Penn Jillette first rose to fame as half of the magic duo Penn and Teller (Penn is the big guy that talks). Lately, though, he’s been in the spotlight as a passionate advocate for atheism, among other things.
Which makes this heartfelt story so intriguing.
A few years ago, Jillette recorded a short video about someone who came to talk to him after one of his magic shows. He said the guy was about his age and had participated in one of the acts as an audience member.
The man complimented Jillette on the show, then said, “I brought this for you.” The man held up a small book. It was a New Testament with the Psalms, something that could fit in a person’s pocket.
“I wrote in the front of it,” the man said, “and I wanted you to have this.” The man explained he was a businessman and not crazy.
Jillette, moved by the man’s gesture, recalled: “He was kind, and nice, and sane, and looked me in the eyes, and talked to me, and then gave me this Bible.”
“I’ve always said,” Jillette explained, “I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize. I don’t respect that at all. If you believe there is a heaven and hell, and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life or whatever, and you think it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward.
“How much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate someone to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?”
Jillette then offered this example to illustrate his point: “If I believed, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that a truck was coming at you, and you didn’t believe it, that that truck was bearing down on you, there’s a certain point that I tackle you, and this is more important than that.”
“This guy was a really good guy. He was polite, honest, and sane, and he cared enough about me to proselytize and give me a Bible.”
Now, Jillette is still an atheist, and he wanted to make that clear: “I know there’s no God, and one polite person living his life right doesn’t change that.
“But I’ll tell you, he was a very, very, very good man. And that’s really important. And with that kind of goodness, it’s okay to have that deep of a disagreement.
“I still think religion does a lot of bad stuff, but, man, that was a good man who gave me that book. That’s all I wanted to say.”
Of course, Jillette is completely right about evangelization. Do we really believe the Gospel? And if we do, do we love those around us enough to share it with them, even if it’s socially difficult?
Here’s the full video of Jillette telling the story:
Now go out there and spread the Good News of Jesus Christ!
[See also: A Simple, Air-Tight Argument for God’s Existence]
[See also: Watch: The Moral Argument for God’s Existence]