Root of All Evil: Oprah vs. The Catholic Church

If you own a television with cable and you’re not watching Lewis Black’s The Root of All Evil, there’s something wrong with you. In the brain, I mean. The first episode featured two comics going head to head to decide who was more evil: Oprah or the Catholic Church. It’s a close call! Paul F. Tomkins makes a very good case for Oprah by attacking her comment that the reason why she built a school in South Africa instead of the US is because kids here just want iPods and sneakers, not top-quality schools. But then, the Catholic Church protects priests who molest kids. But, Oprah promotes The Secret! But, what about all those Crusades and Inquisitions and all!

So watch some of the clips (or better yet, watch the show) and let us know in the comments: if you could snap your fingers and completely erase either Oprah or the Catholic Church (and any influence they ever had), which would you choose, and why?

Also, I heart Lewis Black. Big time.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky

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  1. I didn’t see the whole show (I’m a total square who goes to bed and gets up insanely early), but after watching that clip, I’m going to have to go with the Church, if only for the sheer length and breadth of their oppressive history. Although if the Cult of Oprah ends up flourishing for another few hundred years, that could complicate the decision.

  2. As a woman, I have a particular hatred for Oprah because of her garbage and brainwashing-like power over what women think, buy, and read. Then again, my mom forced me to confirm into the catholic church when I was a youngin, the one particular branch of christianity that is especially anti-women, particularly on the inside.

    …Tough call.

  3. I agree that it’s a tough call, but I have to go with the church. They seem to encapsulate all the BS that Oprah promotes and much, much more.

    And oh, I heart Lewis Black too.

  4. I’m going to have to go with the church, but my decision is heavily weighed by the fact that Catholicism has had hundreds upon hundreds of years and will likely have several hundred more… and there’s only so much evil Oprah can do in one lifetime.

  5. Hello? The church, TOTALLY. How many people have died horribly under the guise of “spreading christianity” (in most cases, Catholicism specifically)? I’ll be conservative and say several million. Keep in mind, not all of those met pleasant, quick deaths. Anyone recall the Spanish Inquisition? Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!

    Oprah will probably be remembered as Oprah the Christ (I heard her father is still a virgin!), but as of yet she is (mostly) harmless. But then we all thought the same about Kirk Cameron, and look at him now…

  6. If we put them in a steel-cage Thunderdome (“Two Woos Enter! One Woo Leave!”) it is a win-win for all of us.

  7. A tough one.

    My first response was to say Oprah. Global reach through her television show and magazine, even if it is specifically aimed at the American market. Advocates mystical thinking, rampant consumerism and materialism, and bourgeois / middle-class values. Has the appearance of supporting the emancipation of women from the traditional patriarchy by encouraging positive-valence ideology of women, but does so by still encouraging a sexist and binary nature of human psychology. Seems to be associated with (and I’m not sure of the correct term but will call it) Reward Theology – the idea that people deserve the life they have as a reward for their actions; the rich deserve to be rich, the poor deserve to be poor.

    But the Catholic Church has a global reach too, and targets all segments of society. Many evils have been committed in its name, and continues to be. Advocates mystical thinking, self-hatred, misogyny, and is doctrinally at odds with modern concepts of human rights on some issues, but leading advocates on others. Associated with ultra-conservative right-wing political ideology, but also has a history of association with radical left-wing ideology, sometimes at the same time.

    It is hard though to imagine what the world today would be like without 2000 years of Catholicism. Would European paganism have survived? Would the Orthodox Church have spread? Would there have been a Reformation? Would Europe have become Muslim without the central and unifying power the Catholic Church possessed to stop it? Would there have been a Renaissance?

    Well, thinking about it, I’d still vanish Oprah. She may be ripe for ridicule and provide an easy example of the silliness, and danger, of mystical thinking, but loosing 2000 years of the influence of the Catholic Church, including all its goods and evils, would result in a society we couldn’t really accurately imagine.

