21 November 2005

I Believe

Magician and author Penn Jillette on NPR this morning offers a nice summary of why he believes that "There is No God." While his arguments are not original, they are well stated and deserve repeating. An "I Believe" statement is something in the nature of a press release, and so I'm going to reprint it here in full.

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?

So, anyone with a love for truth outside of herself has to start with no belief in God and then look for evidence of God. She needs to search for some objective evidence of a supernatural power. All the people I write e-mails to often are still stuck at this searching stage. The Atheism part is easy.

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's no God stops me from being solipsistic. I can read ideas from all different people from all different cultures. Without God, we can agree on reality, and I can keep learning where I'm wrong. We can all keep adjusting, so we can really communicate. I don't travel in circles where people say, "I have faith, I believe this in my heart and nothing you can say or do can shake my faith." That's just a long-winded religious way to say, "shut up," or another two words that the FCC likes less. But all obscenity is less insulting than, "How I was brought up and my imaginary friend means more to me than anything you can ever say or do." So, believing there is no God lets me be proven wrong and that's always fun. It means I'm learning something.

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.


Live today, and every day, to its fullest.

3 comments:

Julie O. said...

Yeah, but don't you want the pleasure of thinking that the pricks of this world who do whatever they want and get away with it will eventually be punished, even if only by their own consciences?

I really like the idea that, though in life people have pathologies or whatnot which don't allow them to feel empathy or remorse, after death all pathologies and forgotten memories are stripped away and we're left with the knowledge of everything we've ever done, and we feel it more acutely than ever in life.

Of course, that is just a coping mechanism for dealing with the knowledge that often bad people go through life doing bad things and humming happily to themselves, and there's not much I can do about it.

Kyle said...

That's a really great quote from him. I've griped before about how obnoxious Penn can sometimes be, but here he strikes me as being right on the button, and well spoken to boot.

Anonymous said...

After reading this I couldn't resist to commenting on these thoughts that Penn thinks is right. Since he has stated several points as to why he chooses to believe that there is no God,why not say what I think about it? First of all, Penn stated that anyone with a love for truth has to start with no belief in God and then look for evidence of God. How will that lead to a good conclusion? Can I make a hypothesis and look for evidence and have a result that isn't tainted? The evidence that you are looking for, are you going to accept it when you see it? The thing is, when you're truly searching you're not going to find anything that is normal in this world. Our carnal minds can't comprehend the supernatural unless we are sincerely willing to surrender to it when we find it. About being content with the world and not needing heaven,that's the trick of the devil (yes I said the devil)that makes many not open to God. God wants us to be happy on earth but he also wants us to have fellowship with Him in person in heaven one day. What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul as the scriptures say? If God does not exist then all is lost is time on earth for those who believe. If He does exist and there is a Heaven and Hell then what are you going to do? The thing is, we will all know the truth for sure when we die. If you deny Him, are you going to have that chance accept Him? Think about it.