Saturday, June 13, 2009

Penn Says: A Gift of Respect

A friend recently pointed me to the video blog of Penn Jillette (the tall, bearded, speaking half of the magic duo Penn & Teller).

I'm sure I'm late to the party — I had no idea Penn Jillette had a radio program at one time, or that he has a popular vlog "Penn Says", or that he can be followed on Twitter. I didn't know anything about Mr. Jillette beyond his onstage work as a magician.

Penn Jillette is an atheist, and vocal about his views. I was an atheist until my sophomore year in college, so I understand a little about where he's coming from.

I watched the video my friend pointed me to, then watched several other "Penn Says" entries. Right away, I was struck by Jillette's intellectual honesty. Also, I could see he places a high value on respect for others.* But what struck me more than anything was that he is not accustomed to being treated with a similar respect by people who disagree with his views. And that saddens me.

What is it about evangelicals that we have such a hard time respecting people whose opinions don't align with our own? Why do we feel the need to go on the defensive? Are we really so insecure in our faith that we can't look beyond a person's tough, sometimes spiny exterior and see the fellow human underneath?

Do we really believe the atheist is created by God, in His image?

If so, why do we have so much trouble showing it?

*Be advised, many of Jillette's YouTube commenters do not seem to share that value.



  1. Hey Pam, I really like your post!
    One of the first things I also noticed, was his respect for other people. He had a ton of honesty! :)

    I would think that you're proof that Penn is created by God in His image! He's choosing to "believe" that God isn't real. It's hard to show that we believe that those who don't accept God are created in His image. Why would someone created by a loving, caring, and righteous God choose to ignore him! Sometimes those are the thoughts going through our minds. I think that might be why we have trouble showing it. Just a thought...


  2. Kelly, thanks for your comment.

    And I hasten to add, I'm no different. If I went back in time and had a chat with the 17-year-old me, would the teenage me think the middle-aged me was a judgmental Bible-thumper?


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