Jesse Ventura: ‘I’m An Atheist. And I’m Proud To Say It.’

Alright, this isn’t really “news” since we already knew former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura was an atheist, but he talks about it in some depth in an interview with Highbrow Magazine. He was promoting his awkwardly-titled new book DemoCRIPS and ReBLOODlicans: No More Gangs in Government.

When you were governor, you refused to declare a National Prayer Day. I bet the right-wing fundamentalists were furious.

Absolutely. The Minnesota media just grilled me. They went, “How come every other governor is declaring National Prayer Day and not you?” And that’s when I said, “What do you need me to tell you to pray for?” I’ve come out of the closet now: I’m an atheist. And I’m proud to say it. I’m a follower of George Carlin.

We lost a great voice when we lost George, but here’s what George believed in: George worshipped the sun. And I do too. Because the sun, and I’m paraphrasing George, gives me heat, the sun gives me food, the sun makes me warm, the sun does everything I want. It’s a wonderful thing, and most of all, every morning I can get up and see it come up, which gives it great credibility — knowing the sun exists.

Don’t get me wrong: Other people are free to believe in God; they’re free to practice their religion; I don’t begrudge them that. That’s the one thing I give kudos to President Obama for. When he took office and he did his state address, he listed Christians, Muslims, Jewish [believers] — he went down the line, and the last thing he said was “and non-believers.” I jumped out of my chair, I said, “My God, we’re legal now.” The president has finally acknowledged that there are people who don’t believe in a supreme being.

I’m interested in conversion stories. Was there a defining moment when you became an atheist, or was it a gradual progression toward that perspective?

It was a gradual progression, but the defining moment was when I saw Christopher Hitchens on Bill Maher’s [show], and he was wearing a funny T-shirt that said “I’M AFRICAN-AMERICAN.” Because if you go back, and if you believe in evolution, the first known man came out of Africa. And if you trace us back that far, aren’t we all African-Americans? He had that T-shirt on and Christopher said, “It’s time for us atheists to come out of the closet.” It is time for us to stand up and proudly say that we are atheists. So I said, you know what? He’s right.

I can’t get over the fact that the shirt had that much of an impact…

Anyway, Hitchens was right: Say you’re an atheist and be proud of it!

(Thanks to Brian for the link!)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mvanroy Mike Van Roy

    Um… It was Richard Dawkins with the T-shirt, and it said something like “We’re all Africans.”  (And Dawkins really is African.  He was born in Kenya.)

    • Sindigo

      But where’s the birth certificate!!??!!

      Sorry, I have a tendency to blurt that out whenever anyone is said to have been born in Kenya. I’m easily led.

      • David23

        The birth certificate is in the file folder marked “personal”.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=35702181 Christopher Check

    It’s a shame a conspiracy-theoriest like Ventura isn’t quite the best public face for the skeptical, rational movement.

    Oh well, it takes all kinds.

    • Nick

       I’m not really sure of what conspiracy theories Jesse has come up with. What are they? I know he had a show which was quite cheesy but it was also pretty interesting if you could get past all the unnecessary histrionics. It explored weird things that are not aired much.
      I also know he believes a few things such as 9/11 conspiracy by the government. Then again, everyone believes a conspiracy theory one way or another about 9/11, since it couldn’t have happened without one…that is, if you know at all what the term conspiracy actually means. It certainly wasn’t 1 guy who pulled it off now was it? So don your tinfoil hat, you’re a conspiracy theorist like the rest of us if you believe it took more than 1 terrorist that plotted together (conspiracy).

  • Cheron22

    Ventura is just full of crazy.  He’s a good example of how a person can get the God question right and almost everything else wrong.

    • Carl

      You mean to say you agree with him that there is no god and don’t agree with him about anything else. I read the article, nothing said about him in it was crazy.  He praises the sun over an imaginary friend. This is the comment section for this specific article.  Go push your “Ventura is crazy” belief on a forum about crazy people.

  • Stijn

    “Because if you go back, and if you believe in evolution, the first known man came out of Africa.”
    I’d say that it doesn’t matter  if you “believe” in evolution or not. Facts are facts, beliefs are irrelevant.

