Tag Archives: Oprah Winfrey

A liberal feminist comedian, her beliefs about God and how she formed them

Consider this article written by a liberal ex-Catholic woman whose 7-year-old daughter is an atheist.

First the biography of the author:

Carolyn Castiglia is a New York-based comedian/writer wowing audiences with her stand-up and freestyle rap. You may recognize her hip-hop alter ego Miss CKC from Comedy Central, VH1 and MTV2. Carolyn’s web vids have been nominated for an ECNY Award and featured in two issues of EW magazine. She’s appeared in TONYThe NY PostThe Idiot’s Guide to Jokes and Life & Style. You can find Carolyn’s writing elsewhere online at MarieClaire.com and The Huffington Post.

Look at what she wrote:

I was raised Catholic, and like most people my age who were raised Catholic, I no longer attend church on Sundays. We’re “recovering Catholics.” That’s what so many of us call ourselves. We’re still disgusted with the Church for the way it covered up the sex abuse perpetrated against my generation and roll our eyes at the Church’s stance on things like abortion, gay marriage and women’s rights.

[…]I learned a lot about being a Good Person from the things I heard in church… I wanted to be a Good Person, not just because only Good People go to Heaven. I just liked the idea. The meek shall inherit the Earth. It sounded right. Somehow all this sh*t I’m swallowing now, it’s gonna pay off later.

I’m pretty much agnostic now (sometimes believing more strongly, other times thinking the concept of God is kind of a joke), but I value the way the idea of God has gotten me through the rough patches. And that has been the payoff. Somehow this notion that there is a giant man in the sky with long hair and a big robe who will hug you from heaven if you need it and carry you on the beach when you’ve had one too many wine coolers to walk without falling down and getting sand all up in your bikini has been very comforting to me. The image of Jesus but as God but totally as a bro (a homeboy, if you will), there’s something righteous about it, if you know what I mean.

But the way I imagine God has changed over the years — He’s gone from being a person, a man, to being more of a Thing, a notion. Goodness. The Oneness of the Universe. With something female in there. The energy that keeps the whole thing afloat. God as I know it now when I know it is kind of a cocktail made from a shot of Buddhism, a shot of feminist activism and a splash of ginger ale (because that, my friends, is something you can always count on).

Now the Christians who are reading this will be cringing because we know that these beliefs are not taken out of the Bible. She seems to be speaking more about her opinions rather than what is true. She doesn’t seem to be focused on finding truth, but more on being a “good person” and having God as a crutch to pull out if she falls down while pursuing her own plan.

She’s wrong that “good people” go to Heaven. Only people who accept Jesus as their leader (Lord) and accept his death as a sacrifice for their rebellion against God (Savior) are resurrected to eternal life. If she is a relativist, then I guess what she means by being a “good person” is that she thinks of herself as good and that the people around her think of her as good. However, the main purpose of Christianity is not to be a good person, or to have people like you or to be happy and comforted.  The main goal of Christian living is to puzzle about the truth about God’s existence and character, and then to re-prioritize your life based on who Jesus is and what Jesus has done for us. So the focus in Christianity is on truth, and that’s what her church should have taught her from a young age. And we are the ones who must read the Bible, we must not rely on someone else to do it for us.

But there is more to her story – her child has been affected by her problematic views of Christianity and God.

She writes:

My daughter, on the other hand, at the ripe old age of 7, is convinced that there is no God. Not even a god. Yup, my kid’s an atheist. And she pretty much has been since she was 5.

It’s not for lack of exposure to God or god or even gods and spirituality, because she has attended Church and church and a UU “church” and it has made no impact. We’ve prayed together. I talk about God sometimes, in a good way. When I asked her recently why she doesn’t believe in God she told me, succinctly, “Because I know too much about science!”

Is it a good idea to take scientific advice from a 7-year-old child? I think that we should instead prefer to learn from scholars who research and debate issues in science and religion, and then teach the child based on what we have learned. This is why it was so important to emphasize how people arrive at true beliefs in the church. If she had done the work herself to arrive at true beliefs, then she would know what to say to her child’s presumptuousness.

