Penn Jillette – There Is No God

 There Is No God

by  (comedian/Magician/Genius)

 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.

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16 Responses to “Penn Jillette – There Is No God”

  1. Lone Wolf Says:

    Brilliant. That Penn is a genius. He put it far better than I ever could. I really couldn’t have put it any better my self.

  2. When someone shows me a god who looks and acts at least a little godlike, I’ll reconsider. Til then, I can’t imagine me believing in any god who would care whether I believe in him, or not. And, a god who can speak universes into existance with a word, yet demands to be worshipped by the inhabitants of one small planet has serious self-image problems.

    God? Nah!

  3. Ed, love it: any god who can speak universes into existence with a word, yet demands to be worshipped. . . has serious self-image problems. If I ever use those words, or words expressing the same thought, I’ll give you the credit.

  4. What is hilarious to me, a Christian, is that atheists like Penn Teller repeatedly have to beat people over the head with their beliefs. Great, but I thought I was watching a comedy show?

    “Hey, I’m Joseph, I’m a comedian. If you don’t believe in God, you are an idiot!” Okay…and what point did I just make? Absolutely none. I didn’t change your mind. It’s beating a dead horse. You call us “Bible thumpers,” but what exactly is Penn doing? 80% of his conversation and rhetoric is based on his not believing in a God. Why are you all so obsessed with this? Why do you have to make yourself feel better by surrounding yourself with those who don’t believe, and then spend your time patting one another on the back and saying “Yeah, you’re right, there isn’t a god!” *high-five* “Yeah exactly dude! No god!” *high-five*

    People who constantly make fun of homosexuals and fear being around them are called “homophobes” and are told that they are not comfortable with their own sexuality and that is what causes their “homophobia” (see: hatred). So, should I also assume that those who constantly make fun of a Christian’s beliefs and fear Christians as people are also not comfortable with their own faith (or lack there-of)?

    Just curious.



  5. There actually is a reason, Joey. It’s not about spreading their opinion. It’s trying to actually open people’s eyes that if you give respect to anyone with any imaginary friend, and there is no proof or criteria for that, then of course you must give respect to those who flew planes into the buildings. THeir god told them to do it. You can’t say, “but OUR god would never do that” because YOUR god has no more proof than THEIR god. So any support or respect of supernatural beings is very dangerous and evil.

  6. Joey,

    You are confused as to why we non believers waste our time discussing our belief that there is no god? I don’t think it is a waste of time or ridiculous or trivial for one to seek to understand how or why another believes the way they do. If a follower of David Koresh were to have taken a step back in order to question the validity of their self proclaimed leaders assertions would you have called their questions ridiculous, a waste of time and trivial? What about a member of the People’s Temple (Jim Jones)? What about a member of Heaven’s Gate? What about a Hindu? A Mormon? A Scientologist? Who should be encouraged to question that which they are taught to accept on faith alone? Everyone except those belonging to your particular sect of Christianity? Joey, if one of your loved ones had been a follower of David Koresh are you telling me you would have bit your tongue, tucked your bible away and sat on your hands? Believe me, Joey, if you would have felt obliged to step up and make an attempt to reveal what you believed to be a lie to your confused loved one, I would have understood. If only someone had been so clear headed and brave as to step up to the god believers who decided to turn our planes into bombs on 9/11. If only.

    Take Care,


  7. I personally believe that religion is a harmful practice, but at the same time, atheists slamming there beliefs down people’s throats is just as annoying.

  8. questioneverything Says:

    Even atheists wonder about the wellspring of the morals we hold. Even atheists reflect on the meaning of our life.

    Being an atheist does not mean we are not allowed to have morals or meaning, and does not restrict us from wanting to discuss the philosphical processes that guide our everyday actions. The religious do not hold a monopoly on this, the fact that they talk as if they do is one of the tricks they use to pull non-believers into their ranks.

    Atheist should definitely speak on our beliefs, often and with anyone who would like to hear them. The more we do, the more those people who would join a cult or extreme religioun might waver, might hold off for a bit. Atheists should definitely spead “our word”, because people whom feel lost and looking could find some answers in what we believe, instead of getting what they need from some cult that would add lies that they must swallow to the comfort or knowledge they seek.

    If we atheists remain silent, then the only choices that will be apparent for someone who is looking for answers, will be the god-tainted ones posed by those whom open their houses of worship and preach every week to anyone who wishes to listen.


