Penn Jillette: God, No!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Magician  Penn Jillette talks about why he’s a skeptic and an atheist, and he shares his opinions on just about any topic. His new book God, No!: Signs You May Already Be an Atheist and Other Magical Tales is a collection of essays illuminating the Ten Commandments—some of them true stories, some of them fantasies, all of them entertaining, smart, and eye-opening.


Penn Jillette

Comments [53]


i heard your show now,ok, jillette is not that bad. i agree with a some of what he says. you can have james randy,though.

Sep. 19 2011 01:00 AM

atheism,is it's own mirror image of fundamentalism. jillete, is a tiresome bore.

Sep. 18 2011 11:23 PM

what a cynical boring son of a bitch.........

Sep. 18 2011 11:17 PM
Ed from Larchmont

And God was at 9/11, that's why only 3,000 people died, instead of hundreds of thousands had the towers fallen or fallen immediately.

And Mary Madeline O'Hare, she preached atheism, of course, and she was kidnapped and never heard from again ... no one found out how she had died.

Sep. 18 2011 07:57 PM
Ed from Larchmont

Take for example Saint Bernadette whose body is in Nevers, France. She had the visions of the Blessed Mother that led to the Shrine of Lourdes. Her body has never decayed, even though it had no special treatment, just buried in the ground. When she was canonized her body was moved to a church, where it can be seen now.

How does an atheist explain such things?

Sep. 18 2011 12:23 PM
Ed from Larchmont

Did any believer ever do anything an atheist hasn't done?

We have natural virtue, so we can do good without acknowledging God.

But take for example Fr. Lo Hung, a Jesuit priest who started his own order, the Missionaries of the Poor. He and his brothers run missions for deformed and abandoned children in Jamaica and the Philippines.

Atheists have given money to these projects, which is a wonderful thing, and other have run revolutions in the name of the poor, some of which didn't work. But have any actually loved the poor?

Sep. 18 2011 12:19 PM
Ed from Larchmont

Did Jesus exist? Well, one argument that his critics - severe critics - who lived at the same time never used was that he never existed.

Of course, we have the Gospels, four portraits of this clearly defined person, and his first disciples all gave their lives refusing to deny him, to testify to us of their belief.

Also, he is mentioned in Josephus' 'Wars of the Jews' (I think that's the title.) How do we know Caesar existed - by things he did, what was written about him.

Sep. 18 2011 12:13 PM
Ed from Larchmont

If one belongs to a faith, one doesn't regard other people's God as different from one's own: there is one God. But other people have different traditions and different pieces of the truth about this one God. So one is not 'an atheist in regard to other religions'. For the Catholic, the Church alone has the fullness of the revelation of God, other religions contains glimpses of that truth.

Sep. 18 2011 12:10 PM
Ed from Larchmont

Mary Madeline O'Hare, famous atheist of the 40s and 50s said that acting out of fear is not acceptable. Really, it's an imperfect motive, where love is the perfect motive, but acting out of fear is still acceptable, even if imperfect.

Sep. 18 2011 12:07 PM
Ed from Larchmont

Some people in the past adopted Marx as the one who had the key to all reality. And his materialist system was tried, and it failed. (Largely defeated by Pope John Paul II.) But now people are taking Darwin as having the key to all reality, also a materialist system.

Sep. 18 2011 12:05 PM
Ed from Larchmont

I finally got to listen to the episode: Penn is a nice guy, for some reason he's taken on the atheist cause.

He describes himself as a hard core atheist, there are a lot of hard core lovers of God out here.

Some mistakes, though:
-humanism and faith are not opposed. We're made to use our talents.
-Hitler was not a Christian, he said of Jesus: 'I don't care if he was the Son of God, we will destroy him'. Didn't turn out that way.
-Pascal was a Christian, but he argued that faith made sense even on a probabilistic calculation. It wasn't applied to himself.

In the Creed it reads 'I believe...', but in the Greek it's an unusual construction that is literally 'I believe into ...', God is a reality one enters into, it's not only an intellectual belief.

Until you encounter God, no argument will convince you.

Sep. 17 2011 12:08 PM
Ed from Larchmont

I always found his show slightly menacing. The other person is so in danger, it seems, of being killed, it shows disrespect for life.

He is not a philosophy student, and atheism is a philosophical position - when most people say they are atheists, they aren't taking the philosophical position, they are either saying that they are too proud to worship God, or that there is something in their life that is incompatible with God which they won't (or can't) give up.

Sep. 16 2011 08:15 AM

Bach wrote many secular masterpieces:

Brandenburg Concertos. The Goldberg Variations. The Well-Tempered Clavier. The Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin. The Cello Suites.