More:

The other night over dinner my daughter looked up at me and said, “Who created the Earth?” And I said, “Well, some people believe that God created the Earth, and some people believe that nature is a creation unto itself.” My daughter replied, “I think nature is a creation unto itself.” I said, “You know, you’re pretty staunch about the fact that there is no God.” And she told me, “Well, I don’t think he exists. If he does, he’s a ghost, and that’s weird. I just don’t believe it. You know, there are Universes beyond our Universe. Once you get outside the Milky Way galaxy, there’s a lot more stuff out there.”

Wow. When I was 7 I didn’t know there was a world outside my town.

So the universe created itself? How could it create itself? It would have to have existed in order to do anything, including create. So it would have to have existed… before it began to exist. That’s a contradiction, and so it cannot be true. Funny how kids decide whether God exists or not without knowing what they are talking about. It’s the parents’ job to be able to guide the discussion, not just sit there.

She continues:

Oh sure, my mother thinks raising a child without religion is dangerous. “I understand you don’t think she needs God now, Carolyn. But you gotta give her religion so it’s there for her when she needs it later.” When the shit hits the fan, when everything falls apart. When you realize there is no one but God you can trust.

See, here is where she needs someone to point out that it’s not God’s job to help you through crises or make you happy. No one who reads the Bible thinks that God is our cosmic butler. We know from reading the Bible that he has purposes that are different from our purpose to be happy.

Carolyn Castiglia: a liberal feminist comedian and her beliefs about God

Note: Earlier versions of this post were edited and proof-read by Mary and Dina, whose help I greatly appreciate.

I noticed this article that was mentioned on the latest Reasonable Faith podcast. The article is written by a liberal ex-Catholic woman whose 7-year-old daughter is an atheist. What I want to focus on is her own article on Babble.com, but I really recommend that you listen to Bill Craig’s commentary on it as well.

First the biography of the author:

Carolyn Castiglia is a New York-based comedian/writer wowing audiences with her stand-up and freestyle rap. You may recognize her hip-hop alter ego Miss CKC from Comedy Central, VH1 and MTV2. Carolyn’s web vids have been nominated for an ECNY Award and featured in two issues of EW magazine. She’s appeared in TONYThe NY PostThe Idiot’s Guide to Jokes and Life & Style. You can find Carolyn’s writing elsewhere online at MarieClaire.com and The Huffington Post.

Look at what she wrote:

I was raised Catholic, and like most people my age who were raised Catholic, I no longer attend church on Sundays. We’re “recovering Catholics.” That’s what so many of us call ourselves. We’re still disgusted with the Church for the way it covered up the sex abuse perpetrated against my generation and roll our eyes at the Church’s stance on things like abortion, gay marriage and women’s rights.

[…]I learned a lot about being a Good Person from the things I heard in church… I wanted to be a Good Person, not just because only Good People go to Heaven. I just liked the idea. The meek shall inherit the Earth. It sounded right. Somehow all this shit I’m swallowing now, it’s gonna pay off later.

I’m pretty much agnostic now (sometimes believing more strongly, other times thinking the concept of God is kind of a joke), but I value the way the idea of God has gotten me through the rough patches. And that has been the payoff. Somehow this notion that there is a giant man in the sky with long hair and a big robe who will hug you from heaven if you need it and carry you on the beach when you’ve had one too many wine coolers to walk without falling down and getting sand all up in your bikini has been very comforting to me. The image of Jesus but as God but totally as a bro (a homeboy, if you will), there’s something righteous about it, if you know what I mean.

But the way I imagine God has changed over the years — He’s gone from being a person, a man, to being more of a Thing, a notion. Goodness. The Oneness of the Universe. With something female in there. The energy that keeps the whole thing afloat. God as I know it now when I know it is kind of a cocktail made from a shot of Buddhism, a shot of feminist activism and a splash of ginger ale (because that, my friends, is something you can always count on).

Now the Christians who are reading this will be cringing because we know that these beliefs are not taken out of the Bible. She seems to be speaking more about her opinions rather than what is true. She doesn’t seem to be focused on finding truth, but more on being a “good person” and having God as a crutch to pull out if she falls down while pursuing her own plan.

