Penn Jillette Reacts to Getting a Gift Bible

I came across this video originally by visiting one of the many atheist/agnostic Facebook pages (BTW, mine is under Freethunk Jeff if you want to say Hi) and this is an interesting video coming from one of the hosts of Bullshit on Showtime. Now if you’ve ever watched Bullshit, Penn Jillette basically calls everyone assholes and other epithets throughout the show as they cover subjects ranging from chiropractors to new age healing to The Bible. The question is how can Penn be sincere in this video with what he considers to be a compliment because someone thought enough of him to give him a Bible–even though he wholeheartedly rejects the Bible and tells people on his show to fuck off (or something to that extent. Penn likes to create verbal art with the F word).

Let me give my take on it. It’s sort of like the “guy thing” that women don’t understand. Men can get into a down in the dirt fist-fight and an hour later be friends. When Penn calls people assholes it doesn’t mean he doesn’t like them. That’s weird to say but I confirmed it to some extent on another video he did on Glenn Beck. He calls Glenn Beck an asshole, but he has appeared numerous times on Glenn Beck’s show and he says in his video that he likes Glenn Beck. It can be very confusing, but as a guy–I get it. It’s a difference of opinion–sometimes heated up to the point of wanting to hit someone–that eventually resolves itself into a mutual liking for each other while retaining a competitive nature.

I’ve tried on this site to reserve words like asshole for real assholes because I want to keep the power of the word, but Penn from what I know of his “exposed” life (because he’s not exactly a private individual, loves to tell stories) can be friends with anyone, he’s just opinionated as all hell. So just because he tells a psychic to go fuck him or her self it doesn’t mean he wouldn’t buy them a beer that very night and have a conversation on Bob Dylan (one of his favorite musicians).

Now maybe I’m completely wrong here, but this is my best take on it. There are definitely some people on the Bullshit series that the asshole label sticks permanently and there’s no ensuing friendship because some of these “assholes” ruin people’s lives.

In this posted video, I honestly feel the same way as Penn when Christians or other faiths sincerely gift-me their religion–it’s a compliment. I will most definitely disagree with them, but I’m not offended. It’s also why I don’t mind talking to Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses when they knock at the door (if I have time) or if someone wants to give me their opinion on the pro-life stance, etc. I think we’re far too often easily offended in casual conversation and so most people don’t say what their real opinions are. I know I have to be extremely careful in polite situations or job-related situations because people can be touchy.

This is not to say that we shouldn’t be offended by the content of someone says, I’m talking more about the fact that someone said it. I’d rather give a counterargument than tell someone to shut up. Or at least I hope that’s the way I react in most situations. Hell, I even have mixed feelings about Glenn Beck losing his show on Fox even though I think I smiled when I heard the news. Maybe I want him around but I get concerned when too many people are taking his nuttiness seriously.

SIDENOTE: If you think freethinking atheists, agnostics, etc don’t have issues with language and name calling–they do. I’ve offended freethinkers in the past and I know some freethinkers think swearing is not civil. So foul language is not just a Christian complaint. My opinion on it is that I think it does fall under superstition as one sound supersedes another; power is given to some words more than others such as “crap” being less offensive than “shit” even though they mean the same thing. On the other hand, that is the nature of language.  Society determines which words have power and which do not–but that doesn’t mean we can’t take power away by repeating a word until it is emptied of its vile perception (as Lenny Bruce famously pointed out).

Graduation Prayer Comic Strip

After reading about Damon Fowler this week , the atheist high school student who protested against his school’s graduation prayer,  I was inspired to do a comic page on it. This is more satire than criticism because if you think about it, life changes dramatically after you leave the small world existence of high school and go to college.  And what does a graduation prayer signify? Thanking god for all your hard work? God didn’t do it, you’re the one who studied and passed your tests. Otherwise you’d be able to pray to god and have instant knowledge.

Many former church-going Christians when they leave home are exposed to new ideas and while they don’t all turn into atheists they do modify their beliefs. I used  “socialist university professors” as a conservative parents’ worst nightmare. Don’t worry, it’s not so bad. Many socialist students turn back into conservatives when they start their own businesses.

BTW: If you do want to show financial support for Damon The Friendly Atheist has set up a support fund. From what I know posted by another Freethunk reader, Damon has been kicked out of his home after this fiasco and is essentially out on his own except for the support of the freethinking community. I believe it makes sense to reward such courage in the face of a Christian majority. I’m hesitant to set him up as a hero as it undoubtedly means someone will find some flaw in his skeleton closet, but no one is perfect. This is a teenager who did his best to do the right thing and after seeing the reaction I think he has made a valuable contribution to other atheist high school students facing the same prospect. The Christian majority, while retaining personal freedom of religious expression, needs to get used to the idea that public school events are not church.