    • Carl

      When you say Fact you mean scientific fact.  I agree that these are the most reliable and based on logical and reasoning. To say they are the absolute truth is niave.  Modern science is only 200 years old.  It is OPEN TO CHANGE based on NEW. Then what happens to these old facts that you are considering absolute? Scientific facts held today will be the foolish beliefs of tomorrow. You must realize that Christians have facts that come from the bible.  

      • Carl

        *It is OPEN TO CHANGE based on NEW FACTS and reasoning.

        • Jmfgiiuo

          change as in “we’re going to iterate the story so it doesn’t  like i was full of myself last time and hopefully next time someone catch me in a lie.” 

      • Chefjimi4

        Are you an idiot, facts from the bible? My western civ teacher said it best when we had to read the king James bible, he introduced it as the greatest book of fiction ever written. There is barely any facts in the bible, it was written to control people through fear. Just like every other relIgion ever thought of, a way to control people, you are just as smart as a cow if you believe the bible.

      • Johnraybell

        No such thing as fact from the bible. Lol thats the dumbest thing I have heard in a long time, how are they facts, they are ink in a damn book, some story’s may be true but in no way did they happen like the bible says. Your great flood wasn’t a flood. It’s called land displament. GO BACK TO SCHOOL!!!!!!!!! IF we do have a god, he or she or they are a higher form of life much like us but more advanced, Some can call the aliens, some call them ETs, they could have even lived here on earth before us, they may also be human. Not saying this is all true but if god is real this is how it is, nothing at all like the bible states. Open your eyes and pull your head out of your ass.

      • http://slrman.wordpress.com James Smith

        Here are how bible “facts” are verified.

        On the 11th of September, 2001, two commercial aircraft flew into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, killing thousands.

        Some people believe that this was an act of terrorism by an Islamic fundamentalist organization.

        It was really the power of my god (he who must not be named) directing those planes to warn the people of the USA and the world to abandon their wicked ways and praise the only true god.

        The first sentence is unquestionable historic fact.  The last sentence is a delusional lie but is impossible to prove to be false.   The “truth” of all “holy books” is based upon this same technique.

      • RobertoTheChi

        Facts from the Bible? You can’t be serious.

    • tedseeber

      I also wonder why, given that the *traditional* place of Eden in Ethopian Orthodox Catholicism is in fact, gasp, Africa, why the first known man coming out of Africa disagrees with Christianity.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mvanroy Mike Van Roy

    I’d still like to see him run for President.  It would be great for him to give the State of the Union address and say “Bunch of slack-jawed faggots around here!” referring to Congress.

    • http://twitter.com/gingerjet gingerjet

      While not a disaster as governor – he clearly wasn’t suited for the job.  And I’m speaking as someone who voted for the guy.

  • Gaby A.

    Oh well…there goes our well crafted image of atheists being calm and rational. :P

  • mikespeir

    I’m not proud he’s an atheist.

  • mikespeir
  • Borax

    Atheist? Yes. Skeptic and rational thinker? No. Honest? Nope, lied about being a navy seal.

    • Nick

       He may not be very good at being skeptical or rational on everything but that doesn’t mean he isn’t good at it on a lot of other things like power in government and actual patriotism. And no, he didn’t lie about being a Navy seal. You’re lying.
      He does however tend to bring up his past titles a bit more than necessary I would say but he was still a seal, just one that never saw combat. If shit ever hit the fan, I’d trust having him on my side more than you.

  • Gus Snarp

    I’m glad to hear that anyone has cast off belief in God, but Ventura is certainly no one we want seen as a representative of atheism. He is, well all those things people before me have said, and while it may just be bad thinking, he may very well be seriously mentally ill and appropriate treatment might help him to stop believing in alien visitors and conspiracy theories.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-A-Anderson/100000016895400 John A. Anderson

    Ventura’s brow ridge suggests he’s either a Neandertal or he has a history of taking human growth hormone. I think I know which.

    • Gus Snarp

      HGH gives affects your brow ridge? Fascinating, I did not know that. I would be stunned if there was anyone in professional wrestling (well, really just those with a muscular look, the ones carrying a lot of body fat could be exceptions) who is not using every available chemical that could boost their large, muscular appearance.

