Monday, August 1, 2011

Penn Jillette, the Cowardly Atheist

Today, Penn Jillette posted a video about not wanting to debate some ex-atheist Christian conservative video producer about atheism.  Apparently, Penn was offended at being labeled an overweight atheist (oddly enough there is a whole article on Conservapedia about this topic).  In Mr. Jillette’s video, he states his reason for not debating Shockofgod, stating that he believes him to be a troll and not a serious person to debate.

Now, understand that I like both Penn Jillette and Conservapedia.  By and large, Conservapedia is a website that offers an alternative to Wikipedia, which does tends to leave out information that is not politically correct.  Granted, Conservapedia is a more blatant propaganda wiki-site than Wikipedia is, that does not mean that they are less legitimate a site than Wikipedia in terms of information and facts.  I never trust either to provide me with completely accurate information.  If I were to do a research paper, I might use both just to get some references for the topic, but I would cite those references rather than the site itself.

That being said, I think it is a bit cowardly on Mr. Jillette’s part to refuse to debate and refer to Shockofgod as a troll.  I understand that being a public Internet celebrity has the downside of getting trolls.  Heck, I think I get trolls on my own blog and I am not a significant player on the Internet world.  If Mr. Jillette has simply refused the offer and stated that he is too busy, I would have understood.  He has a Las Vegas show, a television show, a Youtube show, and a family to care for.  He is a busy guy and I would not expect him to take up every offer or challenge that is thrown his way.  That would be an acceptable response.

However, because he decided to insult the challenger, I think that smacks of cowardice.  If you are an atheist and you constantly berate other non-atheists for whatever they believe, you should not be surprised when someone decides to fight back.  Even worse, atheists tend to claim to have reason and science on their side, yet they continually refuse to debate clear facts that present a contrary position to their own.  For example, if an atheist claims that religion is the cause of all wars or most wars, you will never hear any clear examples besides the Crusades or the Inquisition, which was not a war.  Pretty much all wars fought by the United States has not been a religious war of any kind.

More than that, Penn Jillette has constantly berated those who do believe on his show (Penn & Teller’s Bullshit), even when it was not relevant to the topic at hand.  For example, in the episode dealing with the conspiracies behind the moon landing, he asked one of his prop guys about the supposed prop rocks.  The prop guy was busily sticking a drill through a Bible for no apparent reason.  Now, I do not watch his show all that often, but it was clear to me that he was taking the time to bash Christians and Christian belief for no real reason other than he could.

Yet he cowers when challenged directly.  Fortunately he is not alone as Vox Day has taken up PZ Myer’s challenge on a debate a couple of years ago and never had the opportunity to do so.  No wonder, considering that Sam Harris debated WL Craig and did a piss poor job of debating.  It seems to me that atheists know that a lot of their assertions against religion and religious belief are full of bullshit and many seem to stem from some serious mental disorder which remains untreated.

Not that I think all atheists are deranged.  I know that many are mostly harmless, so long as they remain out of power (given that atheist-controlled nations have resulted in more deaths in the last century than any nation controlled by any religious leader), but they cannot expect to throw insults and not have their views challenged in a legitimate forum of debate.

If you do not believe that God exists or that my belief is foolish, I am comfortable with that.  I do not have prove my faith to you and you should be glad that my faith teaches me to love my neighbor (such as you) as I love myself.  If it taught me to hate you, you would have good reason to fear my religion.

I will grant that there have been atrocities done in the name of religion and despite the comparatively weak body-count to atheist atrocities, evil is still evil.  And I cannot say that I would have been able to stop them, had I been there because there is something to be said about religious fervor playing on the weak.  Multi-level marketing gurus have figured out how to take advantage of such emotional highs, so it would not be much of a stretch for a religious organization to do so as well.  Often times, fear of sin is used, especially children committing sin, to the point where stupid laws are passed which do nothing to lesson the sinful acts of mankind.  When you believe the government can act a deterrent for sin, then you are substituting God for the State and that is the sin of pride.

As for this current debate debacle, I think my fellow Christians should back off of Penn Jillette.  He said he will not debate and even though I see it as cowardly, there is no point in forcing him to do something he does not want to do.  I would encourage Mr. Jillette to consider debating a more serious Christian on his atheist views, if Shockofgod is not considered a serious debater, but I understand that he is a busy man and that he probably will never read this blog, no matter what I do.

It’s a shame though, because it might be fun to see Mr. Jillette tear out one of his eyeballs in a very gory and bloody fashion as one of his counterpoints (all of it a magic trick, of course).  Or debate while juggling.  Most debates tend to be boring anyway, so anyone debating a magician would be fun to watch.