Parking Wars Reality Show with an Avowed Agnostic

Here’s a little Freethunk fluff on Parking Wars, the A&E reality TV series. Whenever I get sick I eat junk food and watch junk TV and this time I found Parking Wars on Netflix and watched the entire first season as snot dribbled out my nose. I’m always fascinated by other people’s jobs, especially the crappy ones. While I’m sure the benefits and pay are good, working for the parking authority is filled with abuse. I would say the abuse is ill-aimed and that the people who should get an earful are the ones who have the power to change how the streets are run. Simply put, too many cars and too few spaces creates high demand and the city knows how to make money off of it instead of creating solutions.

Two of the featured parking authority officers for Philadelphia are Garfield and Sherry. They are booters. You get 3 tickets and you’re likely to find an ugly, yellow contraption on your wheel. Garfield, per the profile notes displayed during the show, is an avowed agnostic who loves to listen to Bad Religion. His partner, on the other hand, is a Christian married to a deacon. So what you have is an interfaith team on the streets nailing violators. It was somewhat humorous to see bumperstickers praising Jesus getting the boot or a brother’s sister being booted despite the fact she was a missionary (I guess missionaries don’t pay tickets when they know they may be leaving for another country).

Most of the people being booted, while upset, treat Garfield and Sherry much better than the officers who issue the original parking tickets. The booting pair does genuinely take the time to help the people being booted and are not unsympathetic–yet it is their job, as unpleasant as it may be, and they will not run away from an argument.

It’s hard to take sides in this show, but Garfield and Sherry are my favorite Philly Parking Authorities. Sometimes it is B.S. to get a ticket, but often it is so obvious that a person is full of B.S. when they’re trying to get out of a ticket. As long as it ain’t you it’s hard not to laugh.

SIDENOTE: The freedom given to A&E to profile all of the Parking Authorities is interesting. Garfield lets us know he’s an avowed agnostic while a tow truck driver is seen hitting on women shamelessly and another parking authority plays a pretend violin at whining victims–do the supervisors watch this show and say, “Whoa! We gotta uphold a professional reputation here.”  But without these kinds of personality traits that might not openly be allowed at other jobs, I don’t think these guys could survive their daily grind. The reality show has probably been good for Parking Authorities everywhere because even if you don’t like ticketing, you can definitely see the people who deserve it (handicapped spaces, double parking) and what jerks they can be to these government employees. I’m not saying I might not argue a ticket but I’m going to be civil about it.

Dog The Bounty Hunter Cartoon

I haven’t watched Dog the Bounty Hunter in awhile, but at the time of this cartoon I was addicted to the first season. It was just such a freakshow–like watching a pro-wrestler on the streets. I don’t know if Christians ever wanted to own this guy as their own but I saw him appear on TBN and on talk shows professing his version of Christianity. Since then he’s been recorded using the most foul mouthed racial slurs imaginable, surprised even me. My idea of a swearing Christian is Bono from U2. Dog is just bizarre.

So What Now, Rapture Fans?

With the May 21st rapture prediction failing miserably by both atheist and Christian standards, what next? Mainstream Christians claim, per The Bible, we cannot know the day or hour so there is no way to predict the zapping up of the sheep, though they always think it’s right around the corner. This is beneficial to the rapture market or, again, what I call “Rapture Porn.” Rapture predictions, fiction and other paraphernalia about the end times is addictive. Ministries specialize in it and make a living off of speculation on what the latest news means. Writers like Tim LaHaye popularized the rapture more than ever with The Left Behind book series, and the Left Behind movie series (with a remake in the works). Video games? Are there rapture video games? Yes, there is Left Behind: Eternal Forces and I’m sure more like it.

So with the big disappointment of May 21st, will anyone else dare to put a date on the rapture again? Yes, I’m pretty sure they will. This has been going on for quite some time. I’m just wondering what cult or fringe element is next? I know we have 2012 but that’s not the rapture.

Maybe it would be appropriate due to this lesson in embarrassment for Harold Camping that all rapture porn cease and desist. If it happens it happens. Preach the gospel, sure, but stop marketing the end times…nah, that’s no fun. I look forward to the next round of nuttiness.