    • Gus Snarp

      Of course as a good skeptic I didn’t take you at your word and went out and googled this. In addition to HGH causing an enlarged brow ridge, anabolic steroids can cause hair loss (which I guess I already knew but wasn’t thinking about). So plenty of men go bald. And he could have a glandular disorder that causes his body to produce too much HGH on its own. But wow, there’s a good chance that he made himself look like that. Don’t use drugs kids. Well, at least don’t use hormones and chemicals that act like hormones to enhance your appearance or athletic performance. His testicles are probably shrunken too.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Scott-Rhoades/100000175617377 Scott Rhoades

    He may be an atheist but he is definitely not a skeptic.

  • Misacs

    It was Dawkins not hitches who wore the t-short. And Ventura is not someone I want to speak on behalf of atheists. He is completely 100% crazy!!!

  • Tainda

    I guess he doesn’t believe in razors either…..

    Seriously man, shave that head!

  • Don F

    As a Minnesotan, I was totally embarrassed by Ventura. This helps about this >< much.

  • http://www.facebook.com/RudoWakening Thaddeus Mountain

    Is Jesse nuts? Absolutely. But, he stands up for atheists. Plus, he’s the best colour commentator in pro wrestling history.

  • MegaZeusThor

    He can be a little embarising if he’s going down a conspiracy theory rabbit hole, but I have a soft spot in me heart for the man. I do like how open he is about his ideas. Most people are guarded and don’t end saying anything. (He’s not afraid to be wrong!)

    And at least he’s right about the deity proposition.

    • Marco Conti

      I feel the same about Jesse. If I have to like a paranoid, semi-right-wing, conspiracy nut, libertarian atheist, it might as well be Jesse. At least he is colorful and he is afraid of nothing.

      I probably would not vote for him against any democrat with a pulse, but there are far less likable people I reserve my contempt for.

      Now, what we need is someone a bit more sane to come out as an atheist.

      • Nick

        semi right wing? What, like most of the democrats who have any power? paranoid and afraid of nothing? a bit of an oxymoron there. He’s not paranoid he just doesn’t pull punches with talking about things nobody wants to hear about, given their own terrible peice of shit government that otherwise serves as a surrogate set of parents. There’s a difference.

        He can be a bit dull at times but he’s about as honest as they get and actually seems to give a damn about where things are headed.

    • Carl

      The term Conspiracy theory just has that connotation that comes with it. Using words with heavy connotations is an appeal to internet trolls everywhere. Believing that there were more motives behind killing JFK other than some man on a personnel mission is not a crazy assumption.  This also sounds more compelling than saying CONSPIRACY THEORY.

      • Nick

         yeah, most people relegate the term conspiracy theory to ONLY mean: impractical, pointless plot by the government known by all members of government and therefore impossible to contain and therefore never possible to happen whatsoever especially when taking note of the more loud and ridiculous claims, therefore applying those claims to be the case for any support of such theory.
        Meanwhile in reality, we believe conspiracy theories all the time no matter how ‘skeptic’ we think we are. So long as a crime takes more than 1 person to plot and carry it out means it’s a conspiracy and whatever body of facts that link the explanation of it together is the theory. Big damn deal people. Choose another term instead of hijacking the langauge, dipshits.

  • http://liberalcynic.wordpress.com/ liberalcynic

    I don’t remember Hitchens wearing that t-shirt (or any t-shirt for that matter. Isn’t he always wearing a tie-less suit). I remember Dawkins wearing a t-shirt saying, “We are all Africans.”

  • Joseph Auclair

    Pfui. Followers of George Carlin are not to be found on the right. Secret admirers, sure. But not followers.

  • Guest

    All I can think is it sounds like he took the book title from a Greydon Square song.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Adam-Patrick/100000027906887 Adam Patrick

    Before reading the comments, I predicted a bunch of people talking about Ventura’s belief in conspiracy theories, and I was right. This man is proof that atheism doesn’t make you rational.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_SOBVIV5BHPBFIZZAR35A67KRM4 FarNiente F

       So what you’re saying is that you tend to agree with the majority.  And what does that make you, Adam?  A follower.  Congratulations.