    The Catholic Church may have great evil associated with it, but it also has great good. Oprah, though, is a perverse influence on society and I’d much rather see her go.

  8. It is hard though to imagine what the world today would be like without 2000 years of Catholicism.

    According to Orson Scott Card’s Pastwatch, Mezoamericans would conquer the Western world, and spread the practice of human sacrifice in the same way that Christians spread slavery.

    Just sayin’.

    (Seriously, an excellent book – check it out.)

  9. well, i guess i procrastinated a day too long to post on this–rebecca, you beat me to it :)
    my lovely husband recorded the show for me because he thought i’d like it (i didn’t even know it existed). he was right…highly entertaining. hopefully the powers that be over at comedy central will choose to ignore the 3 or 4 complaints they get and keep it on. maybe we should preempt the complaints by writing the network about how much we like it. just a thought.

  10. In a time travel sense, vanishing the Catholic church would definitely be more dangerous. There is just no telling what you would end up with instead.

  11. So it looks like the Church is way out in front on this one. It is tough for Oprah to beat such a powerhouse, but to play devil’s advocate for a second, doesn’t it seem as though more people listen to Oprah and do what she says, compared to the number of people who take the Pope et al seriously?

    (That’s not to say it’s been that way throughout history, but at this current moment in time.)

  12. Oprah, for all her power, is only human. She only has a single lifetime to screw things up. How can she hope to compete?

  13. i don’t know, rebecca…i think that, worldwide, there are far more people who would do anything the pope told them to. my family is very catholic, and, as much as i love and try to respect them, i can’t say that i believe they wouldn’t kill if the pope said they should.

  14. Good summary, Steven.

    I think some people miss the insidiousness of Oprah – the crap she subjects women’s minds to will be passed on to future generations of women through their mom’s who watched her in the first place. She’s almost a religion as it is.

  15. It’s kind of a ‘which is more important; the printing press or the internet?’ question dontcha think?

    The printing press came first and without it the internet would have never had a chance to become what it is (or realistically ‘become’ at all)… but the internet is FAR better at spreading bullshit.

  16. I just watched the show. I liked Greg Girardo’s comment, “So Oprah has a magazine, Did I mention the boy f***ing?”
    I vote: in U.S.: Oprah more evil, Worldwide: Catholic Church more evil.
    Also, I saw “The History of the Joke” on the History Channel. Lewis Black is kind of a dick to Richard Wiseman on that show.

  17. So a thought occurs… Hypothetically, do we get to prevent the rise of the Catholic church by having Atilla survive the wedding party? I’m not sure what life would be like today, but the Hun beating Rome and preventing the rise of Catholocism would make for some extremely profound differences, don’t you think?

  18. I’m a huge fan of Black’s, but the show is not available in Canada yet. (at least not on basic cable) Can’t wait to watch it!

    This reminded me of the anime “Futurama” set in year 3000, in which all major religious group in the 20th century have merged to become “First Amalgamated Church”. The most popular religions then were Oprahism, Robotology, and the Star Trek Fandom.

    Check out the definition of Oprahism:
    It says that the hell in Oprahism is Dr. Phil’s show.

  19. Thanks for the tip! Watched some teasers clips at CC, and set up the DVR. Is the question which is more evil, or which would you rather have erased from ever having existed? While the catholic church could be argued to be more *evil*, I feel it has a lot more to offer culturally in this sense: If you are a painter, which theme would you pick for a series of paintings, Catholicism or Oprah? Would a world without Notre Dame cathedral be a better place than a world without Oprah? What would be better, a world without Darth Vader, or a world without Jar-Jar Binks?

  20. Ah, I see you caught it as well! Yeah, I thought it was freaking awesome. The guy arguing for Oprah as the root of all evil spent too much time on superficial stuff (i.e., her weight), I thought, but otherwise it was great. I think they struck a pretty decent balance between being informative and being funny. I can’t wait to see what other pairings they come up with.

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