Monday, March 26, 2012

Jillette Believes There is No God - Is Evidently Omniscient

Penn Jillette says he is beyond atheism, since atheism is simply not believing in God. Rather, Jillette says, he believes that there IS no God. Evidently he has recently been blessed with the gift of omniscience. Or at least the belief that he has omniscience. He comments briefly on the aesthetic advantages of his true-blue atheism:
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.
The thing that I can't help but reflect on is that the same subjective advantages Jillette sees in atheism are totally absent when I look at it. What ground does Jillette have for believing that the blobs of DNA he has chosen to call 'family' are any more worth valuing than the other blobs walking around? What reason other than his own physical sensations does Jillette have for his notion that suffering is 'bad' or something not to be done to others?

The fact is, Penn Jillette is a terrifically moral man who cannot account for his morality. He can assert it all the live-long day, and he has in his book. I've seen how mad he gets when people lie, for example. I love it. It's just that in his universe, I should be able to lie to him without him getting all morally superior and telling me to cut it out. And even if he does, in his universe, there is no higher court of appeal.

Back to the aesthetic point for a moment. Jillette sees a beauty to human solitude, apart from God. That is to say, he sees a universe full of suffering and evil. He admits that there is misery and sorrow all around him. He lives in a toilet. But he has accustomed himself to it and comforted himself by thinking, "At least nobody is going to flush the toilet." The best nihilism can give its adherents is the thought that a future nothing is better than a future something.

I imagine Penn Jillette and Cornelius Van Til going on a walk together. As they stroll along they come across a bird who has fallen out of its tree, its wing broken. What do they each see? Consistent with the atheistic worldview, Jillette sees an inferior biological creature. He of course, explains to Van Til that this creature was beautiful and that the suffering of said creature is even more proof that there is no God, for why would a loving God allow this beautiful creature to suffer like this?

Van Til, on the other hand, waits for Jillette to finish and looks from Jillette to the bird, and then back to Jillette. After some time of looking between them, Van Til says, "This bird can only suffer in a universe where 'oughts' exist. Either this bird 'ought' or 'ought not' to suffer, but you can not tell me what the difference is between the bird and the tree it fell out of. You assert that there is a difference, but you cannot account for a reason to actually distinguish the two other than your intuition. My worldview makes sense of suffering. Yours can't even account for distinguishing between objects."

In the end, Jillette is making due with what he has. He knows there must be beauty in the universe and he is choosing to enjoy the toilet bowl because that's the only choice that he has.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Before posting please read our Comment Policy here.

Think hard about this: the world is watching!