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Penn Jillette is a cultural phenomenon as a solo personality and as half of the world-famous Emmy Award-winning magic duo Penn & Teller. In the mid-'80s, Penn & Teller went[…]

In this installment of Penn Jillette’s Atheist’s Guide to the 2012 Election, the Penn and Teller illusionist (and outspoken atheist) sizes up Mitt Romney’s religion.

Penn Jillette: Mitt Romney is wearing crazy underwear.  He’s wearing magic underwear.  He is.  I mean, under his pants, he is wearing magic underwear.  Magic underwear.  And he believes that a convicted con man got golden tablets that no one else could see, and sat with an angel to find out that the original Jews of the Bible were living in North America.  Crazy, crazy, crazy, crazy.  But… just more modern, not more crazy, than other religions.  Not more crazy than Islam, you know, with your… not more crazy than virgin births and resurrections.  Not more crazy than any of that stuff.  What’s really fascinating to me, fascinating, is that… and I cover this in my book when I say signs you may already be an atheist, it fascinates me that you can have the Bible Belt and you can have a court trial, and we’ve seen this.  I’m going to use it hypothetically, but you’ll know the specifics I’m talking about, I just don’t want to talk about that kind of pain too directly, it’s too unpleasant for me.  But hypothetically, in the Bible Belt, where you can have a born-again Christian Judge, born-again Christian Judge.  I believe the Bible is the literal word of God, there were talking snakes, there were talking snakes and virgin births.  Burning bushes and Abraham being willing to kill his son for God.  He believes that.  

The jury is made up of 12 people who, let’s say 10 of them believe that.  And two of them believe that, but a little less.  You’re Prosecuting Attorney believes that.  The people that are sitting in the courtroom believe that.  These are all people that know each other in church.  And the person on the witness stand says that she killed her three children in cold blood because God told her to.  And every single person in the courtroom decides whether she is guilty or not guilty by reason of insanity.  Those are the two choices they weigh.  And nobody, not the Defense Attorney, not the Judge, not the jury people, not the people in the gallery, not one person stands up and goes, maybe God told her to.  It’s less weird than the talking snake.  Maybe God told her to.  

And in this country, which they say over and over again is founded on Christian values, and I’ll give them that; founded on Christian values.  Okay, it is, fine.  This country, founded on Christian values has guilty, not guilty, not guilty by reason of insanity, end of list.  There is nothing that says, not guilty because God told me to.  And why?  Why isn’t that there?  Why isn’t this country allowing in the court system someone to go on the witness stand and go, “Snake walked up to me, snaked opened his mouth, snake said, ‘go into McDonald’s, pull out an AK15, kill 10 people, walk back out,’ snake told me that.  It’s that snake there, he’s not talking anymore.  I throw myself on the mercy of the court.  Aren’t you all good Christians?  Don’t you believe in the miracles of the Bible?  You’re seeing one now.”  

And that’s the part that amazes me is that kind of stuff.  So Mitt Romney comes along and at some level doesn’t he know what he believes is crazy?  At some level, isn’t he going, “There weren’t Jews in North America.”  You know, that’s not where the Garden of Eden was.  Doesn’t that go through his mind?  And that’s the part of that whole thing that kills me.  If Mitt Romney really believes what he says he believes, he is bug-nutty, bat shit crazy.  And he’s not, bug-nutty, bat shit crazy.  He’s the same as Obama.  If Obama believes what he was being taught in that church in Chicago, okay, he is bat shit crazy.  And Obama is demonstratively not bat shit crazy.  

So we have this weird deal we make with all the politicians where we say, you can say you believe bug nutty, bat shit crazy shit, and we’ll shrug it off because you’re clearly not bug nutty, bat shit crazy.  And all I want out of our politicians is for them to just say, “You know, a lot of the religious stuff I’m talking about is bug nutty, bat shit crazy, but I’m not.”  Because I don’t think any of these men and women are crazy.  And I’ll even give you Michelle Bachman, I’ll even give you Rick Perry, I’ll even give you Sarah Palin.  I don’t have that cynical MSNBC point of view that they are bug nutty, bat shit crazy.  I think they are good people who somehow think that they’re morality and their love for humanity and their love for their families are tied up in this weird tradition.  And when they think that the Bible is the word of God, I think they mean something else.  I sometimes think that many other people are speaking in a code that I’ve not been given the key to.  

When someone says to me, I believe in the Bible literally.  Well, I personally, Penn Jillette, read about a chapter in the Bible a day.  I just read through it, over and over again.  So when someone says, they believe in the word of God literally, I go back and think about Genesis, where people were living to be 900 years old.  And I say bullshit!  And then I think about Noah and the flood, killing everybody?  God that loves us kills everybody?  And he wants to get two of every species and seven of the ones that are clean onto a boat that floats for that amount of time?  And I just go, really?  Because you don’t act that way.  You’re able to go to Home Depot, you’re able to pay with a credit card, you’re able to go to Starbucks, you know how to use a computer.  Really?  Do you really mean that?  What do you mean literally?  Do you really mean that you’re going to stone someone to death who because they work on the Sabbath, are you really gonna do that?  Really, honestly?  You’re gonna take a rock in your hand and throw at the mother-fucker’s head because he worked on a Sunday to support his family?  Are you really gonna do that?  If you mix cotton and linen in your clothing are you really going to go to hell?  What do you mean when you say that?  

And no one’s ever answered me.  There’s a code going on that I need the Rosetta Stone.  I need someone to sit me down and go, Penn, when Obama says he went to that church and they talked about all this stuff being literal, what he really meant was… fill in the blank!  Tell me!  What does he really mean?  These people are good, honest, smart, not bat shit crazy people, so why the fuck are they saying bat shit crazy stuff to me?

Directed / Produced by
Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd


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