Sep. 15 2011 03:36 PM

Pascal is wrong. As an atheist friend of mine once quipped, "I'm not worried. If there's a God, he'll be merciful. He'll forgive me."

Sep. 15 2011 03:19 PM
AL from New York City

God Schmod. Who cares? I agree with those who decry Gillette's puerile, sophomoric, egotistical palaver. Witnessing this guy's fascination with his ability to articulate various tired, cliche ideas is like watching a 2-year old discover his schmeckle. "I have a special thing and a special power!" Just, no. And his misogyny (evident in other contexts) is really depressing in a person who aspires (however inadequately) to be a thinker. Ow.

Sep. 15 2011 03:04 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

"Just like many Christians are centered around Jesus, atheists like Jillette are obsessed with their own skepticism. Skepticism itself becomes a discipline, a closed system, an exact replica of a religious life with faith in skepticism" -- ed from woodside

ed--since when are christians (jews, followers of other isms) not skeptics? if they weren't, they'd be inequivocally embrace everyone else's beliefs as equal to their own. such is so rarely true, and well demonstrated in this particular thread.

henry - thank you for injecting some reason herein. it's rather attractive.

Sep. 15 2011 01:52 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

To Esther,

750,000 Arabs passed down the myth of "Palestine" to the now 7 million exiles, and hundreds of millions actually believe there was once a Palestinian nation that the Jews brutally threw out. So, yeah, myths can definitely be created and passed down to millions who follow who believe it!

Sep. 15 2011 01:09 PM
ubcome from Brooklyn

Atheists need religious icons. Here's one

Let's not concede religion and all the good it does for humans to people who believe in the supernatural. Be a religious humanist. Consider Ethical Culture.

Sep. 15 2011 12:41 PM
Danielle Jensen

though some very bad dictators were atheists, most wars have been and continue to be fought over religious beliefs.

Sep. 15 2011 12:32 PM
Tony from Canarsie

Steve from NYC -- The reason most people appear on this, or any other radio or TV show for that matter, is to sell a product. It's called commerce. What's wrong with that?

Sep. 15 2011 12:32 PM
Fred from Queens

Here, I think, Penn makes so much sense, but he also talks such nonsense. Penn manipulates the public as he misinforms them on social issues.

His Penn and Teller program on global warming is a good example. They parade kooks, “environmental” scientists, and charlatans before the camera, as they do their shtick. Penn (who of course does the talking) attempts to “prove” climate change is a nefarious left wing hoax.

He effectively uses the silly and absurd along with wrong facts to effectively persuade and convince those that don’t know.

Sep. 15 2011 12:29 PM
Henry from Manhattan

@ Steve from NYC

“WHO CARES what Penn Jilliette believes or if he's an atheist or an agnostic? He's an egomaniacal blowhard merely looking to sell more copies of his book.”

LOL! We could say that about all the guests on this show.

Sep. 15 2011 12:28 PM
esther from usa

SO according to Jewish tradition, 3 million people witnessed an event about 3300 years ago as a collective group. It's harder to explain how an entire generation passed down a lie to their children and got away with that. Can you explain how that can happen? Has there ever been a group of people who say they have witnessed anything like this before or after?

Morality is relative to where/when you live. During the time of Aristotle, child sacrifice was common and accepted so I guess according to your guest, it was ok then?

Sep. 15 2011 12:27 PM
Mike from Tribeca

As usual on internet forums, when the subject is atheism or agnosticism the self-proclaiming "religious" posters are the most self-righteous and quickest to judge.

Sep. 15 2011 12:26 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Actually, there are atheists who don't have doubts. I once listened to a show on WBAI called "Equal Time for Atheists," on which it became evident that some (& I emphasize that it's only some) atheists take the nonexistence of God as an article of faith & base a belief system on it.

Sep. 15 2011 12:25 PM
Charlie Roberts from Atlantic Highlands, NJ

Penn, you are definitely one of the most interesting people on the planet!

Iris Dement's song "Let The Mystery Be" helped me to settle my own internal argument about it all . . .

Sep. 15 2011 12:25 PM
Steve from NYC

WHO CARES what Penn Jilliette believes or if he's an atheist or an agnostic? He's an egomaniacal blowhard merely looking to sell more copies of his book.

Sep. 15 2011 12:24 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

Fundamentally, there are only TWO relevant POV:

1) That the universe (or multiverse) is nothing other than a bunch of random events, and we humans are the "lucky" outcome of over 15 billion years of purely random events, or

2) There was or is an Intelligent Designer who was behind all of the seeming randomness. This is the "prime mover" argument.

