Conspiracy Theories

The Story of O

|

Today one of America's most powerful religious leaders is giving up her biggest platform:

The "religious leader" thing is a joke…sort of. Winfrey does have a distinct set of spiritual views, and they're pretty clearly rooted in the American New Thought/mind cure tradition. Elements of those ideas have certainly circulated in high-profile venues before, but they've never had a forum as influential as The Oprah Winfrey Show. It's easy to mock the conspiracy theorists who throw around words like "antichrist" when they talk about Winfrey, but their anxieties are rooted in something real. For decades, millions of ordinary viewers have watched a daily TV show that presented a friendly, not-at-all-scary, positive-thinking sort of New Age spirituality as Middle American common sense, and they've responded with wild enthusiasm. When it comes to undermining conventional conservative Christianity, Oprah has done more than every New Atheist combined.

Kathryn Lofton sums up the Creed of O:

"She endorses some modes of theological existence, but dislikes many more. For her, religion implies control and oppression and the inability to catalog shop. The only way religion or religious belief works for Oprah is if it is carefully coordinated with capitalist pleasure. Thus, the turn to 'spirituality'—the non-dogmatic dogma that encourages an ambiguous theism alongside an exuberant consumerism," Lofton said.

In Winfrey's view, Buddhism isn't about meditation and renunciation, it's about beaded bracelets and fragrant incense. "Christianity isn't about Christ's apocalyptic visions or the memorization of creeds, it's about a friendly guy named Jesus and his egalitarian message. As long as you can spend, feel good about yourself and look good, your religious belief will be tolerated on Planet O. The religion of Oprah is the incorporated faith of late-capitalist America," Lofton said.

As you might guess from that casual invocation of "late-capitalist America," Oprahism has critics on the radical left as well as the religious right.

Lofton has more on the O Way here. Kristen Gillespie looks at Oprah's impact in the Middle East here. Reason's Oprah coverage is collected here.

NEXT: USDA Fines Family $90,000 For Selling Pet Rabbits

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Last night, my mother opined that Oprah was a closet Scientologist. If you look at her guest list as the O-pocalypse approaches, (i.e Tom Cruise, Kirstie Alley, etc.) there is some merit to her argument.

    1. The JREF and SGU have her and her minions listed as the greatest purveyors of woo on the planet.

  2. never watched a show but wish her well in retirement

    1. It’s something unpredictable,
      But in the end it’s right.
      I hope you had the time of your life.

  3. lol, Oprah is so full of herself, I am surprised her head doesnt pop!

    http://www.total-anonymity.eu.tc

    1. What support do you have for your assertion?

  4. I’d say this kind of religion is relatively benign, if occasionally bordering on a bit silly; all the mainstream religions are responsible for some of worst crimes of humanity. Leftist atheism, in the form of communism and national socialism is responsible for its own share of genocides. Give me silly or give me…silly

    1. Leftist atheism in the form of communism and national socialism are but two branches of the same religion:

      worship of the state.

    2. national socialism

      Hitler was not an athiest, leftists or otherwise.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adolf_Hitler‘s_religious_views

      1. “We do not want any other god than Germany itself. It is essential to have fanatical faith and hope and love in and for Germany.

      2. “After the early 1930s, Hitler generally followed a vegetarian diet, although he ate meat on occasion. There are reports of him disgusting his guests by giving them graphic accounts of the slaughter of animals in an effort to make them shun meat.”

    3. Any identifiable ideology that gains power is going to be “responsible” for atrocities. I put responsible in quotes because ideologies don’t pull triggers or swing machetes, people do.

      Don’t forget that the Founding Fathers were tolerant of and/or practicers of slavery and early Americans were mostly content with both slavery and stealing land from and killing Native Americans. So libertarianism doesn’t have bloodless hands either.

      Oh, I know, I know. They weren’t really libertarians because they didn’t believe in equal rights. By that standard, Torquemada wasn’t Catholic, and Stalin wasn’t a communist.

      1. Yes, but no true Scotsman!

  5. I think of Oprah like Jesus… she seems a decent sort, but the folks who hang off their every word bug the shit outta me.

  6. I’m curious to know if Lofton is Amish and writes her screeds with a quill pen. Judging by her note, she never busy anything or certainly nothing that would give her pleasure. I’m guessing she has one dress in her closet, which is fastened with hooks, not buttons as that would be vain.

    There’s this weird, and I’m guessing hypocritical, straw man of the left that if one does like to shop on occasion then somehow one is obsessed by it – it’s…”capitalist pleasure”!!! What this is probably covering up for is a kind of teenage narcissistic and control freak need of some leftists to limit other people’s choices because maybe they’re not the same as one’s own. Grow up, Lofton.

