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August 17, 2011

Penn Jillette on the Power of "I Don't Know."

I don't know, so I'm an atheist libertarian
What makes me libertarian is what makes me an atheist -- I don't know. If I don't know, I don't believe. I don't know exactly how we got here, and I don't think anyone else does, either. We have some of the pieces of the puzzle and we'll get more, but I'm not going to use faith to fill in the gaps. I'm not going to believe things that TV hosts state without proof. I'll wait for real evidence and then I'll believe. And I don't think anyone really knows how to help everyone. I don't even know what's best for me. Take my uncertainty about what's best for me and multiply that by every combination of the over 300 million people in the United States and I have no idea what the government should do.

Posted by Vanderleun at August 17, 2011 1:56 PM. This is an entry on the sideblog of American Digest: Check it out.

Your Say

"I don't know" makes me an agnostic, not athiest.

Posted by: LS at August 17, 2011 3:07 PM

Oh, he knows. He just rejects.

"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things."

Romans 1:18 and onwards.

Posted by: Marie at August 17, 2011 3:43 PM

If anyone is interested I's spending my summer practicing autofellatio.

Posted by: dr kill at August 17, 2011 4:10 PM

Any middle-aged, caucasian man with a pony-tail is suspect.

Posted by: Blastineau at August 17, 2011 4:16 PM

"If ah cain't poke it with a stick, it ain't real."

Deeeeep, Mr. J. Deeeeeeep.

Posted by: Robert Oculus III at August 17, 2011 6:27 PM

What Marie saith, she saith for me.

Posted by: Niggle at August 17, 2011 8:26 PM

Uh, folks, his political point is well-taken.

And if you'd lay off the jeering, maybe you'd see that he has a point about religion.

Yes, I too think that he's being a bit "cute" with the skepticism, but he's right-- there is no proof of God's existence, nor can there be such proof. If proof were possible, what room would there be for faith, and all the virtues associated with it?

And if his skepticism is some sort of moral failing, I say we need more "moral failures" like him in this country. God knows we have some people in high places right now who are far blacker in their hearts than Mr. Jillette.

Posted by: Hale Adams at August 17, 2011 8:38 PM

There's certainly more proof for God's existence than for nonexistence. Based upon what we can see and touch and feel. Even the intangible things we take for granted have the hallmarks of design.
Engineers and artists always take their cues from nature's designs. Imitation is not just a form of flattery, but a form of acknowledgement.
Maybe Jillette's career as an illusionist has more to do with his unbelief than anything else.

Posted by: Jewel at August 17, 2011 9:26 PM

Jillette is extremely atypical of atheists. They do think they know, both the supernatural and the political. Jillette has earned the respect of all religious people who engage him after his shows.

Posted by: james wilson at August 17, 2011 9:54 PM

1) LS is correct. Jillette is talking like an agnostic, not an atheist.

2) An article of faith and a spark of inspiration are needed not just by the religious, but also by breakthrough scientists and mathematicians. The absolute logical positivism Jillette is expounding is a recipe for stanation and paralysis.

Posted by: Don Rodrigo at August 18, 2011 10:12 AM

I've met Penn and I like him a lot, but this fetishization of "knowing" leaves out most of what's important in life. It's fine to take the scientific approach, but how many times in life are you obliged to just do what you think it best without full knowledge of what's involved? When I was pregnant with my 3 kids I didn't *know* that I'd be able to raise them - mostly I didn't know that they'd all be born with serious handicaps, but I ended up in that situation anyway. Most people don't face such extreme cases, but the basic truth is that no one KNOWS what's going to happen when they conceive a child, or get married, or start a business, or do any activity that will stretch into the future. We don't know, but we do it anyway, and trust and hope and guess that we'll be successful - that's faith, if you like, and life would be impossible without it.

Try to live just on scientific principles of fact, and you'll find you can't. As someone wrote, once Othello had all the facts, he believed in Desdemona's innocence. But by then, it was too late.

Posted by: Dr. Mabuse at August 19, 2011 11:05 AM

Everyone knows--or should know--that there's no way of proving or disproving the existence of God. Everything after that is a personal decision based on the kind of world in which one prefers to live.

Vladimir Nabokov once claimed that he wrote to create a world in which he could live, a world in which truth, beauty, tenderness, and kindness were the norm....

Me? I wriggled out of the atheist straitjacket and became an Orthodox Christian (after 45 years). Just as unprovable and far more beautiful.

The pillows are fluffier, too.

Posted by: ahem at August 19, 2011 10:36 PM

There are lots more 'moral failures' like him. Mao, Stalin, and Hitler all didn't believe. They are the number one, two, and three mass murders in the histry of man-kind. It should be noted that all three replaced God with socialism.
Myself, I don't know about God, but I believe. I do know about socialist, and I believe socialism is evil. I don't care if you believe in God or not. But I do care if you are a socialist.

Posted by: Dave F at August 22, 2011 7:18 AM

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