Wednesday, November 23, 2005

And an actor plays his part

Tom asks for more statements of faith. I've got one for him... I was most impressed by Penn Jillette's active faith that there is no god.

Jillette and I don't agree on this point. But we do agree on a rather low tolerance for bullshit and intellectual inconsistency. I think we agree that there's too much of both in theistic and atheistic/agnostic circles alike. (As he puts it, the atheism part is easy.) So I'm just impressed to see someone go right back to The Big Question and then reason out from it. I've never quite understood how an honest Atheist would construct values and ethics, and I think he takes an honest crack at it.

Jillette also addresses one of my big questions. To me, Religion is about belonging. Catholicism is an inherently social worldview; we're called to see ourselves in a group, to be together. (You'll note that John 3:16 most emphatically does not say that "God so loved you that He sent His only begotten Son...") So I've always wondered what people do without that tie. It's interesting to note that Jillette uses the word "family" 4 times in his 500-word essay, plus one reference to "the genetic lottery" and one to "how I was brought up." Sounds like a valued family to me.

From where I walk, Jillette seems to be on a very foreign path. But I do admire that he's looked at it from beginning to end.

(As a matter of fact, I'm rather impressed by the whole This I Believe project, and I think Tom, and you, might do well to look through it. But my post of thanks to Edward R. Murrow is for another day.)


Blogger tommyspoon said...

Thanks for the links! I quite enjoyed Penn's essay, and I'll read the other essays in the future.

Your post leaves me wondering about your feeling that religion is the primary way that people gather in groups and form communities. The communal nature of organized religion is one of its few charms, but religion is not the only way to experience a loving and caring community. I'm glad that Penn Jillette is able to articulate that notion better than I can.

I'm still working on what I believe. But I'm content to keep working on it. Maybe someday I'll even get it!

7:20 AM, November 23, 2005  
Blogger Joe said...

I didn't mean to imply that "religion is the primary way that people gather." Actually, it's proper that the family is our first social unit, and when we find really good ones, we tend to use those family terms to describe it.

I do believe that learning and worldview development happen best in social groups. I'd like to see a lot more discussion across groups - Reform Jews talking to the Christian Right, as you brought up. But there's a place for singing to the choir, and my question (which I guess Jillette doesn't really address) is where he goes when he wants shoring up, not questioning.

8:40 AM, November 23, 2005  
Blogger TeacherRefPoet said...

I enjoyed Jillette's essay when I head it on NPR the other morning. I cringed a little bit when I heard him refer to "my imaginary friend." That smells like the non-belief fundamentalism to me...a ridicule of the religious. But I can't argue with his logic or his interest.

3:34 PM, November 23, 2005  
Blogger lemming said...

I agree that the "This I Believe" series is wonderful - I think one of its greatest strengths is that "belief" isn't limited to statements of religious belief. I think the best essay yet came from a man who serves on parole boards, discussing why and how he believes that people can change, can reform and can better their lives.

12:55 PM, November 24, 2005  

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