Penn of Penn and Teller on Atheist Quakers

A sort of odd rant by the talkative half of the comedy duo.

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Comment by James Riemermann on 2nd mo. 23, 2009 at 4:57pm
What this tells me is, everybody wants to put everybody else in a box, and Penn is no exception. Quakers are supposed to see things a certain way, so are atheists, Christians, Muslims, communists, Republicans, etc. But people are who they are, and the labels are all just rough approximations at best. Where the person and the box come into conflict, go with the person--they're the real thing.

Having spent a lot of time with nontheist Friends (and even more time with theist Friends), the clearest lesson I've learned is that under any of the labels we're all across the board. There are as many ways of disbelieving as there are of believing. Kevin-Douglas's message brought that to mind for me. Not believing in God doesn't make it a mental exercise for me. I've got unfathomable mysteries moving in me, too. I just don't see any reason to think the creator of the universe has anything to do with it. Life is strange; I don't know why.
Comment by Marian Love on 2nd mo. 23, 2009 at 1:33pm
The dynamic that Penn is missing is that Quakerism is a search process, not a dogma, and that most Friends are seekers of enlightenment who admit to fallability. We tend not to compartmentalize spirituality. Insights from other religions, and knowledge from the sciences and other disciplines outside religion, expand our understanding of the complexity and diversity of our universe, and may also inform our spiritual journey. That leaves room within our Meetings for seekers from other backgrounds, including atheists, Muslims , etc. When I was at Earlham, there were some Catholic nuns who sporadically attended Clear Creek Meeting. A fair number of the Jewish students attended, as well. Their contributions to Meeting were appreciated, and they felt welcome to participate without pressure to formalize their connection. Many Christians need the security of a dogma to which they can moor their beliefs. Most Quakers I know are comfortable with the lack of absolutes.
Comment by Kevin-Douglas Olive on 2nd mo. 18, 2009 at 6:34pm
Strange, but I sat nodding the entire time. Still, my First Day school teacher came to the RSoF an "evangelical atheist." He came to us in the 70s because of our peace stance. He attended worship regularly, but for him it was a mental exercise. Then one day something happened and he realized there was a God. Then later something else happened and he became a Christian. All of this after convincing people at U. of Iowa to leave their religion! So, while I take issue with trying to make Quakerism something it isn't, like, some ethical society or something, I think that all who are willing to wrestle with the foundations of Quakerism should come and stay as long as they can! Why not? Lord knows I don't know if I'd be as open-minded as I am if it weren't for the diversity that is in many of my Quaker meetings. That said, I do feel like something is askew in my meeting....
Comment by N. Jeanne Burns on 2nd mo. 18, 2009 at 3:22pm
This is GREAT. When I first saw it, I though it was fake as if someone was trying to be Penn. An interesting outsider's take on the whole theism/nontheism thing in Quakerism. Funny that he would care enough to vlog about it!

And funny content. Charles Manson. Lou Reed. Poisonous snakes. Hilarious.
Comment by rik Panganiban on 2nd mo. 3, 2009 at 11:25pm
so very strange.

I've always been a fan of Penn. While scattered, this is a super interesting rant.
Comment by Patrick Ruth on 1st mo. 27, 2009 at 7:38pm
Ah Penn let's his hair down, as it were(Ow Sorry). Actually I respect Penn's quest to understand even though he still can't get past that strict logic box that also impedes the explorations of hard atheists and ultra-conservative religionists. This is really good- much as you pointed out,Martin, as an example of the sincere perplexion that outside observation comes to when encountering Friends and our world. Also this the first time I've seen Penn this...uh-scattered? Thanks for posting this Martin. Patrick
Comment by Martin Kelley on 1st mo. 26, 2009 at 2:09pm
I haven't been sure what to really make of this video since I found it a few weeks ago but another Friend brought it to my attention and wrote "I think it might provoke some conversation among Friends. It does give a glimpse of what we look like to "the outside." So I'm posting it here. It is fascinating if a little odd.

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