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Diana Nyad

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Diana Nyad (born Diana Sneed; August 22, 1949) is an American author, journalist, motivational speaker, and world record long-distance swimmer. Nyad gained national attention in 1975 when she swam around Manhattan (28 mi or 45 km) and in 1979 when she swam from North Bimini, The Bahamas, to Juno Beach, Florida (102 mi (164 km)). In 2013, on her fifth attempt and at age 64, she became the first person confirmed to swim from Cuba to Florida without the protection of a shark cage, swimming from Havana to Key West (110 mi or 180 km). Nyad was once ranked thirteenth among U.S. women squash players.bio from wikipedia

In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, Diana speaks about her atheism...

Oprah Winfrey: You told our producers that you're not a god person but a person who is deeply in awe.
Oprah Winfrey Do you consider yourself an atheist?
Nyad:… I am an atheist
Nyad:… I can stand at the beach’s edge with the most devout Christian, Jew, Buddhist, go on down the line, and weep with the beauty of this universe and be moved by all of humanity — all the billions of people who have lived before us, who have loved and hurt…
Oprah Winfrey: Yeah…
Nyad: … and suffered. To me, my definition of “God” is humanity. And is the love of humanity. And as we return to…
Winfrey: Well, I don’t call you an atheist then! I think if you believe in the awe…
Nyad: Okay…
Winfrey: … and the wonder…
Nyad: Okay…
Winfrey: … and the mystery…
Nyad: Okay…
Winfrey: … That that is what God is! That is what God is! God is not the Bearded Guy in the Sky.
Nyad: It's not bearded but I guess there is an inference with God that there is a presence there is either a creator or an overseer. I don't criticize anybody because you know what? The definition of life is we will never know.... just for me I'm an atheist who's in awe.
Winfrey: … Do you consider yourself a spiritual person, even as an atheist?
Nyad: I do. I don’t think there’s any contradiction in those terms. I think you can be an atheist who doesn’t believe in an overarching Being who created all of this and sees over it. But there’s spirituality because we human beings, and we animals, and maybe even we plants, but certainly the ocean and the moon and the stars, we all live with something that is cherished and we feel the treasure of it.
Winfrey: Well, I believe that and feel that so deeply. It’s why every time I enter my yard or leave, I say, “Hello trees!”


Nyad: Every pair of eyes I look into I see a soul.
Winfrey: Ok, and how do you define that, a soul.
Nyad: A soul is your spirit, it's your love of humanity, it's your belief that there's more than you. There were people before us, um that you could weep to look at the discovery of an ancient city and realize that those people lived, and they loved, and they danced, and they ate, and they suffered, and they lived just like we are. There have been so many 40, 60, 80 year lives, billions of them, and we all have souls, and I feel their collective souls.
Winfrey: What do you think happens when we die?
Nyad: I think the soul lives on because we have created so much energy and when we display courage and hope it lives on. But I do believe the body goes back to ash and it is never more.


Diana Nyad and Oprah Winfrey talk atheism and spirituality


Brief analysis: Diana is clearly very spiritual. She sees beauty in the Universe and is in awe of it's wonder and glory as many atheists are. It seems also that Diana equates a "soul" to a memory or a reference point to who each of us are as individuals. She believes her soul will live on after death. Many atheists feel similarly but don't refer to this as a soul but instead refer to it as our legacy. Like many atheists, Diana has found ways of making her views sound palatable and soft to a theistic audience. She has created common ground in language typically used by theists whilst having no issue claiming her atheism.


h/t Friendly Atheist