Penn Jillette Really Loves Books About Atheism…

The New York Times asked Penn Jillette about his reading habits and he managed to squeeze in more atheist references than I thought humanly possible in the paper of record:

If you could require the president to read one book, what would it be?

I’m not big on government requirements, but I would suggest “God Is Not Great,” by Hitchens. It would be good for the country if the president could be seen reading that. Even better if that president is Romney — maybe he’d lose the funny underwear.

You’re in charge of setting a college student’s freshman-year curriculum. Your list of required reading… on religion?

The Bible — cover to cover, without someone alibiing it. Just read it. Nothing will turn you into an atheist faster.

What’s the one book you wish someone else would write?

A great biography of James (Amazing) Randi. I love him too much to do it justice myself. I have no perspective; he created me.

I also learned more about his naked reading habits that I ever really wanted to know.

You can read the full interview here.

The paperback version of Every Day Is an Atheist Holiday! comes out this October.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Hat Stealer

    The extent to which Penn Jillette looks like Satan in that photo is just fantastic.

  • David

    Penn & Teller might be my favorite people on planet earth. Perfect example of being good without god.

  • Mr. Pantaloons

    That was a pretty awesome interview. Does anyone know what he has against paper?

  • DougI

    I’d hate it if, in college, I was required to read the Bible. I’m there to learn, not waste a semester reading horribly written fiction.

  • LesterBallard

    Yeah, did he not read until e-readers came along?

  • LesterBallard

    I don’t dig the libertarianism or hard on for unregulated capitalism, but other than that I enjoy him.

  • Rain

    They’re so great that if they were lepidopterists, they would be the “Martin and Lewis of lepidopterology”.

  • Mitch

    I did enjoy the show he and Teller had going for a while (“Bullshit!” Good TV, right there).

    My theory on the paper-hating in the article: a nasty papercut to the genitals (with as much nude or almost nude reading he does, it’s a possibility).

  • Mike De Fleuriot

    It’s a pretty simple book, you personally know most of the story, so you could just wing it in any exam they threw at you. But a noob to religion, would barely make it out of Genesis and decide to google a cheat sheet of it from Skeptic Annotated Bible.

    The only people who really need to read it cover to cover, would be the religious, and by the end of 2 Kings, they would be wanting some Hitchens loving.

  • Pisk_A_Dausen

    Some people get weirdly… evangelical about e-books and e-readers. I guess it’s similar to being obsessed with one OS, one gaming console
    etc. Looks like his main concern is having easy access to his notes and highlights, though, which I sort of get.

  • GubbaBumpkin

    I have no perspective; he created me.

    Shocked to learn that Penn is a Creationist ;>

  • Houndentenor

    I have read the entire Bible twice. If you can get through Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy and have a tolerance for the stream of consciousness of the prophets, it’s not that hard a read. But getting through the begats and arcane rules and despicable acts of cruelty and even genocide all supposedly ordered by YHWH will make a nonbeliever out of anyone who seriously thinks about what they are reading.

  • Spuddie

    I can almost forgive their horrific guest appearance on Babylon 5. Almost being the operative word here.

  • NathansExplosions

    Penn Jillette is a great entertainer and an even better ambassador.

  • NakedApe

    “God is not Great” is good as is Hitch’s “Atheist Reader” but Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali is my current favourite. Nothing turned my stomach quite the way her personal account of life in rural Somalia did!

  • Haresh

    They’re so great that if they were lepidopterists, they would be the “Martin and Lewis of lepidopterology”.

  • Leigha7

    I had to read it in college, in an English class called Literature of the Bible. The professor made a point at the beginning of the class to say that we were treating as a BOOK, regardless of the religious beliefs of anyone in the class, and discussing it as it relates to when and where it was written.

    That was actually pretty interesting, because there are a lot of little things about the culture at the time that make the way it’s written make sense, and make it look a lot more like simply a product of its time.

    That said, I don’t think it’s fair to position atheism as simply the opposite of Christianity. There are other religions.

  • Leigha7

    Most of those who grew up in a very religious household HAVE read the entire bible. But it would shake the faith of most of those who haven’t, especially the stories that don’t get covered in church.

    I wouldn’t say most people know the stories well enough to wing it on the exams, though. There are a lot that aren’t typically discussed that would almost certainly show up on a test. The tests in my class (a literature course on the bible) were actually pretty tough.