  • http://aboutkitty.blogspot.com/ Someone

    To all the skeptics out there who pick on him for his conspiracy views… keep in mind that many skeptics (my age) liked the show “In Search Of” with Leonard Nimoy…it wasn’t much different than anything Jesse comes up with, and it made great skeptics out of a lot of people…just like religion made great atheists out of a lot of people.

    It would be better if he didn’t say he was a ‘follower’ of Carlin, or that he ‘worships’ the sun, or that he ‘believes’ in evolution…we know that literalist thinkers will take those kinds of statements and think that he must mean that he literally worships the sun or that evolution is a belief system that you need to have faith in.  He just hasn’t been around many atheists.  Atheists have also traditionally not wanted to tell people how to express their atheism and what to say or not to say…so someone might say “I’m an atheist, and I believe in a higher power’ and by higher power they are talking about the laws of nature.  It would be nice to find ways of defining our own terms instead of people using religious terms…it would clear up a lot of confusion.

    • Gus Snarp

      So religion is a good thing because some minority of people exposed to it eventually become atheists?

      • http://aboutkitty.blogspot.com/ Someone

        Obviously, I’d rather not have any supernatural thinking.  But, we do.  I’d rather have a lot more liberal theists then fundamentalist ones.  But, I do notice that the people who join our group who had the quickest conversions were ones that were from the most literal fundamentalist forms of Christianity.  It all falls down like a house of cards.  Liberal Christians are much more soft and squishy, they can adjust to almost anything without losing their faith.

  • http://northierthanthou.com/ northierthanthou

    I like him more every day, crazy-talk and all.

  • http://www.facebook.com/warmlittlepond Colin Wright

    Ugh, African-American doesn’t mean black. Black people in countries other than the USA are NOT African-American!

    • tinaucthecow

      But he is an american with african ancestry so…

      • Carl

        Colin missed the point completely.

    • Asdf

      Like, totes mcgoats. Except you’re missing the implication of the shirt: it’s not to say all blacks are african americans. Rather, it’s to say that Christopher Hitchens — believing all roots lead back to africa — lives in america, and thus, according to his beliefs, he is an african american.

      Whether or not you agree with that assertion is up to you, but try to at least interpret the meaning before ranting about it.

  • Secret21

    +1 To those deeming him out as a madman (not saying he is or is not), seing as most people on this board has more exp. of gov. work and military ops. 

  • Secret21

    +1 To those deeming him out as a madman (not saying he is or is not), seing as most people on this board has more exp. of gov. work and military ops. 

  • http://twitter.com/duane71 Duane B

    I love how so many people are calling him “crazy” and saying that he’s a poor skeptic because he questions things like the JFK assassination and 9/11.
    Skepticism is all about questioning what is generally accepted by the majority.

    You don’t have to agree with him, but you’ve no right to call him crazy.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/SH5Y2EVWTCTIZM4HQSMC2Z4IWQ Nicholas V

       Are you really arguing that there’s no position so divorced from the facts that mocking those who hold it is reasonable? If Jesse denied the moon landing you’d probably think he was a nut. You’d almost certainly think he was foolish if he was a Young Earth Creationist. So what makes his particular set of crazy beliefs immune to criticism?

      • Morthor Spede

         Because no one knows who really wanted JFK killed or who was really behind the 9/11 attacks. Everyone just knows what the media tells us.

      • Carl

        Sorry but being a true skeptic is knowing the facts. Skeptics are not skeptical of facts they are skeptical of fallacy for fact and appeals to emotion over objective facts.

      • Nick

         What makes his particular set of beliefs so deserving of the description of crazy?

    • Carl

      No, skepticism is questioning fact-less reasoning and the pursuit of logic. Not going against what is accepted by the majority; that’s called being a hipster.

      • Nick

         most ‘skeptics’ aren’t skeptics.

      • Nick

        …and the pursuit of logic…and having nothing to do with whether it is a consensus or popular or not. Something a lot of ‘skeptics’ have a hard time with understanding. They’ll be great skeptics at a religion for example but terrible skeptics on other subjects.

