Saturday, December 3, 2011

Penn Jillette: An Atheist's Guide to the 2012 Election


Anonymous said...

your a jerk

Anonymous said...

That was a good watch!

ErnestPayne said...

Brilliant summation of the craziness that is america.

Anonymous said...

Anon1: I think that you might mean "you're" a jerk, you jerk!

Anonymous said...

Americans don't speak English....sad but true.

Anonymous said...

God is a big lie!!! Penn, you are my hero!

Anonymous said...

What a lot of these Christian voters don't seem to realize is that these evangelical politicians that they vote for can sometimes be a threat to their own freedom of religion. Do you think that someone like Michelle Bachman will go to bat for Catholics or Mormons?

It is really a matter of "My Jesus is better than you Jesus" and the only way to avoid it is to keep a separation of church and state.

Anonymous said...

Um...because they're bat shit crazy. QED

James Jones said...

Penn: don't you think that the ability to think critically and without superstition is part of the evolution of our species and, if so, that this explains why smart politicians feel the need to espouse batshit crazy religion to the masses. There are still billions of people who have not yet learned to think critically, and many of them vote. Particularly in the south.

Bear said...

I like Penn and I liked the first half of this video, but the rest seemed like Penn was rambling a bit. He does make a fantastic point about how the sects have come together under the brand of "Christianity," but he ignores the case of Romney being targeted for being a mormon. Also, he needs to lighten up on the metaphors because I start to lose interest after someone yells "crazy underwear" more than two or three times.

Not only that, but I wish Penn would give a list of each candidate and their rating on his "sanity" or "skeptic" scale. It'd be really nice up front to get that information before he started talking slowly about each candidate.

One more thing: the word Penn is looking for (for "against organized religion") is "antitheism." Source:

Atheist libertarian here, by the way.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Sorry...had a typo in my comment it is:

So I'm someone who actually falls into that camp of believing that the Bible is true. I appreciate Penn's thoughts and point of view, but I'm not sure why my belief in God (or the Bible) automatically implies that I can't be a free thinker.

I'll freely admit that there are things in the Bible that are beyond my ability to explain. I don't think that makes me (or my beliefs) completely crazy. Instead of assuming that I always have all the facts and can reason my way through any problem, I believe that there is more than I can see or understand.

I love logic...I love the fact that we have minds that can work through amazingly complex problems. I love that Penn and others like him are forcing people to actually think about what they believe instead of just 'existing' in a state of semi-belief. But I just happen to believe that there's something bigger than's not reasonable, I get that. The message of the cross is foolishness, right?

Steve said...

@Bear, Penn has a tendency to ramble and bloviate. It comes with the territory of listening to him. As far as Romney’s Mormonism, it is targeted because most Christians, and Americans in general, consider it a cult. I think Mormonism is just as nuts as the rest of them, but they apparently do not get the connection. THAT is what Penn’s point is for this whole video. The fact that no matter which religion a candidate (or anyone else) holds, they all have the same probability of being wrong and therefore it is disingenuous to judge one as crazier than the other. Mormonism’s ‘magic underwear’ is no less irrational than the Resurrection. Now, dangerous is another issue. I think some candidate's religions are more dangerous than others. Half of the GOP candidates have close and deep ties to Dominionist theology and groups. They are profoundly anti-democractic.

Steve said...

@Matthew Vann, Part of your comment was cut off. Please repost.

First off let me state that I do not automatically think religious people are crazy. That is obviously and provably false. I simply think all religions are wrong. Some people are crazy. No doubt.

Freethought is mindset or philosophy that is unrestrained by tradition, authority, doctrine or dogma. All religions operate via these mechanisms. Some more than others, but it is impossible to separate them from religion and, in your case, Christianity. Adherence to the doctrine in the Bible is dogmatic and authoritarian. There are sections that are provably false, sections that clearly written by people other than the people that are claimed to have written them, and almost all of it makes claims that are untestable. This is antithetical to not only freethought, but science. Finally. you do not need to adhere to any religion to admit that there are things we cannot understand. There will always be unanswered questions. What religion does, in effect, is answer questions with not an once of proof. It doesn’t show its work. It is simply claimed that this knowledge was revealed to a special few all over the world at various points throughout history. I do not trust that one bit. I’ll keep looking.

Michael said...

@Matthew - it's quite possible to be a free thinker and simultaneously a theist; that's the category most Quakers and Unitarians fall into, just to name a couple I'm familiar with.

It is, however, impossible to claim the entire Bible is literally true. The beetles alone would have sunk the Ark under their weight. You can say God just made evolution work differently post-Flood, sure, but if you just make stuff up you can rationalize anything at all, so don't expect anybody to believe you. (There was actually a pretty hilarious comic strip about Noah and his sons trying to manage the Ark given the biological knowledge we have but the ancient Hebrews didn't; I'm clearly going to have to go out and re-find that!)

Penn, buddy, let me fill in the blank for you. There are two categories of people: for one category, words and sentences have actual logical meanings, and language is used to convey insight and information. For the second category, words are tribal markers and what you say doesn't need to have anything at all to do with what you really think or believe. When people say they literally believe the Bible, they really mean they belong to a certain group of people who all say that. It's like wearing a blue jacket; it marks you as a safe companion.

When you challenge them on that statement, you're not actually communicating with them - except for one thing: you're telling them you're not one of those safe people. And then they just shut down - why talk to you? You clearly don't want to understand them.

My wife is a theoretical physicist, and grew up in Hungary. I try to tell her about these American things and she just doesn't get it. I mean, really doesn't. Which makes it all the more ironic that her sister, still in Hungary, has been a member of a Pat Robertson export church for years. (And that's truly weird, because they honestly espouse political beliefs that only make sense in an American context, because they're trying to be American Republicans.)

