“Somewhat Religious”: Ted Turner’s Faitheism

In a recent profile of Ted Turner, now 73, in the Hollywood Reporter, his views on religion are reported in the following manner:

Once virulently anti-religious, doubt rather than certainty defines his thinking now. He calls himself “a little bit religious — that says it pretty well. But I’d like to think there’s somebody looking after us.”

That’s all well and good, but how does “somebody looking after us” play out in reality?

For Ted Turner, apparently no epistemically cautious Jeffersonian deist, it might take the form of direct interventions—such as environmental smack-downs.

On May 17th, 2010, for example, CNN reported Turner’s truly cringe-worthy response to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico this way:

[H]is suggestion that God may have had a hand in the oil disaster that killed 11 and is threatening the Gulf Coast may take some by surprise.

“Could be,” God’s work, he told CNN’s Poppy Harlow. “He’s sending us a message.”

Turner sat down with Harlow recently to discuss the energy policy in the United States. The full interview is posted on CNN Money.

“I’m not a real religious person, but I’m somewhat religious. And I’m just wondering if God is telling us he doesn’t want us to drill offshore,” he said. “And right before that we had that coal mine disaster in West Virginia where we lost 29 miners,” as well as repeated mining disasters – “seems like there’s one over there every week” – in China.

“Maybe the Lord’s tired of having the mountains of West Virginia, the tops knocked off of them so they can get more coal. I think maybe we ought to just leave the coal in the ground and go with solar and wind power and geo-thermals where it’s applicable.”

Apparently, Ted Turner’s religious views, at least at one point in his life, were more in line with Nietzsche’s. In 1990, in a speech to the American Humanist Association, he called Christianity “a religion for losers.”

And still earlier in life, Turner was a born-again Christian. But, as a teenager, his break with Christianity followed a family calamity:

Turner really was a deeply religious boy, despite his father’s emotional abuse. He intended at one point to become a missionary. Then, when he was a teenager, his younger sister Mary Jane contracted a form of lupus, and suffered terribly before dying a relatively short while later. All his prayers for her recovery — an hour a day, he said — were for naught.

“She used to run around in pain, begging God to let her die,” he recalled. “My family broke apart. I thought, ‘How could God let my sister suffer so much?’”

A National Review profile of Ted Turner’s religious views, though obviously not supportive of his adult humanism and liberalism, concludes with a beautiful quote from the Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria, which I’ll leave this post with:

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.

Here’s Ted Turner asking Carl Sagan the God question:


About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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