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By John Mather

Features Editor

I was watching Family Feud with my roommates not long ago when a most unusual thing happened. Call it witnessing a second coming — or the beginning of the apocalypse.

For those unfamiliar with the Feud’s set up, here’s the general idea: Two families compete to win cash by guessing the most popular responses to survey questions posed to 100 Americans.

On this day, the survey question was “Name a person whose ideas have made the world a better place?” The first contestant buzzed in and shouted “Ben Franklin!”

“Show me Benjamin Franklin,” the host, Mr. Peterman from Seinfeld, called out.

Franklin was number four on the list of five.

I moaned aloud that the rest were just going to be predictable American White Men: Thomas Jefferson, Franklin Roosevelt, Dick Cheney, etc. The next contestant, keeping with my expectations, guessed George Washington. The answer, not keeping with my expectations, wasn’t on the board. Neither was Albert Einstein, John F. Kennedy or Gandhi (yes, he’s not American, but it’s still surprising that Gandhi didn’t make it).

After a series of misses, one man guessed Martin Luther King Jr. — an admirable choice and number one on the list. But I was curious who were the other three great thinkers. Whose ideas had improved the world more than some of the aforementioned icons?

Following Martin Luther King Jr. was Oprah. Yes, Oprah. Number three was Bill Clinton. Finally, coming in at number five was Jesus.

I nearly lost it with a mix of laughter and disbelief. Oprah beat Jesus. She beat Jesus. It’s worth saying twice. I am not a religious man, but I thought the Son of God in the dominant American religion would beat a talk show host in a battle of ideas. I guess I am wrong — and I think it says a lot about North American culture and even more about Oprah.

I know Oprah is big, but I never guessed she was bigger than Jesus. On further reflection, I realized her only failure was bringing Dr. Phil into my life. Otherwise, she has helped many women and men lose weight, start reading, and take their mental well-being seriously. She is a role model for black women and an icon worth emulating. Time Magazine said she is the only person to have influenced both the 20th and 21st centuries with her work.

So I think we should all embrace Oprah as our saviour. I propose starting the Apocalyptic Church of Oprah Winfrey that strives to bring the ‘O’ factor in into everyone’s life. The faithful get rewarded with free tickets to tapings of the Oprah Winfrey Show and sinners get tickets to Dr. Phil. Since more people watch television than go to church, synagogue and mosque, it might be the most popular religion in North America.

Blasphemy, you say? Nah, I got the numbers and a television survey to back up my beliefs. This may very well be the future of North American religion — or, as I said earlier, simply the beginning of the end.

May the ‘O’ be with you.

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