She’s wrong that “good people” go to Heaven. Only people who accept Jesus as their leader (Lord) and accept his death as a sacrifice for their rebellion against God (Savior) are resurrected to eternal life. If she is a relativist, then I guess what she means by being a “good person” is that she thinks of herself as good and that the people around her think of her as good. However, the main purpose of Christianity is not to be a good person, or to have people like you or to be happy and comforted.  The main goal of Christian living is to puzzle about the truth about God’s existence and character, and then to re-prioritize your life based on who God is and what God has done. So the focus in Christianity is on truth, and that’s what her church should have taught her from a young age.

In my opinion, the Catholic church is NOT a good place to learn the full story about what the Bible says about God, nor to learn the importance of searching for truth over and above being a “good person”. It’s not surprising to me that she would catch the idea from Catholicism that God is more interested in humans being good to other people than in having true beliefs. In my experience, Catholics emphasize doing good works more than they emphasize having true beliefs that are rooted in evidence rather than church tradition and authority. Catholics believe many things that are not in the Bible or history based on authority.

For example, Jesus strictly forbids calling church leaders “Father” in Matthew 23:1-12, as well as having elaborate garments for church leaders. But the Catholic church has an entire hierarchy of titles from Father to Holy Father, as well as special uniforms for church leaders up to and including elaborate costumes for the pope. Catholicism claims that Jesus has no brothers and sisters, but the Bible (and history!) says he had brothers and sisters, including James, whose role in the early church is solidly attested by history. Catholicism says that Mary was bodily assumed into Heaven, but there is no record of that tradition in history for 700 years after Jesus died. The earliest records even have a burial location for her. Catholics also embrace inclusivism, which is the idea that you can be made right with God by being a sincere adherent of a religion that does not teach the truth about who Jesus was and what he did. So clearly the emphasis there is not on having true beliefs.

Those are just a few examples. The Catholic focus is more on doing good deeds, and they do a lot of that, especially on opposing abortion, promoting adoption and defending marriage. But there is a disadvantage for people raised with a focus on good works compared with a person who is focused on developing true beliefs. In Protestantism, each person is responsible for reading their own Bible and for testing and debating everything against science and history. Protestants prefer people like William Lane Craig and Mike Licona, because they study things using evidence outside the Bible and church tradition, and then debate outsiders to see what is true and false. Catholics are more likely to prefer people like Mother Teresa, who do lots of good things, but then on the other hand they encourage Hindus to be good Hindus and Muslims to be good Muslims. This is not what Jesus actually taught about the exclusivity of salvation. Catholics care about doing good actions. Protestants like good actions, too, but those good actions are secondary in importance to loving God. See Jesus’ own words in Matthew 22:36-40. And in order to love God, you first have to have accurate beliefs about who he is and what he’s done. That’s what Protestants emphasize.

I think another problem with a Catholic upbringing is that there is too much dependence on authority figures to tell people what to believe. I once worked with a Catholic guy who dismissed my every question about what he believed with the same line: “whatever the Catholic church tells me to believe, that’s what I believe, because I’m Catholic”. This sounds similar to what happened the woman who wrote the article. We really need to make truth the main thing about Christianity. We really need to show people how to develop true beliefs by using the laws of logic and empirical evidence. It’s important for us to show our work and explain how we arrived at our beliefs instead of just picking and choosing what we like from what people around us (or over us) say.

But there is more to her story – her child has been affected by her problematic views of Christianity and God.

She writes:

My daughter, on the other hand, at the ripe old age of 7, is convinced that there is no God. Not even a god. Yup, my kid’s an atheist. And she pretty much has been since she was 5.

It’s not for lack of exposure to God or god or even gods and spirituality, because she has attended Church and church and a UU “church” and it has made no impact. We’ve prayed together. I talk about God sometimes, in a good way. When I asked her recently why she doesn’t believe in God she told me, succinctly, “Because I know too much about science!”

