Atheist Penn Jillette: It's OK to Pray 'If You Throw Out God, Talk to Imaginary Power'

Atheist Penn Jillette in a Big Think video on September 11, 2016.
Atheist Penn Jillette in a Big Think video on September 11, 2016. | (Photo: Big Think video screencap)

Atheist author and entertainer Penn Jillette has recommended to his fellow atheists that they still practice prayer, even if they throw God out of the equation, arguing that it is important for self-reflection.

"I realized recently that I do something very close to prayer," Jillette said in a video for Big Think.

He said that he calls his own version "Penn's Guilt Round Up," where he reflects on his conversations with people throughout the day, and ponders if he should have done some things differently. The famous atheist admitted that he would use such techniques to help him out in a number of areas in his life, such as losing weight.

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"I am very hesitant to use the word, because I do not want to show disrespect to those that really think it's supernatural, but I would pray to be able to control the wants of my diet," Jillette revealed in the video.

He said that sometimes atheists are guilty of "throwing the baby out with the bathwater" when it comes to God, as in they ignore the beneficial elements that come from religion, like building community.

"We must be very careful if we throw out talking to God, that we don't throw out self-reflection," he added, and suggested that "it's OK to talk to an imaginary power, if you are sure that that power is imaginary."

He reflected that polls have shown a rise in people describing themselves as atheists in America, and said that it is good that religious people are being more tolerant in allowing them to come out.

The atheist author hypothesized that people in the future will have "sucked out of religion all the good, the community, the self-reflection, the compassion, the love and thrown away the bad, the God, the hate, the superstition. Let that go away. Let the reflection of the community come back in."

Jillette attended the atheist Reason Rally in Washington, D.C. in June where he spoke with evangelist Ray Comfort.

Comfort, who evangelized to atheists who were at the rally, said he also spoke with Jillette and author Lawrence Krauss.

"At the moment all I would like to say is that both men where very likable and polite. Listening to them and sharing with them was the highlight of the weekend for me," Comfort said at the time.

Prominent Evangelicals, such as the Rev. Franklin Graham, warned that the atheists who gathered for the rally face an "eternity in Hell" if they don't repent.

"One day each of these people is going to stand before the God that they disown, and they will face an eternity in Hell if they have not trusted Christ as their Savior," Graham wrote back then.

"That's where this kind of 'reason' will get them. The Bible says, 'There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death,' (Proverbs 14:12)."

Beside atheistic prayers, there have also been successful efforts to start up atheistic churches, such as the "Sunday Assembly" movement, which originated in London but has opened up locations in several states in the U.S.

Answers in Genesis President Ken Ham accused such efforts of "ripping off" the best aspects about going to church.

"This philosophy — that everyone can make their own decisions and that no one should be told what to believe or where to get their rules — is a form of religious dogma," Ham wrote about the Sunday Assembly back in February.

"So, really, they aren't avoiding what they say they are. They have a dogma designed to suit their own religion. But as the devil does so many times, he takes what God ordains and perverts it. These 'nones' have ripped off marriage (by promoting gay 'marriage') and now 'ripped off the best stuff of church.'"

Follow Stoyan Zaimov on Facebook: CPSZaimov

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