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God, No

Signs You Might Already Be An Atheist, and Other Magical Tales

Penn Jillette

Theist sometimes attack atheists with "So you think you know everything? You think science can figure out everything? There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt... " Hello Mr Straw Man. I don't know. I don't know how the world was created. I don't know how life started. There are lots of good guesses and we keep testing those ideas trying to find out where they are wrong.

Evolution explains a lot. It makes about a zillion pieces of the puzzle fall into shape. It's the answer to a lot of questions that 150 years ago had to be "I don't know."

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Humility? Where is the humility of being a theist? Saying that you know there is an omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent power in the universe that I can't prove to you but I know is true because I feel it is.

How come every time someone says their god told them to kill their family or co-worker or whoever, religious people say he must be crazy. You never hear them say well maybe god was sending them a message. maybe it was a miracle.

("Everything was opulent, that golden-toilet, Dubai kind of opulent, that poor-no-more Elvis kind of opulent.")

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Favorite performance artist is a whack job who went by the name of Extreme Elvis. EE is a fat Elvis impersonator with a small dick. We all know he has a cashew dick because he performs naked ... he doesn't get many bookings because the police often become involved, so he really only does private shows, and what kind of asshole is going to pay a fat, badly hung, naked Elvis impersonator to come into his private home?

Talking to a Hasidic Jew who'd lost his faith simply because there became too many doubts to continue believing. But his plaintive "Who will take care of me?" He lost god, and all his family and friends were staying behind with their imaginary friend.

Reading the Bible is a fast track to atheism.

Urban legend that Eskimos have (a number) of words for snow. If you're in England and someone uses a verb and you don't know what it means, they're probably talking about masturbation. In the US, if someone uses a plural noun and you don't know what it means, they're probably talking about breasts.

Tattoos used to mean you lived outside the law; now they mean you've been to the mall.

The Vomit Comet

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Someone had taken pictures of me with very attractive young ladies who were not dressed for climbing Mt Everest.

Little children have to trust adults or they die. So while you're teaching them to stay out of traffic and not fight the cat, you can abuse that trust and burn in the evil idea that rel faith is good.

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But you don't have to teach atheism. You don't have to teach them difficult ideas like feeling guilty for things they didn't do. Tell your children the truth as you see it and let the marketplace of ideas work as they grow up.

Reality exists outside of humans. Religion does not. If you wiped out all human memories and records, science would eventually re-emerge, because facts stay the same. Religion may reappear, but it would be nothing like today's beliefs.

Force-feed kids idea of Santa hard-core so that when they find its all BS, they take down baby Jesus with it. (not PJ's idea)

"I was the chirp" (the guy who does the talking in negotiations.

"I am the kind of person who talks about sex a lot. I'm hoping I can get through this tearful writing about Sister without writing about my cock."

(London Times review of P & T stage performance)

Never mind the mind-reading, the card tricks, the escapology and the juggling of broken bottles, Penn and Teller's greatest trick has always been their ability to have their cake and eat it too. 'Lie, cheat, swindle, rip off: that is what we do,' says Penn Jillette towards the end of this freaky, funny and frankly amazing night of magic.

Because although this American double act enjoy debunking psychics, con artists and rival magicians, they're also happy to let us in on their own double-dealing. Or at least to give the illusion that they do. So it's pretty impressive when the debonair, diminutive Teller performs a trick, side-on, involving the slick manipulation of a cigarette. It's pretty jaw-dropping when he then repeats the trick, turning 180 degrees to reveal his methods as Penn names the seven categories of sleight of hand as Teller uses them.

If Penn, 59, and Teller, 66, were characters in a novel you'd call them far-fetched. They're world-class Las Vegas conjurors who use their spare time to make films (Tim's Vermeer, The Aristocrats), direct classical plays and agitate for atheism. The adorable Teller is a former Latin teacher who never uses his first name (Raymond) and does not speak on stage. The affable, rambunctious Penn has a black ponytail, a daughter named Moxie Crimefighter, and a gift for merging intellectualism with the spirit of the sideshow.

Together they cross-breed Teller's meticulous trickery and Penn's amped-up showmanship into something spectacular yet subversive. Take their opener, which begins with Peller ordering us to turn our phones up loud and ends with one of those phones - how? - being cut out of a fish. Or the whiskery old card trick reinvented with Penn's jazz bass and references to theoretical particle physics. Sure, such innovations are just a higher order of misdirection than we get from other conjurors. Yet the duo's wit and attention to detail left me grinning like an idiot.

They reuse about half of the tricks from their previous London run, in 2010. Now, as then, I could live without Penn's convoluted routine with a nail gun, which lacks the vivid danger of his juggling and fire-eating, of Teller's needle-swallowing or the showbiz wallop of their malfunctioning sawing-the-lady-in-half trick.

For the vast bulk of their two hours on stage, though, they manage both to fulfil our expectations and upend them. Even if you take away the postmodern patter, they still deliver. When they ditch the debunking and just let Teller silently produce coins and goldfish seemingly from nowhere, old illusions feel brand spanking new.

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