Diana Nyad, swam to Cuba fame (atheist) squares up w/ Oprah on atheism!?!?!? 2013!

Frank Furedi:

Oprah is wrong. Atheists can experience wonder and awe

Those who believe in God do not have a monopoly over possession of that magnificent sense of the sublime


In one sense Oprah Winfrey was absolutely right when she lectured the humanist swimmer Diana Nyad about the inconsistency of the outlook of atheism with a sense of awe. For Oprah, a woman of faith, the sense of wonder and awe are inextricably intertwined with religion and God.

Indeed since the emergence of the Judeo-Christian tradition, awe is the mandatory reaction that the true believer is required to have towards God. From this perspective the sense awe and wonder is bounded and regulated through the medium of religious doctrine. In contrast, those of us who believe that it was not God but humans who are the real creators are unlikely to stand in awe of this allegedly omnipotent figure.

Although in the 21st century the term awe and awesome are used colloquially to connote amazement and admiration historically these words communicated feelings of powerlessness, fear and dread. The Oxford English Dictionary tells us, that awe means ‘immediate and active fear; terror, dread’. The OED explains that from its original reference to the Divine Being it has acquired a variety of different meanings, such as ‘dread mingled with veneration’ and ‘reverential or respectful fear’. All these meanings signal one important idea which that ‘fearing’ and ‘dreading’ are inherently positive attributes to be encouraged.

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God is a personification of awe. 

It's like a believer in Zeus saying "if there were no Zeus there would be no thunder".  They think this because they believe that Zeus IS thunder. 

So perhaps Oprah similarly believes that God IS awe.

Oprah saying that without God you lose awe - and making no sense to atheists - is similar to the oft-repeated exchange where a Christian says "without God I'd be raping and murdering", and the atheists are shocked and make fun of the Christian.

In reality it seems to be a misunderstanding, on both sides. 

The Christians have this image of God, which is where they put their sense of awe, their sense of goodness, of higher purpose. 

When they try to think of what it would be like not to have that "God" in their lives - they are thinking from the standpoint of a believer.  With the metaphysics of a believer. 

So what they are saying, translated, is "Without my sense of awe, without any goodness in me, without a higher purpose, I would not experience awe and I might rape and murder". 

Atheists are shocked at this - but that's because they don't understand that the believer is talking out of a different metaphysics. 

I'm not certain it's even worth invoking metaphysics at this point.  The believer makes ASSUMPTIONS regarding what is associated with what, mostly because of their own indoctrination.  Throw in Psalms 14:1 and they make atheists out to be amoral as a matter of course.  This also owes to the likelihood that few believers have actually knowingly MET an atheist.

Then, once they DO meet an atheist, they have to try to reconcile what they've been taught with the reality of the person in front of them.  They will frequently be up against the rigidity of the doctrine they've been fed and breaking out of that won't be easy.  The sad thing is that one might think that Oprah, being the globetrotter that she is, would be more sophisticated and less parochial about atheism, especially considering how it has grown over the past decade or so.

That Oprah can't get past her own knee-jerk reaction to someone who doesn't believe as she does belies her supposed experience and knowledge of the world as well as her position in the media ... not that any of that ever impressed me to begin with.


They have a fundamentally different picture of reality in their minds, that's what I mean by metaphysics.  As in, our metaphysics is that we have a physical world.  A religious person's metaphysics is that there is a physical world + some kind of presence or consciousness that incorporates their sense of virtue, awe, etc. and has great power over the physical world.

In the context of this belief, when they try to imagine the world without God, what they imagine is losing that sense of virtue, awe, etc.  That is the obvious conclusion, given their world view.   But to atheists, that conclusion doesn't make sense because they don't share that world view. 

Stuff about atheists being immoral is that same conclusion. 

I met an ex-religious person once who told me that "God" was a part of himself that he had projected out into the world (and ascribed all sorts of power to).  When he lost his faith, "God" came back into himself.  This makes lots of sense to me, that this is what religious people are doing. 

Someone posted a clip from the Oprah interview in which she's actually trying to include the atheist under the umbrella of religion - saying that having that awe and wonder means that someone believes in God.  Which is consistent with the idea that she conceives of awe, virtue, etc. as something all wrapped up into "God". 

Sorry ... I'm an engineer.  I have PHYSICS.  To me, saying that someone has "metaphysics" is the same as saying that they're full of shit.  Same difference.

We do have a metaphysics, but it's a simple one. 

From the atheist standpoint, religion looks like tacking a god onto the physical world.  But that is also not true because what the religious person is doing, even though they don't realize it, is taking an inner experiences and parts of their own psychology, to be God. 

A person's metaphysics is the framework for physical reality that follows from their theory of truth.  Just as science is knowledge about the world that follows from the scientific method. 

Nontheists want to see factual evidence before they'll accept something as true.  So our metaphysics says "nothing other than the physical world exists, and our thoughts are part of the physical world". 

Religious people accept as truth, things that feel right.  So their metaphysics has a physical world, plus a context for it that feels right to them. 

I read a blog once by someone who had converted to Catholicism, because she said that it ... felt right to her.  Somehow it was in harmony with her.  She said "that may not be proof enough in a science lab but it's proof enough for me".  Equating "feels right" with "logically right" was a novel idea for me.   But I can sort of see how it works.  She was assuming that her inner experience is inherently right, has the authority to make claims about truth.  She was in awe of her own heart and soul. 

metaphysics / full os shit ..... metafeces.

by the way the medical abbreviation for really really constipated is FOS.... :-)


I was just online yesterday looking at a picture from a telescope in Chile that portrayed a photo of a deep space Black Hole devouring everything around.  As I scrolled through the photos there was one which showed the relative position of the Black whole from a more Earthlike perspective.  I was awed by the sheer number of stars shown in that picture.  It looked like somebody had poured a container of salt over the photo.

I just never realized that there were so friggin many in such a limited parsec perspective.


It reminded me of the line in the movie "2001-A Space Odessy" as Dave is being transported into another dimension. As he begins his journey he is shown a perspective of the universe and he says with breathless awe "My God, it's full of stars" 


Of course, as an atheist I could do without the "g" reference,  but that was exactly my reaction when I saw that photo of deep space. It was "Something wonderful".

Yes.. there aspects of this universe that made humans believe in God

As we pear deeper into the universe.. we learn more about the truth

Some nights I wonder if I am a moth in a cocoon and get out when I die. But then again I am not banking on it

Yes, fully filled with a sense of wonder




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