Penn Jillette on Placebo Prayer: Should Atheists Talk to God?

6 years ago
Right before he goes to sleep every night, staunch atheist Penn Jillette does something surprising. He says a little prayer – sort of. Jillette's latest book is "Presto!: How I Made Over 100 Pounds Disappear and Other Magical Tales" (


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Transcript - I very rarely look in this kind of proximity when I’m not sexting. If you want to know how to be a good leader watch Donald Trump and don’t’ do that. Don’t do any of that. I realized recently that I do something very close to prayer. And I don’t want to show any disrespect to people by using the word prayer because I know from my friends who are religious that prayer has a supernatural element, that people are actually connecting to a higher power. And I don’t want to show disrespect to that. But I also want to make a little bit of an argument. Sam Harris makes his argument for atheist meditation. I want to make a little bit of an argument for atheist prayer. I do something before I go to sleep at night called Penn’s guild roundup. And Penn’s guild roundup is I go through conversations that I’ve had like tonight before I go to bed I’ll think should I really have made that sexting joke when I was at the Big Think. Should I really have done that? Did that make people uncomfortable. Is that a line. And I’ll run through how I could have done that better.

I say that with no joke. I’ll actually do that. And I run through conversations I’ve had and things I’ve done. One that comes up every night was, you know, should I treat Teller better? And the answer is always no. But I do reflect about it. I do think about it. I also try to think of what I want and how I can get there. Now I’m very fortunate because when I go to my desires they’re not very often material desires because my family is well cared for. I’ve been very lucky and I’ve done well. But I think about – I used to think about my weight and one of the things I used to – and I’m very hesitant to use the word because I don’t want to show disrespect for those who think it really is supernatural. But I would pray to be able to control the watts of my diet. Wouldn’t that be great? And I try to run through how to do that and I do believe with God there’s a lot of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. I’m not referring to baptism there. I’m referring to the fact that so much of the social and personal elements of religion are really good. I would say maybe more than good, maybe very close to necessary. Read Full Transcript Here: