Words carry heavy weight on holy day

Published 12:06 am Sunday, April 20, 2014

Today, the most holy of Christian days, many believers might be shocked by how much a well-known atheist could cut them to the quick — not by silencing them from speaking their mind about religion, but by being baffled that more of us don’t.

Late last week, I found myself describing the importance of the Easter holiday to a colleague.

The listener was very polite as I tried to clearly describe why Easter is such a “big deal” for Christians.

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I told the man, “Easter is far bigger than Christmas. Christmas is the celebration of Christ’s birth, but Easter is the celebration of His resurrection, something that’s of incredible importance.

“Without Easter, the rest of our beliefs don’t hold much water,” I explained.

Shortly after that moment, I remembered a video shown maybe a year or so ago at our church.

The video was of famous illusionist and well-known atheist Penn Jillette — one half of the Penn and Teller duo.

Jillette is the author of books including, “God, No!: Signs You May Already Be an Atheist and Other Magical Tales” and “Every Day is an Atheist Holiday!”

He’s not exactly usual Sunday morning church-watching material.

As the video rolls, Jillette tells of a man who came up to him after a show.

“He walked over to me and said, ‘I was here last night at the show.’” Jillette said in the video. “He was very complimentary about my use of the language, complimentary about honesty and stuff. … Then he said, ‘I brought this for you,’ and he handed me a Gideon pocket edition. … He said, ‘I wrote in the front of it, and I wanted you to have it, I’m kind of proselytizing.’”

“And then he said, ‘I’m a businessman; I’m sane; I’m not crazy.’

“And he looked me right in the eye and did all of this,” Jillette said. “It was really wonderful. I believe he knew that I was an atheist. But he was not defensive, and he looked me right in the eyes. He was truly complimentary.”

“He was really kind and nice and sane and looked me in the eyes and talked to me, then gave me this Bible,” Jillette said.

“And I’ve always said you know, that I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize. I don’t respect that at all,” Jillette said in the video.

Sharp words worth considering today, the day we celebrate Christ’s resurrection and consider His request that we share His story with others.

Jillette continued in the video, driving home an excellent point.

“If you believe that there’s a heaven and hell and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life or whatever and you think, that ahh, well it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward, and atheists who think that people shouldn’t proselytize — ‘Just leave me alone and keep your religion to yourself’ — How much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize?”

“How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?” Jillette asked.

“I mean if I believed beyond a shadow of a doubt that a truck was coming at you and you didn’t believe it and that truck was bearing down on you there’s a certain point where I’d tackle you,” he said. “And this is more important than that.”

For me it was reminder that God works through all of us, even through a self-professed atheist to remind believers how we should be living.

I hope each of you has a happy and blessed Easter.


Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or kevin.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.