On Tuesday night, CNN aired a dialogue in which host Piers Morgan and magician and comedian Penn Jillette faced off on religion and atheism.
Particularly striking were Jillette's views on the afterlife and Morgan's own admission that he does, indeed, believe in a higher power. Interestingly, Jillette penned an opinion piece for CNN.com in which he described his interview with Morgan. In it, he wrote:
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.
Considering the subject matter being dealt with in the interview, this is probably a fairly accurate description describing what went down. During the interview, Morgan was more than open -- and fiercely adamant -- about his belief in a higher power, which is likely one reason why Jillette felt (and rightfully so) like he was being "beaten." When the comedian challenged Morgan to explain his views, the CNN host said:
"I believe in this superior being -- God. Therefore, the questions which always baffle atheists -- the hard reality of life -- I believe there is something greater out there...a spiritual being that allows comprehension on a scale that we could never understand."
Jillette responded to this statement:
"If it's comprehension on a scale that we can't possibly understand, aren't you done? Why do you need to label that as something that's God or something...why isn't there a humility to saying, 'I don't know.'"
Of course, anyone who watches Morgan knows that he's not one for backing down. Thus, he quipped back:
"Because I've never heard an atheist explain to me...give me any answers to 'how did we get here' and 'what happens at the end of our life.'"
This exchange (and, trust me, there's plenty more within the clip) is captured, below:
While Jillette stuck fervently to his atheism and plainly stated his view that there is no afterlife, he also defended proselytization. He explained his contention that it is essential that people share their beliefs with others. He said:
"The only way we can share the universe...is by talking very strongly about what we believe."
In another clip, Morgan asks Jillette questions about his personal views on consuming alcohol and gambling; he even questions whether the comedian "fornicate[s] with ladies of the night." During the exchange, Jillette says, "There's nothing I like doing more than my show." Reiterating his belief in diversity and discussion among people who disagree on important issues, he says:
"I always seem to think that the most important thing is individuals...and the most important thing is diversity. And the most important thing is to have someone like you -- someone like me -- who disagree on a very important issue constantly talking and constantly working it out."
Below, find footage of this interaction:
Jillette recently penned a book entitled, "God No! Signs You May Already Be an Atheist and Other Magical Tales." The central premise of the book is that "doubt, skepticism, and wonder" should be "celebrated and cherished, rather than suppressed." Below, watch Jillette discuss this new literary work as well as his adherence to "puritanical atheism":
Caution: Explicit Language
Of course, Glenn Beck and Jillette have discussed these issues, among others, numerous times (in fact, Jillette appeared on Beck's television show, which surprised many on the left). While certainly adamant about his non-belief, Jillette is fair-minded and seems to enjoy people who espouse different beliefs than his own.