Penn Jillette on religion, or why magicians shouldn’t talk about the Bible

by Cameron English

apologetics card tricksReason Magazine recently interviewed famed magician and author Penn Jillette, probably best known for his hit program on Showtime. The man is an incredible entertainer and writer. He’s funny, thoughtful, and vocal about his libertarian politics. Naturally, I’m a fan.
But I’ve never liked what he has to say about religion. And based on the Reason interview,  it seems his views haven’t changed much since the Penn and Teller episode about the Bible. Jillette is impressed by the shallow arguments about Old Testament atrocities, Bible contradictions, and convinced that faith is believing without evidence. It’s all standard atheist fare, long ago refuted. Nonetheless, let’s take a look at some relevant portions of the interview, because I think they reflect the core of the skeptical case against Christianity.
Jillette claims that when people turn to atheism

…It’s usually gradual; it usually comes from reading; it usually comes from discussions; it usually comes from introspection. For me, it was being in high school and reading the Bible."

Perhaps. But that’s not the whole story. The reason so many people leave faith behind, especially in religious societies, is because they’re insulated by their upbringing. Their churches and families teach them that Jesus loves them and died for their sins, but that’s about all the theology they learn. Rare is the Sunday sermon these days that addresses anything beyond the rudimentary doctrines of Christianity. I can count on one hand the number of Sundays my pastors discussed the evidence for the resurrection, how to interpret scripture, or any other topic related to apologetics. The inevitable result is that people begin leaving the Church when they run into criticism, however baseless that criticism may be…


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