Penn Jillette is a funny guy. He also has some practical insights into our modern belief systems. Professing Atheism, he seems to be a thinking, loving person. His viewpoint comes across as, well, very American. I would be delighted to have Penn Jillette as my next-door neighbor– but who wouldn’t? He’s a good person.
If we want to get our message across, then just like a good advertising agency, our message has a better impact if we put it into the vernacular of the intended audience. Here is a great example of exactly that, by one of today’s top communicators, in this article from USA Today—
Penn Jillette’s Ten Commandments for Atheists
By Kimberly Winston, Religion News Service Updated 11/4/2011 11:35 AM
In his new book, “God, No!” atheist magician Penn Jillette tells how he was challenged by conservative radio host Glenn Beck to come up with an atheist’s version of The Ten Commandments. “I wanted to see how many of the ideas that many people think are handed down from (G)od really make sense to someone who says, ‘I don’t know.'”
Here’s his list:
- The highest ideals are human intelligence, creativity and love. Respect these above all.
- Do not put things or even ideas above other human beings. (Let’s scream at each other about Kindle versus iPad, solar versus nuclear, Republican versus Libertarian, Garth Brooks versus Sun Ra— but when your house is on fire, I’ll be there to help.)
- Say what you mean, even when talking to yourself. (What used to be an oath to (G)od is now quite simply respecting yourself.)
- Put aside some time to rest and think. (If you’re religious, that might be the Sabbath; if you’re a Vegas magician, that’ll be the day with the lowest grosses.)
- Be there for your family. Love your parents, your partner, and your children. (Love is deeper than honor, and parents matter, but so do spouse and children.)
- Respect and protect all human life. (Many believe that “Thou shalt not kill” only refers to people in the same tribe. I say it’s all human life.)
- Keep your promises. (If you can’t be sexually exclusive to your spouse, don’t make that deal.)
- Don’t steal. (This includes magic tricks and jokes — you know who you are!)
- Don’t lie. (You know, unless you’re doing magic tricks and it’s part of your job. Does that make it OK for politicians, too?)
- Don’t waste too much time wishing, hoping, and being envious; it’ll make you bugnutty.
Question— If these Ten Commandments were posted on a wall at some public facility, would anyone object? I doubt it, because they are expressed in a current vernacular by a professional communicator. As Marshall McLuhan said, “The medium is the message.”
Consider— Concerning Atheism, or any other label, consider the popular Martin Luther King, Jr. quote– “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” People should be judged by their specific empirical behaviors, not the label on the outside.
What does a Magician/Illusionist do? He pulls a rabbit out of a hat, not out of a rabbit cage. Because appearances can be deceiving, the label being different than the content captivates an audience.
Big G vs. little g— Does it matter? Ancient Hebrew and Aramaic were written in all capital letters, without punctuation or spaces. Ditto for first century Greek. Arabic has no capital letters. Our western culture would impose dualistic concepts on us. But in Business Intelligence, don’t we preach “one version of the truth?”(1) What do you suppose the etymology of the word “good” is? We want to be good at what we do, but none of us has a monopoly on the truth. We need empirical information, and we need each other.
- For more on Wholism vs. Dualism, see my post on Solomon and Protasia. Better yet, visit a third world culture.
Website: Penn and Teller website
Wiki: Penn and Teller wiki