Just Wanna Know

Revolutionary Propaganda Organ

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Penn Jilette, Atheist

I treasure the bracing freshness of a skeptic. Here's Penn Jillette on NPR's This I Believe:

"I believe that there is no God. I'm beyond atheism. Atheism is not believing in God. Not believing in God is easy -- you can't prove a negative, so there's no work to do. You can't prove that there isn't an elephant inside the trunk of my car. You sure? How about now? Maybe he was just hiding before. Check again. Did I mention that my personal heartfelt definition of the word 'elephant' includes mystery, order, goodness, love and a spare tire?

"So, anyone with a love for truth outside of herself has to start with no belief in God and then look for evidence of God. She needs to search for some objective evidence of a supernatural power. All the people I write e-mails to often are still stuck at this searching stage. The atheism part is easy.

"But, this 'This I Believe' thing seems to demand something more personal, some leap of faith that helps one see life's big picture, some rules to live by. So, I'm saying, 'This I believe: I believe there is no God.'

"Having taken that step, it informs every moment of my life. I'm not greedy. I have love, blue skies, rainbows and Hallmark cards, and that has to be enough. It has to be enough, but it's everything in the world and everything in the world is plenty for me. It seems just rude to beg the invisible for more. Just the love of my family that raised me and the family I'm raising now is enough that I don't need heaven. I won the huge genetic lottery and I get joy every day.
Believing there's no God means I can't really be forgiven except by kindness and faulty memories. That's good; it makes me want to be more thoughtful. I have to try to treat people right the first time around.

"Believing there's no God stops me from being solipsistic. I can read ideas from all different people from all different cultures. Without God, we can agree on reality, and I can keep learning where I'm wrong. We can all keep adjusting, so we can really communicate. I don't travel in circles where people say, 'I have faith, I believe this in my heart and nothing you can say or do can shake my faith.' That's just a long-winded religious way to say, 'shut up,' or another two words that the FCC likes less. But all obscenity is less insulting than, 'How I was brought up and my imaginary friend means more to me than anything you can ever say or do.' So, believing there is no God lets me be proven wrong and that's always fun. It means I'm learning something.

"Believing there is no God means the suffering I've seen in my family, and indeed all the suffering in the world, isn't caused by an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent force that isn't bothered to help or is just testing us, but rather something we all may be able to help others with in the future. No God means the possibility of less suffering in the future.

"Believing there is no God gives me more room for belief in family, people, love, truth, beauty, sex, Jell-O and all the other things I can prove and that make this life the best life I will ever have."


At 1:31 AM, Blogger AWG said...

I used to like Penn but he's so utterly obnoxious it's hard to take. And when he said that people who don't believe the government line about 9/11 should be "thrown down a flight of stairs" I pretty much washed my hands of his magic act.

At 1:50 PM, Blogger CJD said...

There are a few gems in there, to be sure. It just sounds as if he's not rubbed too many shoulders with thinking Christians. Alas, I guess there's not too many of those around to begin with …


At 8:53 AM, Blogger John Schaefer said...

No, I love this guy. One, he gives a short course in logic, concerning the unprovability, or disprovability, of negative assertions. Two, he's a skeptic who needs to be heard, like Bertrand Russell. OK, so he's playing the role of Conan Doyle/Houdini a bit too much to the hilt; still, always hiding within a skeptic is a disappointed believer.

Belief and existence exist apart from logic and evidence. As Kierkegaard said (and I think Sartre also came to believe), the truly aware person will eventually come to triumph over despair only through a leap of faith. I'm still waiting for Penn...


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