Penn Jillette: I don’t know, so I’m an atheist libertarian
Last week I was interviewed for Piers Morgan’s show (which used to be Larry King’s show). Piers beat me up a bit for being an atheist (that’s his job) and then beat me up a bit for being a libertarian (also his job). He did this by asking me impossible questions, questions that none of us, Harold, Richard, me, (or Piers), could ever answer.
He started with “How did you get here?” and I started talking about my road to showbiz and atheism and he interrupted and said he meant how the universe was created. I said, “I don’t know.”
He said, “God,” an answer that meant Piers didn’t know either, but he had a word for it that was supposed to make me feel left out of his enlightened club.
Then he asked me what we could do to help poor people. I said I donated money, food, medical care, and services and he said, “No,” he meant, what could society do to solve the problem of poor people. Again, I was stumped.
He said the government had to do it, which I interpreted as another way of saying he didn’t know, but he thought that made me look mean … even though I do care and do try to help.
What makes me libertarian is what makes me an atheist — I don’t know. If I don’t know, I don’t believe. I don’t know exactly how we got here, and I don’t think anyone else does, either. We have some of the pieces of the puzzle and we’ll get more, but I’m not going to use faith to fill in the gaps. I’m not going to believe things that TV hosts state without proof. I’ll wait for real evidence and then I’ll believe.
And I don’t think anyone really knows how to help everyone. I don’t even know what’s best for me. Take my uncertainty about what’s best for me and multiply that by every combination of the over 300 million people in the United States and I have no idea what the government should do.
President Obama sure looks and acts way smarter than me, but no one is 2 to the 300 millionth power times smarter than me. No one is even 2 to the 300 millionth times smarter than a squirrel. I sure don’t know what to do about an AA+ rating and if we should live beyond our means and about compromise and sacrifice. I have no idea. I’m scared to death of being in debt. I was a street juggler and carny trash — I couldn’t get my debt limit raised, I couldn’t even get a debt limit — my only choice was to live within my means. That’s all I understand from my experience, and that’s not much.
It’s amazing to me how many people think that voting to have the government give poor people money is compassion. Helping poor and suffering people is compassion. Voting for our government to use guns to give money to help poor and suffering people is immoral self-righteous bullying laziness.
That last paragraph really stuck with me. If you take nothing from this opinion piece, at least take that last paragraph.
I’ve never heard the argument for libertarianism being that of general “not knowing”. I like that. Consider me a fan.