  • Lck190

    I don’t believe in unicorns, but you don’t see me foaming at the mouth demanding to be recognized as non believer of unicorns.
    yes there is no deity. now get over it and deal with real problems.

  • awaiken

    To this day I hate the word non-believer because it implies that it exists, but you don’t want to believe. Surely there’s a better word for it. 

    • http://twitter.com/kilgatron Jeff Kilgore

      Yes, it’s a term of negation. Neither “free-thinker” or “humanist” does it for you?

      • awaiken

        How about meh

  • Fake

    The Boston Tea Party took 50 years to be admitted.

    The fact that the Lusitania was full of heavy arms when it was sunk was not admitted for 70 years.  US schools taught that it was an unprovoked attack until the ship was found by deep sea divers and shown to be full of heavy arms from the officially neutral US.  Wilson was elected on an anti-war platform but his family owned land in France and the UK.  He sent arms without a declaration of war and without informing Congress.

    The US declared war on Japan about 6 months before they attacked us but didn’t tell the US public.  It’s public record for anyone who cares to look it up.  Schools in the US still pretend Japan attacked us for no reason.

    The US built the Iranian nuclear reactor.  Check our historical newspapers from the late 70s.  The news implies today that it was Russia but it was our government.

    The US built North Korea’s nuclear reactor.  Check our historical newspapers from the early 90s.  The news today implies that it was China but it was our government.

    The CIA trained bin Laden.  Check CSPAN from the 80s.  Reagan called him a Freedom Fighter.

    Or, you can believe that we’ve always been at war with Eastasia.

    • Dcc

       I’m just googling, but I’m not finding anything but December 7th for Panama to declare against Japan, and Dec 8th-20th for everyone else, U.S. included.

    • Jcap

      Do you have any kind links that you could share on any of that?  Particularly the WWII war declaration.  Are you suggesting the US declared war on Japan and then just sat around waiting to be attacked?  I think perhaps you are making things up.

      • Dcc

        I think I got it, he’s talking about the US stopping oil exports to japan in July 1941. Best I got.

        • Jcap

           Do you think Japan made the same mistake?  Imagine how different the world would have been if Google translate had been around in the 40′s.

          • Joe Wierzbicki

            NO. We saw the Japanese and Japanese Americans as threats to the US since the 1920s.  The increase of Asian farmers competed with “American jobs.”  Roosevelt also saw Japanese Americans as threats even before the attack on Pearl Harbor.  

            “On August 10, 1936, President Roosevelt had written a memorandum to the Chief of Naval Operations: ‘One obvious thought occurs to me- that every Japanese citizen or non-citizen on the island of Oahu who meets these Japanese ships or has any connection with their officers or men should be secretly but definitely identified and his or her name placed on a special list of those who would be the first to be place in a concentration camp in the event of trouble.’ Thus, 5 years before the attack on Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt was already devising a plan for the imprisonment of Japanese aliens and citizens in a “concentration camp” without due process of law.”

            Quote from the chapter: The Watershed of WWII in the book “Strangers from a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans” by Ronald Takaki.

            • Jcap

               Yeah…  None of that is a declaration of war which was my original point.  The theme of the comments being Jesse Ventura’s skepticism and paranoia.  The post you are replying to was a light-hearted quip, and in no way insinuated any justification for mistreating anyone by race or any other reason.

    • Jjj

      Where the hell do you get that the US declared war on Japan before Pearl Harbor??  Please provide some evidence before spouting crap like this..  FDR went to congress the day AFTER the Pearl Harbor attack where he requested a declaration of war against japan.  The house voted 388 to 1 and the senate 82 to 0.  Thanks for playing.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_WKOEVD6D2TUJNFRCLXJ6FU7LJA Alex H

         Um…it’s called economic warfare. The US issued an oil embargo on Japan as punishment for their invasion of Indochina. With no US oil, Japan would have to withdraw from Indochina and roll back 8 years of territorial gains. The only alternative was the oil fields of the Dutch East Indies to the south but the only way to secure those deposits was to minimize the impact of a US naval response, thus Pearl Harbor. Tensions were high between both countries since the sanctions began, thus war was not entirely unforeseeable.

