Sunday, May 6, 2018

Theological Skepticism #7

I like Penn Jillette's biweekly podcast.  He's full of interesting ideas.  To be clear, they're not always good ideas.  He has a ton of interesting anecdotes, stories, and metaphors.  So I end up bringing him up in conversation from time to time.

This annoys one friend quite a bit.  He finds Penn to be an arrogant #$@&%*!.  Now, I don't see how he can be considered either of those things, but it's the arrogant part that really confuses me.  This is a guy who wrote a best selling book on how he lost over a hundred pounds, and spent the entire foreword explaining how stupid you would have to be take advice from a juggler on anything; casually equating a Las Vegas headliner with some juggler.  And it doesn't end there.  He's constantly joking about the mistakes he's made, and highlighting what he got wrong.

But it doesn't confound me like it would have years ago.  In my old age I've realized that most people expect everyone to give certain ideas the same respect they would a person.  Those ideas are religion.  He absolutely doesn't do that.  He has actually stated several times that you must respect people, but you can't respect ideas.

This is probably the one thing he's said consistently that I would agree with the most.  I have never heard him elaborate on that, on why it might be true.  But isn't it obvious?  Some idea are goods, and some are bad.  If you respect an idea, you can't criticize it.  You can't tell which are which.  I don't believe in censoring bad ideas.  I believe in discerning them from the good ones.

As for me, I walk the line.  As important as I think it is to move us all toward enlightenment, I also value friendship.  I offend my friends a little with my criticism of religion, but try not to offend them a lot.  That means showing religion more respect than any idea should get, but much less than they think it should get.  You might say giving this respect is a disservice to my friends.  But would they even be friends otherwise?  And aren't they better off having my halfhearted dissenting view because of it?

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