Is it a good idea to take scientific advice from a 7-year-old child? Children who grow up fatherless are already predisposed towards atheism. I think that we should instead prefer to learn from scholars who research and debate issues in science and religion, and then teach the child based on what we have learned. Perhaps the woman could get the debate between Mike Behe and Keith Fox, or the debate between Stephen Meyer and Peter Ward, or the debate between William Lane Craig and Peter Millican and teach the child from that. This is why it was so important to emphasize how people arrive at true beliefs in the church. If she had done the work herself to arrive at true beliefs, then she would know what to say to her child’s presumptuous ignorance.

More:

The other night over dinner my daughter looked up at me and said, “Who created the Earth?” And I said, “Well, some people believe that God created the Earth, and some people believe that nature is a creation unto itself.” My daughter replied, “I think nature is a creation unto itself.” I said, “You know, you’re pretty staunch about the fact that there is no God.” And she told me, “Well, I don’t think he exists. If he does, he’s a ghost, and that’s weird. I just don’t believe it. You know, there are Universes beyond our Universe. Once you get outside the Milky Way galaxy, there’s a lot more stuff out there.”

Wow. When I was 7 I didn’t know there was a world outside my town.

So the universe created itself? How could it create itself? It would have to have existed in order to do anything like create. So it would have to have existed… before it began to exist. That’s a contradiction, and so it cannot be true. It would be great if the mother had read books or sought out people who had thought about logic and science, so that they could  advise her child about self-contradictory statements as well as the Big Bang cosmology. But she never did the work. We should be teaching people to do the work in church, not to just be spectators and then pick and choose what feels good. Nobody picks and chooses what feels good when it comes to chemistry lab or the stock market. In church, we need to show that religion is no different from anything else in life that can be studied. Truth is the main thing.

She continues:

Oh sure, my mother thinks raising a child without religion is dangerous. “I understand you don’t think she needs God now, Carolyn. But you gotta give her religion so it’s there for her when she needs it later.” When the shit hits the fan, when everything falls apart. When you realize there is no one but God you can trust.

See, here is where she needs someone to point out that it’s not God’s job to help you through crises. It’s not his job to make you happy. It’s not God’s job to make sure that your selfish pursuit of pleasure ends well. It’s not God’s job to keep you free from suffering and evil. This is where it would have been great if she had taken some of her time to read the Bible, and real theology books. It would have been better if she had sought out real scholars instead of relying on her mother for theology. But again, that’s her decision, to believe the people who tell her that religion is a crutch, instead of seeking truth and then bending her will to fit what is true.

Don’t be that gal

One last point. You might be wondering where the father is, since it is the father’s responsibility to teach the children about spiritual and moral things in Christianity. That’s what Christian women should be taught to look for in a man, along with protecting and providing abilities. That’s what the church would be telling them to look for if the church was not thoroughly compromised by feminism and egalitarianism. In the case of the woman who wrote the article, she has separated from the father of her child. She says so in the article.

Did she pick a man who was good at theology, apologetics and moral issues? Well, we don’t know. But judging from her politics and her profession, I would say that she did not. If there is one thing that liberal feminists absolutely detest in men, it’s exclusive truth claims about religion and exclusive moral judgments. They tend to choose men who know nothing at all about God as he really is and morality as it really is. They want to avoid men who will try to lead them on moral and spiritual issues. Unfortunately, though, a man who does not know what he believes and why he believes about religion and morality cannot persuade anyone. And a man who cannot persuade cannot lead.

What happens to children when such women choose men who cannot lead on moral and spiritual issues? Men like that have no reason to stick around in a marriage, because they have no plan and no purpose for the marriage other than pleasure. A religious and moral man sticks around in a marriage because he has a plan and a purpose that is above his own feelings and needs. He is motivated to teach the children and to lead the wife, because he has definite spiritual and moral convictions, and he is able to persuade others to buy into them using evidence and arguments. Smart women choose men like this when they are looking for someone to fulfill the father role. Women need to know the duties of the married man, and choose the right man for the job.

Is Oprah Winfrey a Christian?

Consider this article from CNN.

Excerpt:

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

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

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

And that has angered a few folks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some people evidently think that she is not. And I agree with those people.

Consider this article by William Lane Craig about salvation and religious pluralism.

