Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Penn Jillette There is no God

Penn Jillette is the speaking half of Penn & Teller. They perform their irreverent magic act regularly in Las Vegas. Both are very outspoken about being atheists and skeptics and use it as part of the act.

Penn Jillette wrote a now famous piece entitled "There is no God" in which he explained his position in taking atheism a step further and actually believing in no god. The original was first published with NPR and is available here. NPR's Morning Edition featured Penn in an ongoing series titled "This I believe" based on a similar series from the 1950s. The rules required that the essayist state their position in the affirmative. Jillette did so cleverly by saying "I believe there is no God."

Here are some excerpts:

Morning Edition, November 21, 2005 · 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?

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 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.

1 comment:

  1. As an agnostic, I say - in all probability there is no god. There is a distinction. Because there are many people who have deep and abiding convictions that a god exists. True, this is all based on a feeling. But because I can't experience what they are experiencing I don't totally rule it out. Now, I've never felt anything by praying or going to church, nor do I believe any of that mumbo-jumbo stuff. But there are those who do and by saying there is no god is basically saying these people are delusional or liars or both.