SIDENOTE: So is Harold Camping giving back the donations–which in some cases were the life savings of people who now have to go on living? Not likely if you read his responses on the question. I don’t care that this is belief based on faith, I think his followers should be able to sue him. He made a clear prediction with undeniable evidence that he did it. If his prediction fell flat, he has to give the money back. His ministry should be bankrupted. Hell, he should have been bankrupted back in 1994 from the first prediction. In a way, what Harold Camping did was like a “Going out of Business” sale in order to generate large amounts of revenue in a relatively quick period. It’s a gimmick we’ve seen before. A business says they’ve gone bust and then appears again in a month or two. It’s hard to understand why people fall for it and unfortunately why they may make excuses for Camping now that the hype is all over.

Atheist Teen Overruled by Majority on Graduation Prayer

I enjoy reading articles on the battlefield of public schools and prayer. They are always a delicate balance of individual rights and separation of church and state. This time, per an article on Christian Broadcasting News combatively titled, “Senior Holds Prayer Despite Atheist’s Threats.” concerning Louisana’s Bastrop High School.  The article title alone seems to be trying to make the atheist the sole villain when in actuality it is one atheist voice versus a Christian majority.  The problem is, the majority does not rule when it comes to the constitution or the separation of church and state or the law in general. I don’t want to pretend there are any easy answers in this debate and that all religion is out because that can squelch religious freedom of students. On the other hand, school sanctified events such as graduation should not have an official prayer–or rather a Christian prayer. The event is for all students, regardless of beliefs, and should be kept secular.

The atheist involved was graduating student Damon Fowler who objected to a graduation prayer with official school approval. I’m not sure what constitutes a threat because he simply sought legal help after lodging his protest when the prayer was said despite any objections. The article leaves out “threat of a lawsuit” because it sounds worse to say just “threat.” You can conclude any number of things from bomb threat to vandalism to anything more vicious than contacting the Freedom from Religion Foundation, the organization involved.

A telling quote from the CBN article is this: “[Atheist, agnostic, and non-Christian students] respected the majority of their classmates and didn’t say anything,” said longtime Bastrop staff member Mitzi Quinn. “We’ve never had this come up before. Never.”

And that’s the problem. How many nonChristian high school students have the guts to stand up before the Christian majority and say, “I don’t believe in your god. Can’t we have a secular ceremony for a secular institution?” What Bastrop staff member Quinn is actually saying is why can’t Damon Fowler keep his mouth shut like all the other compliant atheists and agnostics.

Louisana’s Bastrop High School did reprint all of their graduation flyers to eliminate any reference to prayer once Damon protested. They mentioned a “moment of silence” instead, which is Christian code for prayer. It was senior Laci Rae Mattice who apparently broke protocol and started reciting the Lord’s Prayer. She said, “I respect the beliefs of other people, but I feel that I can’t go on without giving glory to my Lord today.” This wouldn’t be that bad, more along the lines of personal expression, except she went on to quote The Lord’s Prayer, a Christian prayer. This wasn’t respect, it was defiance. If Laci had been honest she should have simply said she believes her god to be the one true god and therefore her god overrides any separation of church and state and any other religion. By respect, most Christians are referring to a begrudging tolerance but not equal time.

To give perspective to the majority, how would Christians feel if Damon Fowler was the speaker and broke protocol on an approved speech by saying something to the extent, “I respect the beliefs of other people, but I do not believe in all your gods. There is no god.” Or if a Muslim student got on the podium and said, “”I respect the beliefs of other people, but I feel that I can’t go on without giving glory to Allah today,” and then begin to recite a Muslim prayer. It would not sit well–not in Louisiana.

The majority does not rule in these situations when it comes to tax-payer funded public schools (federal and state dollars, that’s atheist money too). If you want prayer, go to a private school. I’m no fan of public schools because of all these rules–I’d like there to be open religious debate and especially comparative religion classes which conservative Christians would despise–but the United States was built on protecting the minority as well as the majority and a separation of church and state is the only fair thing to do when all faiths and “absence of faith” cannot be represented equally. If Laci just gave a personal thank you to God, I think that would be acceptable. BUT turning the announced “moment of silence” into The Lord’s Prayer and asking fellow students to particpate (kind of like leading a prayer in church), I think that was disrespectful. I doubt she was reprimanded by the school for doing so and I’m sure she was congratulated for rebelling against secularism.

SIDENOTE: CBN also notes the Freedom from Religion Foundation gave Damon Fowler a student activist award of $1000 for speaking out. I know the insinuation here, so be it. Damon scored some cash for singling himself out as an atheist. If you want to think he did it for the cash, fine with me. I don’t think that was the case. As an awkward teenager, Damon is going to find that $1000 doesn’t get you too far in this economy. Hopefully he’ll be smart and start a retirement fund before Social Security runs out.