  9. […] but Jillette focuses on atheism in his writings, rather than always being on the attack. His piece, There is No God, written for NPR’s This I Believe series, is, as far I am concerned, exactly what atheism should […]

  10. there is no god. believing is a crutch that many people in order to keep going. ask god for help and god will always say no, that is why it is impossible to beliefe god isists. taught to believe in god and hard to stop believing in that which is not

  11. Penn Jillette uses humor to build a bridge for his reader/viewer, knowing that some of his audience will be suspicious of his atheism. For the religious, this argumentative essay is emotional, let’s not kid ourselves. Penn, on the other hand, is not restricting his argument to one purely dogmatic view; he is attempting to describe to the best of his abilities that the reality we exist in is worth more to him than the supposition of a heaven. Since I am also an Atheist, I can relate without having preconceived notions of eternal damnation or quivering for forgiveness before some imaginary benefactor.

    It is this very starting point in a person’s life that he/she chooses; since being an atheist truly is easy because “you can’t prove a negative” -that is the claim of the existence of a God. Because we exist in this life and willingly choose to cherish our families and friends and build strong relationships, we in effect have created a nullifying field which makes religion not only “wrong” in our minds, but totally irrelevant. For Penn, this is enough: “I won the huge genetic lottery and I get joy every day.”

    The focus on ones own life -here and now, represents the bold first step at becoming a better person than one who simply chooses to believe in a dusty tome of fiction and repent for his transgressions against mankind with the vain hope of being “saved” in the afterlife.

    I wish more atheism were present, it would mean no more excuses, and carries the potential for achieving unwavering greatness.

  12. God is a stickier version of Santa Claus.

  13. This is a believer. I will first say that the point of faith is not and can never be followed by proof, otherwise it eliminates the need for faith. Faith is believing what you can’t see and that takes guts, strength and a warrior like spirit. We are all equipped with it, but how much we exercise it against our limited brain’s sense of logic is something most of us battle with. Many of us end up redirecting that strength and warrior like spirit to fighting faith. We continually “logic” God right out of our lives every day. God requires our faith not because HE’s some egotistical power mongering showoff. HE requires it because it is what is best for us, whether we see why or not. Its no different than a parent training their child to listen to the commands of their voice or a drill sergeant needing his/her troops to react without question to his/her commands. As the wiser, more experienced parties in such a relationship or group, we already see one hundred miles into the distance clearly what children or basic trainees can’t see because of their lack of exposure and experience. Parents aren’t better than their children and drill sergeants aren’t more important than their soldiers, yet there is a hierarchy based on knowledge and experience. Kids begin to think their parents are stuck on themselves and soldiers can sometimes think drill sergeants are mean until they are in the middle of a combat zone. Only when we get older or gain experience does it all begin to make sense to us and we realize it was love and caring and not egos and arrogance that caused our parents to react as they did. You want your child to obey at a moment’s notice in the event that a tractor trailer is barreling down the road he/she is about to run across one day and you yell “STOP!”. You don’t want them asking you ten million questions and you having to provide ten million reasons why you know what’s best for them. You won’t have time! You need their trust and faith in you that you have their best interest at heart WITHOUT PROOF right then and there. In between all those emergency or potentially dangerous moments, they can ask as many questions as they like. That’s who God is to us. HE is not doing this because HE needs us. HE’s perfectly fine with or without us, but HE does love us greatly. HE knows we need HIM more than we know while we spend time here in these temporary shells. HE knows some of us will be blessed/cursed with fame & wealth and thereby distracted from HIM because of those blessings. Others of us will be distracted by living challenging lives full of starvation, sickness, poverty and struggles many Americans know nothing about. HE knows the world will hurl itself at us in ways most of us could never imagine and because of this HE needs us to be in tune to HIS Voice at a moment’s notice because that tractor trailer may be a brilliant scientist (Steven Hawking) who we admire, a celebrity we look up to, a job offer too good to be true, a house we have to have at any cost, a love interest, money, a drug, any addiction, friends, sex, family or our own hearts and minds that are unhealthy for us, but because they are laminated in skill, intelligence, concealed empty promises and outward beauty, we don’t see their toxicity. I get that there is a seemingly limited purity in someone who chooses to do good and who does not believe. They are not doing it for any brownie points. They are doing it thinking this is all there is. That is until they do it and then write an essay or blog about it. At that moment it serves as a lure to share with and convince others of their lifestyle and beliefs. The non-believer’s testimony is not anymore noble than that of the believer’s. No matter how “holier than thou” the believer or nonbeliever may appear, there are plenty of us who present our example and testimony. That’s a human condition. We all do it whether in politics, philosophy, football team, religion or whatever we feel strongly about. Most real believers save souls so that they may be at peace in eternity. That means our enemies and those we disagree with and would never normally choose as friends. That should be our driving force behind talking about God/Jesus. Its not a condescending sort of thing, but it will seem like that to an unbeliever. Its putting aside our earthly desires and how we think of everyone in the way that God thinks of everyone which is that we are all HIS children and HE loves us equally. Do you love one of your children any less because they give you the hardest time and oppose you at every turn over the other children who are more obedient? No. You love them equally. In fact you give more attention where it is needed, which is with the troubled child.