    1. You don’t have to be a leftist to find the marriage of religion and product placement to be a little tacky.

      1. You don’t think the sentiment goes beyond an annoyance with tackiness?

  7. I give her a year before she returns.

    1. I’ll put ten buck on that, too.

    2. You got it. She’s a small-chinned Jay Leno.

  8. The greatness of Oprah really can’t be captured by a simple television show. What we truly need to do to show our awe and depth of our gratitude for her leadership in all things small and large, is a Viking send off. With boats and mead and stuff.

    1. She does not deserve a Viking funeral. What foes has she slain? What liberties has she fought to preserve?

      1. Has she not slain humility? Self-poverty? Slender thighs? The concept that you can’t be too narcissistic?

        She fights for all ego-maniacs everywhere to have their petty, meaningless, valueless thoughts heard and adored by the masses!

  9. Who’s going to tell us how to feel, what to believe, what book we need to buy, who to cheer for, and whose going to pick and advise our next president? We need another guru…NOT

    1. If organized religion is any indication, there are large numbers of people that need to be told how to feel, what to think, and how to act. If people are going to choose between a pedophile priest, an apocalyptic southern baptist, a jihadist Muslim, or a free market Oprah, I hope they choose Oparah.

      1. Don’t forget the covetous rabbi!!!!

        The good thing about atheism is its adherents are able to soberly and calmly criticize theists without using caricature, stereotypes, or hyperbole. Certainly they would never pick the worst example of a believer to represent the whole.

      2. Good thing Ayn Rand was so well-balanced… and if you think Oprah supports anything resembling free markets you’re more deluded than the wackiest Christian.

    2. Cause, what the world needs now
      Are some true words of wisdom
      Like la la la la la
      Cause, what the world needs now
      Is another folk singer
      Like I need a hole in my head.

  10. When it comes to undermining conventional conservative Christianity, Oprah has done more than every New Atheist combined.

    Thank you O.

    1. When it comes to undermining conventional conservative Christianity, Oprah has done more than every New Atheist combined.

      Fuck you O.

  11. Odd that that Mr. Walker sees Oprah’s capitalistic awesomeness as a justifiable ‘anxiety’ that would lead one to call her the Antichrist.

    1. yeah, he wouldn’t dare talk about us like that. Those envirowackos have no reason to be anxious about our bidness

  12. Difficult to type with all that straw on your keyboard?

  13. In about 3rd or 4th grade, we had to read and review a biography of a public figure of our choosing. My shitty school’s shitty library sucked and so in order to give the requisite fuck you to the man, I decided to review a biography of Oprah, as she was the most ridiculous figure I could fathom at age 9. I actually thought I might get in trouble for choosing someone so inconsequential.

    It would have terrified 9 year old me to learn that several decades later, grownup type people would be writing about Oprah for serious.

  14. How the hell long is “late capitalism” supposed to last? Marx was already claiming to be in the midst of it back in the mid-1800s.

    1. “Late capitalism” is not a description, but rather a prescription.

    2. Until it shows up, Tulpa. It’s not capitalism’s fault for running behind and being late. It’s the heteronormative patriarchy which makes capitalism spend all this time getting ready to go out.

  15. The Onion had a nice take on all of this:

    http://www.theonion.com/articl…..lity,2430/

  16. Instant mashed potatoes. That’s what Oprah means to me. Lenny Bruce was once asked what was the scariest goyism in the world. That was his answer. Instant mashed potatoes. Yeah, she scares me. At one time, many years ago, I was surrounded by Oprahbots who learned from her to approach self examination like you would an exercise routine. Thus, failing at both.

    I thought I was going to have resort to something extreme in my mating habits like ordering a Russian bride who had never heard of Oprah because American women were seriously pissing me off with the Oprahfornification fucking their heads up. It was everywhere, like a God Empress staring back at you from the end of time.

    It was frankly weird how you could be out in public and the office ladies at the next table over would be chatting up about Doctor Phil when he made appearances on her show using the exact same words, expressions and intonations you heard a month before from an entirely different set of women when he appeared on her show previously.

    The Empire has ended. Oprah, b.i.h.

  17. The religion of Oprah is the incorporated faith of late-capitalist America

    It is weird to see left wing hatred of the middle class now without the standard evoking of climate-extinction-habitatdestruction-environmentalism.

  18. Oprah Winfrey, Negro woman from the South.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.