(Atheist) Soul to (Religious) Soul?

Oprah Winfrey apparently has a segment on her network’s program Super Soul Sunday called Soul to Soul. In one episode she talks with swimmer Diana Nyad. It was an interesting conversation in that Nyad flatly says she is an atheist but uses the words god, soul, and spirit to describe various emotional states relating to the awe that she feels about the wonders of the world.

Oprah seems to be happy with this, saying that having this sense of awe means that she does not consider Nyad to be an atheist, which suggests that she does not mind that Nyad is coopting words that normally have specific religious meanings to denote purely secular phenomena. I do not know if Nyad does this deliberately to deflect criticism about her atheism but if so, it worked with Winfrey.

Winfrey calls herself a Christian but she has been accused of having such a loose view of her religion that some have said that she is really a pantheist.

Whatever, this is yet another case of a well-known person letting it be known that she is an atheist. You can see the exchange here.


  1. brucegee1962 says

    I’ve seen this phenomenon sometimes. I think that the internal monologue often goes like this: “You say you are an atheist. However, I know for a fact that all atheists are horrible, amoral monsters. You clearly are not a horrible, amoral monster. Therefor you must only think you’re an atheist, whereas in fact you aren’t really one at all.”

  2. doublereed says

    The only proper reply I can think of is “Well if that’s your view of God then I don’t really consider you a Christian.”

  3. NitricAcid says

    I would have liked the reply to be, “By the same kind of logic, you must be wearing makeup, because you can’t really be black.”

  4. colnago80 says

    Winfrey is also into all matter of medical woo. ORAC (Dr. David Gorski) has multiple threads on his blog (Respectful Insolence over at Scienceblogs) about her embrace of quackery.

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