This I Know

I was awakened this morning (like most mornings) listening to
NPR’s Morning Edition. What really woke me up though was a feature they’ve been
running for the last several weeks every Monday. The feature is called “This I
Believe” and contains a 500 word essay read by the author on the subject of
what they believe and why they believe it.

This morning’s feature I really hesitate to pass along but I
will to prove my point. This morning’s feature was by Penn Jillette of Penn and
fame (Penn is the tall one…the one who talks). Sadly, his piece was
entitled, “This I believe…there is no god.” He prattles on, rather eloquently I
might add, about why he believes there is no god. I hate to pass it along
because he makes a few good points and I’d hate for his eloquence to actually
persuade you in any way.

It’s sad. It seems like most of the stuff he says actually
points TO the existence of God and not away from it. Too bad he comes to the
exact wrong conclusion.

In this Thanksgiving season, I want to declare the things I’m
thankful for. I may not know a lot but I do know some things for certain. I
wrote this piece last year and I think it’s particularly relevant now…in this
season. You can Download This_I_Know.pdf
or simply click on “This I know” in the left
margin. It’s not an exhaustive list but it’s a good start. Have you made a list?

With my apologies to Penn Jillette, “Thank you Lord for all
the blessings you’ve placed in my life!”

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  • I didn’t say anything about brave. I’m not interested in publishing my email to the world.
    Penn’s comments require NO faith at all. It’s what the evidence as currently known shows.
    But it’s a very good thing that you admit your beliefs are based on faith. Then there’s nothing to argue about.
    Consider reality.

  • This…
    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.”
    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.
    Both massive faith statements. I’m not saying he shouldn’t believe the way he does. His beliefs (and yours) are just that…HIS BELIEFS. Mine are different, that’s all.

  • Actually, you’re wrong…there’s no faith at all required to believe there is no god, because there has never been a shred of evidence to support it. If you think that not believing in flying purple robots is also a matter of faith, then we’re just using the word differently. People who believe in god, believe in the true sense of the word “faith” as it’s something they feel, something they sense, something they “know” – and it’s all based on anecdotal stories and faith – no actual evidence at all.

  • The thing I take away from Mike’s comments is that, regardless of theology, there is an unknown factor to life here on earth. Will I get hit by a bus? Can we solve world hunger? Mankind inherently hopes, believes, and has “faith” in things yet unseen. To me, this implies a soul, and therefore a super-natural plane of existence.
    Just my thoughts 🙂

  • Mike, why respond to an anonymous someone who opens the conversation by lobbing an insult? There are credible and tolerant atheists out there, so don’t waste your time with someone who wants to snipe from the shadows.
    Everybody is trusting in something. Having faith does not presuppose that you lack evidence, or that you possess evidence. You’ve placed your faith (trust) in something, even if it’s yourself.

  • Hi Michael
    Thanks for passing this along. Don’t know if you care or not about my $.02 but here it is (and it was written off the top of my head in a knee-jerk kinda way:
    Penn says:
    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.
    I have to ask of Penn:
    By what reason does he designate himself the measure of all things? Isn’t that an arbitrary assumption on his part? And if he then uses reason to search for objective evidence, the question then becomes why use reason? Is it right or wrong to use reason in searching for truth? It is, of course, wrong. What what does wrong mean? Without an objective, transcendent source of goodness his statement is meaningless. And this objective transcendent source must also be personal, meaning he able to impose his standard and enforce its violation. Otherwise, it wouldn’t matter if we did right or wrong. After all, we do not feel obliged to obey inanimate objects or abstracts. Thus, reason itself has a moral component to it that he cannot explain. To speak of wright and wrong, therefore requires God. When he says a person NEEDS to search for objective evidence, this implies an “oughtness,” a moral idea.
    Penn says:
    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.
    I have to ask of Penn:
    What makes these things good? Without good or bad or anything to be truly accountable to, all he is saying is that he prefers these things. He could just as easily have hate, hate for the family that raised him and hate for the family he’s raising now. There is no real difference.
    Penn says:
    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.
    I have to ask of Penn:
    Without God we can agree on reality? Really? Then where did reality come from? How did the universe create itself? How did life become non-life? What explains the absolutes that we all know by intuition? What explains non-physical entities like morals, reason, logic, numbers etc. Seems to me that we can’t talk about reality at all without God. He postures as an enlightened man who knows too much to believe in God, but his dismissal of why people believe (a reason that no one I know gives) shows that he doesn’t want to hear the evidence. This is the mark of an unenlightenment and intentional ignorance and bias. He has revealed himself as an anti-religious bigot and a closed mind of the highest order, all things he pretends not to be.
    Penn says:
    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.
    I have to ask of Penn:
    Actually, no God means no future. You die and that’s it. And this argument against God from the existence of evil is a argument of compatibility. It says that suffering and God cannot coexist. In 1974 Notre Dame philosipher Alvin Plantinga (a staunch Calvanist!) published a book called “God, Freedom, and Evil.” This book is one of the most important books ever to be published in the philosophy of religion because in it he disproved this argument, an argument that had been around for over 2000 years. No serious philosopher holds this argument anymore because of this book. In fact, the answer to this problem is so well known that anyone who holds this view exposes their ignorance of the philosophy of religion. Plantinga proved the two concepts are not incompatible by showing that if God has a reason for allowing the evil and that reason brings about a greater good then there is no problem. As a result, atheistic philosophers have shifted to a probability argument which says that the quantity and quality of evil and suffering in the world makes it likely that God does not exist. This too has an answer, but Penn wouldn’t know it since he obviously does not read on the subject.
    Penn says:
    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.
    To Penn I say:
    To paraphrase apologist Greg Koukl, I encourage Penn to believe in as many people as he can, look at as much beauty as he can, have as much sex as he can, and eat as much Jell-o as he can. For and atheist, this is a good as it gets. For a Christian, this life as is a bad as it gets.

  • Message for Anonymous:
    Most words translated faith in the New Testament have to do with acting on trustworthy information, something deserving of confidence, not hoping or wishing.


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