Excerpt:

“There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4.12). So proclaimed the early preachers of the gospel of Christ. Indeed, this conviction permeates the New Testament and helped to spur the Gentile mission. Paul invites his Gentile converts to recall their pre-Christian days: “Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2.12). The burden of the opening chapters of Romans is to show that this desolate situation is the general condition of mankind. Though God’s eternal power and deity are evident through creation (1.20) and the demands of His moral law implanted on the hearts of all persons (2.15) and although God offers eternal life to all who seek Him in well-doing (2.7), the tragic fact of the matter is that in general people suppress the truth in unrighteousness, ignoring the Creator (1.21) and flouting the moral law (1.32). Therefore, “all men, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin, as it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands, no one seeks for God…'” (3.9-1 1). Sin is the great leveler, rendering all needy of God’s forgiveness and salvation. Given the universality of sin, all persons stand morally guilty and condemned before God, utterly incapable of redeeming themselves through righteous acts (3.19-20). But God in His grace has provided a means of salvation from this state of condemnation: Jesus Christ, by his expiatory death, redeems us from sin and justifies us before God (3.21-26). It is through him and through him alone, then, that God’s forgiveness is available (5.12-21). To reject Jesus Christ is therefore to reject God’s grace and forgiveness, to refuse the one means of salvation which God has provided. It is to remain under His condemnation and wrath, to forfeit eternally salvation. For someday God will judge all men, “inflicting vengeance upon those who do not know God and upon those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They shall suffer the punishment of eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might” (II Thessalonians 1.8-9).

It was not just Paul who held to this exclusivistic, Christocentric view of salvation. No less than Paul, the apostle John saw no salvation outside of Christ. In his gospel, Jesus declares, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me” (John 14.6). John explains that men love the darkness of sin rather than light, but that God has sent His Son into the world to save the world and to give eternal life to everyone who believes in the Son. “He who believes is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3.18). People are already spiritually dead; but those who believe in Christ pass from death to life (John 5.24). In his epistles, John asserts that no one who denies the Son has the Father and identifies such a person as the antichrist (I John 2.22-23; 4.3; II John 9). In short, “He who has the Son has life; he who has not the Son of God has not life” (I John 5.12). In John’s Apocalypse, it is the Lamb alone in heaven and on earth and under the earth who is worthy to open the scroll and its seven seals, for it was he that by his blood ransomed men for God from every tribe and tongue and people and nation on the earth (Revelation 5.1-14). In the consummation, everyone whose name is not found written in the Lamb’s book of life is cast into the everlasting fire reserved for the devil and his cohorts (Revelation 20.15).

One could make the same point from the catholic epistles and the pastorals. It is the conviction of the writers of the New Testament that “there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all” (I Timothy 2.5-6).

Indeed, it is plausible that such was the attitude of Jesus himself. New Testament scholarship has reached something of a consensus that the historical Jesus came on the scene with an unparalleled sense of divine authority, the authority to stand and speak in the place of God Himself and to call men to repentance and faith.{1} Moreover, the object of that faith was he himself, the absolute revelation of God: “All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Matthew 11.27) .{2} On the day of judgment, people’s destiny will be determined by how they responded to him: “And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God; but he who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God” (Luke 12.8-9).{3} Frequent warnings concerning hell are found on Jesus’ lips, and it may well be that he believed that most of mankind would be damned, while a minority of mankind would be saved: “Enter by the narrow gate, for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:13-14) .{4}

A hard teaching, no doubt; but the logic of the New Testament is simple and compelling: The universality of sin and the uniqueness Christ’s expiatory sacrifice entail that there is no salvation apart from Christ.

The Bible is very clear that belief in Christ’s atoning death on the cross is required for a right relationship with God. I find it interesting that so many Christians, especially Christian women, have so much respect for a person who is not even a believer. Can you really rely on a non-Christian to give you advice about morality and spirituality? Is she an authority on the Bible? An authority on logic? An authority on science? An authority on history? Has she debated her views with scholars who disagree with her – as might be done in a courtroom where evidence trumps feelings? Shouldn’t you rely instead on the Bible, and the work of authentic Christian scholars who accept what the Bible teaches?