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).