        • Nick

           not to mention a lot of intelligence gathered about the Japanese subs in the area before the attack and the admiral at pearl harbor kept out of the loop to do much about it. it was basically a let it happen on purpose so let’s get on with the war scenario since people weren’t interested at the time in getting involved with another major war so soon.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_SOBVIV5BHPBFIZZAR35A67KRM4 FarNiente F

    Jesse’s just ahead of his time.  Americans are christian sky-god worshiping zombies.  Dumb as a bag of rocks.

  • Bob Moynihan

    @facebook-1540839497:disqus , please take into consideration that Ventura is American, being interviewed by an American interviewer for an American publication.  I’m guessing he wasn’t considering that his interview might play to an international audience.  It’s unlikely any insult was intended.

  • http://twitter.com/kilgatron Jeff Kilgore

    Hemant, don’t you get roundly criticized at school for your beliefs?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

      Never. Unless some outside Christian group is mad, that’s it. My bosses and the parents don’t criticize my beliefs at all.

  • Leslie

    Your article sir is the most stupid one I ever recall reading. Jesse Ventura is a fool and everyone knows it. He lied to become Governor by claiming to be a Navy SEAL. He was not. Then he bribed his way through the primary and bribed after he got caught. He’s the worst person and you feature him online. Sheesh what a jerk  you are.

  • InGodsGrace

    I believe in God and the Begotten Son of God. Just look up and out into the open and look into the Universe all the stars and the sun the moon even our own planet and planets of a different kind just in our solar system and then there is Humanity in which has a history we think, we talk, compute and understand eachother and our ancesters understood and even talked to GOD that created it all but just take a long look out there and take a loong look back where you are and then you will realize how much of a small world we live in and how big and ever changing the Universal world is out there AND then Say There is no God. Impossible Because if there wasnt then what created us and what created the world as perfect as it is to supply us with what we need and who knew of what we needed and how did we have the knowladge of it? Ventura is a good guy but totally lost. next thing you know he will be telling the media that we are decendants from animals which concidered in science and has gone so far to teach it in schools. We have hair and a very small amount of it and if anyone wants to know what God looks like then look in a mirror because after all we (Humanity) where made in his image and it was reffered to as “our” image in which is the trenity the Father, The Son and the Holy Spirit all in one which make God Complete in his own nature and his own nature is Supreme Being and the Son = Jesus Christ and dont ever forget it because his son alone was the Pure, Human encarnation of God In wich Moses Met well before he came to this world through the virgin marry who was made once again a virgin for joseph and Jesus had brothers there after. Jesus Christ alone was the Ultimate Blood Atonement in which he died so that we could be saved through him in place of our condemnation for the sins of not only the broken laws of Gods Commandments but the wickedness of our born sin we are intangled in so jesus willingly gave his life as God gave him unto use because he loved us so much he wanted to save us all but we the children of God would have to willingly choose him through The begotten son Jesus Christ for if we deny our own savior the begotten son of God Then we deny God the Father all together because then our hearts in faith are tested by him and we will be judged according to our ways and the things that we have done. For those who do not believe in the Son of God are condemned already but if you know you are a sinner and repeant of your sins no matter what sin you have done then he takes your sins and washes them away and in place gives you the Holy Spirit within your hear in which is a part of Him, a part of the Father in wich is a part Of God because we who are believers will see him again and that time is coming, even before Christ God promised he would come and he did like a theif in the night and he will do the same this time Saith the Lord Amen.

  • Bladewalker56

    Jesse Ventura for President. He tells it like it is.

  • Uiozptuioepzr

    He believes in Sun and no one asks him then who created Sun and the sowrronding universe. I am so frustrated to see that people close their hearts and eyes to the living God who is the mastermind of this world and all of its beings. Watch out people!!! Do not fall into the traps and temptation of ‘false prophets’ and their imaginatory fantasy “big bang”! God is alive and has sacrificed his only beloved son to save humanity from falling to the depthes of darkness and ignorance of the ‘already defeated Earth master’: Satan!
    Bob


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