Sep. 15 2011 12:22 PM
Tony from Canarsie

A question for your guest -- Why do many people who consider themselves religious think that non-believers are incapable of understanding morals and ethics?

Sep. 15 2011 12:22 PM
esther from usa

"You must be a rabbi," opened the scientist.
"Yes, I am," confirmed his neighbor.
"I know all about Judaism," quipped the scientist.
"Do you really?" the rabbi responded, a little piqued.
"Sure: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
"I see. And what, may I ask, is your occupation?"
"I am an astrophysicist."
"Oh, really?" The rabbi paused a moment, then countered, "I know all about astronomy."
"Come now, Rabbi. What do you know about astronomy?"
"Twinkle, twinkle little star."

Sep. 15 2011 12:21 PM
Henry from Manhattan

@ Lois from Manhattan

“Is there compelling evidence that Jesus actually existed?”

If you are Christian, probably yes.
If you are non-Christian, probably no.

Funny how that works.

Sep. 15 2011 12:20 PM
Stanley from Williamsburg

Can you please ask him about astrology, which some see as science based? And because people seem so secretly accepting of

Sep. 15 2011 12:20 PM
DarkSymbolist from NYC!

@ Ed from Larchmont
“But why should his situation be of interest to us?”

Oh, I find his "situation" (as you put it) VERY interesting.

Great segment!

Sep. 15 2011 12:20 PM
Ed from Woodside

Just like many Christians are centered around Jesus, atheists like Jillette are obsessed with their own skepticism. Skepticism itself becomes a discipline, a closed system, an exact replica of a religious life with faith in skepticism.

Sep. 15 2011 12:19 PM
Henry from Manhattan

@ Ed from Larchmont
Also, a lot of people who claim to have relationships with God make it a point to try to impose their interpretation of how they think things should be on every one else.

And hey, we all do that do some extent, the problem is, “God tells me so,” and “My divine book is THE rule book.” Doesn’t’ fly so well with others who have their own Gods and their own divine rule books. Two Christians who both “know God” can have radically divergent interpretations of what this means and be in different Christian sects.

So for a pluralistic society, religion and worship is fine, but it’s best to put the divine rule books aside along with conceptions of Gods that we all agree can’t ultimately be proven and often times is stated by theologians to be incomprehensible to us anyway, and deal with what we have a chance of knowing in the here and now on Earth when it comes to making decisions on how we all should govern ourselves.

Sep. 15 2011 12:18 PM
Richard Johnston from Manhattan Upper West Side

Does feeling god does not play a role in one's life mean one is effectively an atheist?

Sep. 15 2011 12:17 PM
John A.

Find me an Atheist who is pro-Morals anti-Hedonism and not currently doing drugs and I'll talk to her/him. Unfortunately, social Internet just gives me all of the above, with about 2 people being exceptions.
- - -
BTW I see my job as a human to see the common human truth among all religions, not to just roll over and give up, saying, 'they're all wrong'.

Sep. 15 2011 12:16 PM
Henry from Manhattan

@ Ed from Larchmont
“But why should his situation be of interest to us?”

Ever listen to someone’s zany religious beliefs and just shake your head like, “Wow, what a lot of nonsense, how can they believe that stuff?” You may even feel sorry for them at how delusional they seem to you. Atheists have this feeling too, they just have it for all religions based on supernatural acts, impossible sounding tales, and grandiose claims, not just the ones most mainstream religious people feel are zany.

For the most part, we all don’t believe in each other’s Gods and religions, and very often find them to be ridiculous, maybe even offensive. Atheists just don’t believe in one additional religion or God. Penn Gillette doesn’t’ limit his criticism just to religion, he’ll challenge any extraordinary claims, things like psychics, astrology, health practices etc, especially things that invoke magic, because he’s a professional magician and he knows what magic is and what it isn’t.

Sep. 15 2011 12:16 PM
Lois from Manhattan

Is there compelling evidence that Jesus actually existed?

Sep. 15 2011 12:16 PM
antonio from bayside

What does Penn think about the interesting theories about the multiverse?
What if the physics of our own universe don't allow him/her/it (god) to communicate, operate with us. As the scientists say that our own physical principles don't seem to work in other universes, i.e. gravity.

Sep. 15 2011 12:14 PM
Ken from Little Neck

I don't agree with all of his politics, but I have the utmost respect and admiration for Mr. Jillette for his promotion of skepticism and rational thinking in an increasingly irrational world. Thank you for being the voice of skeptics and atheists everywhere!

Sep. 15 2011 12:14 PM
esther from usa

According to the highly respected and most widely read scientific journal, Scientific American, this would statistically be just about impossible on one roll of the cosmic dice, since the properties of atomic and sub-atomic particles conducive to forming life are so specific.

