A 2008 video podcast by Penn Jillette has been slapped with a “L” Language advisory when it appears on YouTube:
But I can’t for the life of me figure out why. This is what he said:
You know this atheism/agnosticism question has been continuing. I’ve got this buddy here in Vegas, Gail, and she’s been writing back and forth, and I think I said something that might make it very clear to me.
I see the question of atheist or theist as not “Is there a God?” because I suppose the answer in some sort of real, honest, gut level, the real answer to the question “Is there a God” either has to be or certainly is very reasonably “I don’t know.”
But I don’t see the atheist-theist question as being “Is there a God?” I see the question as “Do you believe in a God?” And that’s the only question I care about? Do you believe in a God? I don’t care if you know there’s a God. I don’t care if it’s knowable. But do you believe in a God? And I think in that sense many of your agnostics automatically become atheists.
Believing, I believe, is an active, is a verb, it’s an active event. And if you are agnostic, then you certainly — what God would you be possibly believing in: Jesus, Mohammed, Zeus, you know, Flying Spaghetti Monster? Always throw that example in.
So the question is not “Is there a God,” the question is “Do you believe in a God.” And I think that may be my whole distinction. My whole argument with agnostics might be as simple as that.
But the question is much simpler to me, and it becomes the only question that I want to ask anyone, and that is:
“If God (however you want to believe in God, I don’t care what it is, you make the definition of what that word means), if God told you (and you make any sort of way that is, whether that’s in revelation or however way you know or by scripture), if whatever your God is communicated to you that you were to kill your child, would you do it?”
And if your answer is “No,” then in my mind you’re an atheist.
If the answer is “Yes,” you’re dangerous and I stay away from you.
Penn Jillette is guilty of a lot of things in this video, including sloppy thinking (You can believe God exists but still tell Him to go kill his own kid for jollies, thankyouverymuch). But nasty language? He’s referencing the story of Isaac and Abraham, and you can find videos about Isaac and Abraham all over YouTube that don’t have a big “L” slapped on them. What am I missing?