Thursday, August 18, 2011

Penn Jilllete and God-believing atheists

by Salman Hameed

Here is an interesting interview with magician Penn Jillette (of Penn and Teller's Bullshit! fame). He has a new book out, God, No! Signs you may already be an atheist and other magical tales. He takes the stance that there isn't much difference between atheists and religious folks when comes down to issues of morality, etc. He differs from those militant atheists who argue that primarily religion is, and has been, a source of evil in the world. Yes, there are crazies out there who act in the name of religion, but Penn believes that those are outliers, and it is a mistake to fixate on them and generalize from there. Penn takes a universalist approach to morality in humans (indeed, a huge subject...), and thinks that atheists and religious people make similar sorts of moral decisions - irrespective of what religion tells them to do - and have a lot more in common than they realize (by the way, in US the public is least likely to vote for an atheist President than any another denomination including Muslims).

This is not an academic book. Nevertheless, he is engaged with these debates at the ground-level. He understands the need and the desire to have a community, and the fact that religion fills up this niche quite nicely. In the interview there is also a nice little conversation about performing magic in the age of science, and the difference between magic and a performing a trick.

Oh - and he seems to be a local of western Massachusetts. In fact, there is even a mention of Northampton in the interview!

Listen to the full interview here (it is about 16 minutes long). 


Ceska said...

I knew that Penn Jillette was an atheist. But a whole book belaboring the belief is too much. If you read the book, expect a few funny stories, and a whole lot of reasons not to believe in God.flaman

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