    You and all who are in a state of anything less than belief and faith in God/Jesus are my brothers and sisters and God’s children even in your refusal. I pray for all souls on this planet with no exceptions ever. The mere thought of the weight of my brothers and sisters existing in blackness, emptiness, loneliness, and emotions and physical states we don’t even have terms for concerns me beyond my own comprehension. One hundred years here in semi bliss and success will not even be a blink of an eye when you think in terms of infinity, endlessness, eternity, etc. I ask one thing only. Don’t listen to mankind. Don’t open a book just yet. But will you all please for five minutes in solitude and silence just speak to the One you don’t believe exists and humble yourselves for five minutes over the possibility that none of us know everything about this world and just be open to the possibility of HIS existence. Let Him speak to you (not in ways we are use to) in some way that will make it clear to you. It may not happen at that moment. It may take five years. If there is even .0000000000000001% chance that we believers are right or partially right, then wouldn’t you want the opportunity to avoid a hideous eternity (thats forever-never ending) versus being with the Creator and rid of all worries, fears, suffering, anguish and more. Give our “Imaginary Friend” five minutes of your time. If there is no movement in your life, now or later, then so be it, but what is the harm if its just an Imaginary Friend anyway? If He becomes more than that to you in time, then it will have been worth it. If not, you never ever have to admit that you even spoke to Him or opened yourself to Him for five minutes.

  14. One more thing. I suppose that I better understand those who choose other religions than no religion at all or believe in some God whether assoicated with religion or not than those who do not because not believing in anything is such a huge risk whereas believing carries no risk. If there is nothing after this life then there is no harm and no foul in believing and the worst case scenario is that you set up a list of principles to play by in life that should be positive. If you choose not to believe then you are risking eternity and that is not worth a risk because it costs nothing to believe. Its like me presenting two rooms to you and I say “Behind door number one is the possibility of ten trillion dollars tax free or there is nothing and behind door number two is absolutely nothing. Now which door will you choose?” So you lose nothing by choosing. You come in and leave with what you came with. Any one would select door number one for the POSSIBILITY of ten trillion dollars. To walk away not choosing either door when there is no cost for the choice is inconceivable to me. Its even more inconceivable when I think about non believers who have children. Its one thing to risk your eternity away but to look into your child’s eyes and risk their eternity away because of your influence… I can not speak further on that because it is too heart breaking to me. Who in their right mind would not select door number one? So what your hopes are dashed if there is nothing? I can deal with that. We can’t know everything in this world. We don’t have the ability and no matter how smart we are, we still don’t know what lies beyond our solar system, in the deepest parts of our own oceans, in the center of our plant, and so on. What if? I risk nothing by believing if you are right, but if believers are right, you are throwing away infinity. Its not like disbelief relieves you of an afterlife if you are wrong. Your thoughts don’t make or break the afterlife any more than mine do.

    God Bless you in your deepest thoughts and may He find a way to warm your heart and intellect to the possibility of HIM. Take care.

  15. Gabrielle Berthold Says:

    Penn Jillette isn’t saying that he doesnt believe in God in his writing. He is saying that he doesn’t believe in people using God as an excuse to justify their wrong doing. He doesnt want people to use God as a “spare tire” and pull him out when they need him and kick him to the curve when they are done. He also says that people shouldnt push God onto others because it actually turns them away from God. He talks about how simple things in life are the best things to enjoy and that some people just need to find God or “imaginary friend” in their own time.

    Hope this helps. My English teacher made us write a paper on this piece. We discussed it a lot in class.

  16. If there’s not a God why can’t we explain everything!! Why can’t we prosper without immunity from disease! huh! Why can’t we all understand one another!!! How come we are not omnipotent and all-powerful!!

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