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Penn Jillette

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Jillette is the loud 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.

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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." mp3 version

Here are some excerpts:

Morning Edition, November 21, 2005 ยท 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.

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Penn and Teller's cable series, Bullshit! [1], is now entering its third season on Showtime. Debunking claims of psychic ability and pseudoscience is the major theme. They occasionally challenge religion.

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From January 2006 to March 2007 Penn could be heard on his hour-long radio show on CBS FREE FM which was heard in many major markets and also via podcast. His godlessness was a frequent topic. An archive of his radio shows can be found at http://www.pennfans.net

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He took the Blasphemy Challenge at TAM in Vegas and mentioned the Blasphemy Challenge project by the Rational Response Squad on his radio show as a supporter of the project. The Blasphemy Challenge continues to receive entries well after 1,000 DVD's have been awarded.

Penn Jillette takes the Blasphemy Challenge


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In 2004 he authored a novel, Sock, in which godlessness is a major theme.

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Penn was interviewed in The Onion (1999?): "being pro-science is one of the oddest things you can do in show business. Which is very strange, because it was science that, oh, cured polio. I could list others--isn't that enough? [Laughs.] Oh, Western medicine doesn't work; I'm sorry, we cured polio. What more do you want? Your herbalism has done jack; we cured polio. And guess what? It cures polio even if you don't believe in it. We don't have it on Earth anymore. And then there's also small pox, and then there's mostly dysentery, and we haven't even gotten into the stuff we're good at, which is physics. We're not good at medicine; we're good at physics. We were good at physics in the 20th century; in the 21st century, one would hope, we'll be good at medicine. But we [Penn & Teller] are pro-science, and when you're pro-science, that means you're an atheist, by definition, because religion... No matter how much they put "10 Top Scientists Talk About Why They Believe In God" on the cover of TIME magazine, you kind of have to look and go, "How come these 10 top scientists are all teaching at community colleges?"

Penn recounts a 1998 appearance on Donny and Marie Osmond's syndicated talkshow: We were asked to do autographs for Donny and Marie. I wrote, "There is no god," and Teller wrote, "He's right."

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In 1996, a contributor reports that Penn wears his "Team Satan 666" shirt everywhere.

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"Penn is such an ardent atheist he refuses to go to weddings" writes Joshua Quittner in a PJ profile in WIRED 2.09.

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"The truth is an atheist I do rape and murder as much as I want to, which is exactly zero." - Penn Jillette

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Penn Jillette with Adam Carolla on atheism

See: Adam Carolla


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Reason's Nick Gillespie talks with the one-and-only Penn Jillette about his best-selling new book, God, No!: Signs You May Already Be an Atheist and Other Magical Tales, his friendship with Glenn Beck, skepticism versus cynicism, the role of religion in terrorism, why he's a libertarian, and much more in a wide-ranging conversation.

Penn Jillette on God, No!, Atheism, Libertarianism, & More




Penn & Teller have an extensive home on the web at http://www.pennandteller.com.