Just a few of the many examples of “luck”:

* For complex life in any form, there must be three spatial dimensions (length, width, height), and one time dimension (time only moves forward, never backward). Further, the relationship between mass and gravity must be a very close match to our universe.

* The charge of the proton (the particles in the center of atoms) must be exactly equal and opposite to the charge of an electron (the particles that form a cloud surrounding the center of atoms), even though the proton has a mass 1,837 times that of an electron.

* The force that holds atoms together, the strong nuclear force, is balanced on a knife for allowing hydrogen atoms to be super-abundant in the universe. No hydrogen, no stars. Stars make their light and energy by fusing hydrogen, the lightest of all the elements, into helium, the second lightest of all the elements, and that indirectly means no heavier elements – and hence no life. Carbon, the one element able to form the complex chains required for life, is built from lighter elements within the cores of stars. The process involves a complex, exquisitely-tuned series of reactions.

Sep. 15 2011 12:13 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

First of all, it was the story of Abraham and Isaac that made it clear that infanticide was NOT what God wanted! Ritual infanticide was quite prominent in Phoenicia, Canaan and even later in Carthage, which was founded by Canaanites. The God of the Hebrews was against infanticide, was the point of the near sacrifice of Isaac (or Ishmael if you believe in the Quran instead of the Bible).

But the main point is that science, no matter how much has learned, still has produced more questions than answers! WHat is "dark matter"and "dark energy," for example? The Kabbalah states that understanding the universe is like peeling an onion. If you peel off all the layers, you are still left with nothing but a mystery!

Sep. 15 2011 12:12 PM
Tom from Upper West Side

How about this?

The universe always existed, and "our" Big Bang is merely the most recent iteration of the eternal expansion and contraction of the universe.

If the human mind can entertain the concept of an eternal "god," it should also be able to entertain the idea of an eternal "process."

Sep. 15 2011 12:12 PM
Ed from Woodside

Already another atheist with nothing insightful beyond what high schoolers dabbling with atheism have to say.

He's like Ricky Gervais. Know nothing about religion or spirituality except skepticism. His take on God asking a parent to kill a child is such a laughably immature question to ask. It shows he lacks anything important to say.

Sep. 15 2011 12:11 PM
Mike from Tribeca

I'm a long-time fan of Mr. Jillette, and a fellow atheist, but his oft-stated simple-minded libertarian views make it hard for me to take him very seriously.

Sep. 15 2011 12:11 PM
Sylvain from Manhattan

Tie your camel, then trust god.

Sep. 15 2011 12:10 PM
Henry from Manhattan

My comment “You are making a false dichotomy It’s not Judaism” was directed @ esther from Baltimore.

Sep. 15 2011 12:09 PM
Henry from Manhattan

You are making a false dichotomy It’s not Judaism versus atheism, it’s Judaism verses atheism and all other religions. What you are saying is that Judaism is so obviously right that everything else, Christianity, Islam, Shintoism, Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Rastafarianism, paganism, the many sects of these religions, and many, many other religions, are obviously wrong, they are certainly not worth believing in so may as well be an atheist.

But then, how can you really know without reading all those original texts in their native languages within the proper cultural contexts (oral traditions, worship spaces, ceremonies, etc)?

I’m not inclined to learn Hebrew, nor am I am I that compelled to accept everything at face value from a book about a particular God (of many) who watches over a specific chosen people, an ethnic group that I don’t share any immediate cultural commonality with. I mention this because I’m probably not alone in this feeling.

Sep. 15 2011 12:04 PM

Less concerned with your views on atheism than your strong advocacy of rationalism as a world view. As a critic and humorist, you make the case with conviction and emotion, but cannot (and should not) stop short of advocating real change. Otherwise, the better organized luddites win.

In a few quiet moments between book signings, take a look at this attempt to bridge between a rational world view and an actionable political system--

Sep. 15 2011 12:03 PM
Ed from Larchmont

So if he is an atheist, please ask him what he does believe in, thanks.

Sep. 15 2011 11:10 AM
Ed from Larchmont

When he says he's an atheist, that doesn't mean 'he doesn't see the world with God in it, while some do see the world with God in it'. It means that he does not know the person of God, hasn't met the person of God, doesn't have a relationship with this person, which is sad. But why should his situation be of interest to us?

Sep. 15 2011 10:10 AM
esther from Baltimore

From an orthodox Jewish perspective:
if you read the Hebrew Bible in English from an inaccurate translation (which is only 1/2 the tradition since there is a companion oral text) and as a fairy tale on a 2nd grade or lower level... then yes, I would also be an atheist.

Sep. 15 2011 09:36 AM

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