Penn Jillette on Atheism, Skepticism, and Libertarianism


“I don’t know what’s best for other people,” says Penn Jillette, the “larger, louder half” of the famous Las Vegas magical duo Penn & Teller. Their award-winning Showtime show, Bullshit!, which ended in 2010 after an eight-season run, applied Jillette’s brand of skepticism to subjects ranging from environmental regulation to faith healing. Now Jillette joins the ranks of renowned atheists Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, and Sam Harris with a breezy new bestseller, God, No!: Signs You May Already Be an Atheist and Other Magical Tales.

Jillette, 56, is a graduate of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Clown College. He says reading the Bible in high school made him an atheist. His conversion to libertarianism was more gradual but rooted in the same fundamental skepticism. In this September interview with Editor in Chief Nick Gillespie, Jillette parses the difference between cynicism and skepticism, rejects the “God is dead” claim as insufficiently hardcore, and talks about his personal and political development.