They interfere with humanity because the BLIND FAITH of mankind makes them powerful...and that's why our DOUBT is our greatest weapon."

      Christians don't have a blind faith. Faith means to have trust and confidence. And doubt is not the opposite of faith, unbelief is.

      October 20, 2013 at 7:28 pm |
      • In Santa we trust

        Paul, The creation myths of all religions are not correct; science including Big Bang and evolution shows us that. The creation myths are the "credentials" of that religion's god(s) and therefore religions based upon a personal god are built on a flimsy foundation.

        October 20, 2013 at 9:14 pm |
        • bananas

          O Santa baby, beautiful. Gosh. Perfectly put

          October 20, 2013 at 9:18 pm |
        • Paul

          "The creation myths of all religions are not correct; science including Big Bang and evolution shows us that."

          The Big Bang theory shows us that the universe had a beginning. The Bible says the universe has a beginning. The Bible says animals reproduce after their own kind. Science shows that animals reproduce after their own kind. What's never been observed is one kind of animal giving rise to another kind of animal. But yet evolutionists believe, yes believe, that it happened sometime in the past.

          October 20, 2013 at 10:07 pm |
        • Cpt. Obvious

          Paul, you should educate yourself more to stop from looking so foolish in your comments.

          The Big Bang does not prove that the universe had a beginning. The Big Bang is an ongoing process that strongly, strongly implies that at one time the universe was infinitely tiny and hot and dense. We simply don't know if the universe had a beginning, because we cannot measure any time before the initial expansion.

          There is no such thing as "kind," you stupid moron. If you want to discuss scientific facts, perhaps you had better talk about actual classifications of flora and fauna and make your silly point that has been disproved a half a million times in the past decade.

          October 20, 2013 at 10:46 pm |
      • Lisa

        I've heard it many times before, in order to trust what the Bible says about God you first have to assume that God exists, blindly. Or vice versa, blindly assume that the Bible is true first and then take it at its word about God. Either way, Christians are told to believe in God first and then God will "reveal" himself to them. How is that not starting from a position of blind faith?

        October 21, 2013 at 8:20 am |
    • Paul

      S.H.O.O.T. – The Secular Humanist Occult Obliteration Taskforce

      The Humanist Manifest explicitly states that it's a religion of humanism. Even the Supreme Court ruled that secular humanism is a religion. I thought atheists claim to be non-religious. So why do some join the religion of secular humanism?

      October 20, 2013 at 7:49 pm |
      • Robert J.W.

        This will clear up your misunderstanding about Secular Humanism and prove you simply wrong.


        October 20, 2013 at 9:49 pm |
        • Paul

          The article said nothing about the fact that the Humanist Manifesto explicitly states that it's a religion.

          October 20, 2013 at 10:01 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Oh, no thanks. If you want a really great graphic novel series, try the one based on Stephen King's Dark Tower books. The art is just amazing.

      October 20, 2013 at 9:01 pm |
    • Pete

      In the DC comics universe Batman is an atheist, while Wonder Woman is a polytheist who believes (and interacts with) the Greek Gods. She was even a Goddess there for a while.

      In both the DC and Marvel comics universes Catholic superheroes tend to be the darker, more violent ones.

      October 21, 2013 at 10:02 am |
  16. Douglas

    Our celibate youth group is out and proud!

    Thanks for your support to these outstanding youth who have chosen to reject the
    lies spread through social media and have jettisoned fornication.

    With "eyes set like flint" on the Lord they will prevail!

    October 20, 2013 at 6:48 pm |
    • Observer

      Beware of AMATEURS "practicing psychology'.

      The PROFESSIONALS say it's not a good thing to try to make gays feel guilty and change them.

      October 20, 2013 at 7:34 pm |
    • Sara

      What church do you belong to, because I find this an unlikely claim and suspect you are lying.

      October 21, 2013 at 9:21 am |
      • bananas

        The lying liar, the fraud of frsuds, questions someone's honesty.

        October 24, 2013 at 8:04 am |
  17. Kate

    Prophecies which came true – Floods, earthquakes, Pope Benedict resignation. Watch and find out what is really going on.

    October 20, 2013 at 5:49 pm |
  18. Joe

    Oh Diana... You stepped into it (twice!) and Oprah rightfully called you on it! Why identify yourself as atheist and then shy away from it? Disclaimer: I didn't see the whole interview and I am basing my comment solely on what I saw in the CNN clip. Diana said: "My definition of God is... (humanity)". I am sorry, but that implies belief in God, whatever one thinks a god may be. Then she tweets: "So, God is love..." That's even more affirmative statement on existence of God! God IS – therefore God EXISTS. If I didn't know that Diana declares herself as atheist, I would think she is in some way religious based on those statements. Oprah rightfully challenged her on it from a philosophical and logical aspect and I would do the same. There is no reason to soften our non-belief to appease a believer by ridiculous statements such as: God is love, God is humanity, God is an ocean, God is a race car, God is a PS3, God is this and that. We already have the words for these concepts and there is no need to muddy the discussion. As atheists, our stance is very very simple – we do not believe in the existence of any gods or other supernatural beings. Oprah does not owe an apology to anyone; rather, Diana needs to rephrase her statements and stop using the " God IS ___" phrase.

    October 20, 2013 at 5:00 pm |
  19. Sean Lynch

    If you are concerned with missing comments please take a moment to contact CNN technical support:
    --->What I reported:
    There seems to be a technical issue with comments on the CNN wordpress blog:

    Many are reporting hundreds of comments are going missing on the blog above. Too many comments are missing to attribute the problem to individuals abusing the "report abuse" feature.
    We are unable to contact wordpress to resolve the issue.
    We are using this link:
    to report the issue.
    Please route this issue to the appropriate wordpress support and IT security personnel.
    Thank you for your attention in this matter.

    October 20, 2013 at 4:42 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.