You can't really engage in intellectual exchange with fundamentalists - it just makes you dirty and annoys the pig.

Michael said...

Found it!

Unknown said...

@Michael - Hilarious video!!! (think I can take my faith being insulted) Already shared the link with a great friend.
To address it seriously though...just because I believe the Bible (in it's original form) is true doesn't mean I believe that the average American evangelical's interpretation of the Bible is correct. For a different look at the flood, try (not saying you'll agree with it, but it's something to think about)

@Stephen - I may be wrong, but it seems to me that your definition of free thought excludes every single person on the planet. Aren't we all influenced (and thereby restrained) by authority, society and tradition (family)? Even science is, in itself, influenced by some beliefs that cannot be proven categorically. We all believe what we do because of the influence of experiences (either our own or others). Are those experiences 'proof' that something is true or false? I trust that the experiences and discoveries made by a 'special few' scientists over the ages have shaped all of our beliefs today. Many (but not all) of their ideas have been proven over time. In the same way, I trust that God used people to speak to us through the Bible. What's to say that one day we won't look back and understand exactly what he was/is trying to say?

Steve said...

@Matthew Vann Well, it isn’t my definition of Freethought. It is the general consensus. Of course we are all influenced by those things in our cultures, but Freethinkers attempt to ignore or discard them as authority and tradition are a constraining force. They are two of the pillars of conservative thought. “Do this because it has always been done and because I said so.” For obvious reasons this ties directly into religion. Without authority and tradition (scripture, clergy, theology, concepts of sin, etc.) religion would not preserve or propagate itself. Even Quakers and UUs. This says a lot about the “truth” of all religions. It must be preserved because it is exists solely on authority and tradition. If it was not taught to you, at all, could you ever dream up something even remotely similar to Christianity? Conversely, anyone could conceivably think their way into, or even stumble upon the Theory of Gravity. Science is “doable” by just about anyone willing to try. Religious knowledge, it is claimed, is only revealed to a special few and the rest are told to follow.

There is very little tradition or authority (even less dogma or doctrine) in science. Contrary to what anti-science/anti-intellectuals claim, science is an ever changing endeavor that rapidly changes based on the correct AND incorrect theories of the past. Think about how much we know about biology compared to 200 years ago. Compare that to how religion has changed on its own accord. Modern moderate/liberal religion is influenced by the secular Enlightenment of the past 500 years discarding or rationalizing the “messy” parts of religion so it squares with known facts. Not the other way around.

On what do you trust that God spoke to very few people in a very small area of the entire world for a short period of time and stopped? Authority and tradition. Not to mention doctrine/dogma. If you want to claim that you “just know” that is fine. However, you cannot expect anyone to accept that as a logical conclusion. It is based on whatever authority and tradition you were born into.

As for the claim that one version of the Bible is true over another; well….it’s a convenient claim for the claimant that THEY have the correct version. I have written a few posts related to this as it relates to moderate/liberal religion vs fundamentalists. If you’re interested check out:

Anonymous said...

I like Penn most of the time, he's got some good points. I can't get over the mistaken belief that atheism is somehow more logical than a religious belief, though. Atheism *is* a religious belief.

Science doesn't provide any form of certainty about the non-existence of something. You can't prove that something doesn't exists, that's not how the scientific method works. It can only prove that something does exist.

So any belief in the non-existence of deity is just as reliant on blind faith as Mitt Romney's magical underpants. Pretending that atheism is somehow more logical than superstition is a complete non-starter. If you want to be logical and scientific, then the correct answer is that you don't know if some kind of deity exists or not. But that makes you agnostic, not atheist.

Steve said...

The “atheism is a religion” canard is a typical response, but rest assured it is wrong. Atheism is *not* a religion.
Two definitions of religion:
- a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs. (Random House Dictionary)
-belief in, worship of, or obedience to a supernatural power or powers considered to be divine or to have control of human destiny. (World English Dictionary)
The key parts to take note of involve the “superhuman agency” and “supernatural power considered to be divine or to have control of human destiny.” Atheism rejects this concept. It’s in the definition “a lack of belief in god or gods.”
Furthermore, atheism is not “reliant on blind faith” as the lack of belief in Gods is on an evidential basis. There is not one shred of evidence to suggest a deity exists. None. Believers believe on faith BECAUSE of this. All they have is faith.
Those that wish to re-categorize atheists as agnostics have no ground to stand on. Agnostics, depending on your definition, have no ground to stand on. You either believe in god(s) or you don’t. You can claim to not know and still believe or not believe. No one CAN know. Those that claim to KNOW either way are deluded. To claim that it is a 50/50 proposition is a false equivalency. Would you suggest there is no shred of evidence suggesting He doesn’t exist? Think about that for a second. There is also not a shred of evidence that unicorns, Go-Bots, or the Gods of Olympus exist. Do you think there is just as much of a possibility that these or any other religious figures exist? Show me how to prove that Odin does not exist and we can use that method to prove that YHWH doesn’t exist.

Phyllis said...

I think the more pertinent question is not whether Obama is a Christian or if he has a deep religious faith, the bigger, most important question we need to ask is, does Obama use his religion to champion policies that are discriminatory or basically unconstitutional, as many fundamental Christians do? And I think, looking at his record, the answer is no, Obama seems do a good job of keeping his faith to himself and keeps his judgement in governing focused on constitutionality. That's what's crucial, I think - to have lawmakers who understand that this is a secular nation, governed by secular laws based on a secular constitutional, not by religious doctrines. Our personal faith may object to such things as abortion, or divorce, or homosexuality, or alcohol consumption, or women going in public with their hair uncovered, but in this country, we cannot impose our religious standards on others via any laws, local or federal. Religion is only dangerous when we let it interfere with our laws.