November 3, 2006

"Can I ask you what your favorite commandment is?

"Really? That's my least favorite commandment!"



Part 2:



(Via Metafilter.)

57 comments:

Zeb Quinn said...

I wonder if that was just an effort to get a laugh from the audience, or if it really was Woody Allen's least favorite commandment.

Other than it being the 60s when he said it, the "generation gap" and all, I can't understand why that particular one would be anyone's least favorite, considering the options.

Ann Althouse said...

Oh, I totally understand it! ... but then, I've from the 60s...

Paddy O. said...

Ann, you've gone up in my already high estimation of you for posting Billy Graham given today's news elsewhere in Evangelica.

He's a class act through and through, disagree or agree with him. He was one of the pioneers of the movement, and if current leaders had his character and integrity and focus, methinks we wouldn't be hearing about all the nastiness.

Wonder if he'd be willing, even at his advanced age, to take over at the National Association of Evangelicals?

Zeb Quinn said...

I'm from the 60s too, and I gave the 60s caveat. And I coulda been had on that level back then too, in those times and when I was that age.

But Woody had other options. I would've pegged Woody more of a coveting his neighbor's wife kind of guy myself.

Ruth Anne Adams said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
A Menken Moment said...

...I hope it's in a home with you..

Maybe that was staged, but if not, Billy Graham was a lot more clever than I thought he was.

Really though, there is no dispute over the deeper matters of faith. Evangelicals seem concretistic at times; they seem to put all-too-facile faces on what is a profound mystery; while atheists seem to spend just as much energy on tearing off masks just out of spite.

I'll say again that when we consider the existence and quidity of God, we are confronted with a mystery; a little more humility all around seems, in my opinion, to be not only the most pious response, but also the most honest...both for those who believe that the Truth has been revealed and for those who are convinced that Truth is without exception a matter of rational investigation.

...As to favorite commandment: I wonder whether a contrarian like Woody Allen could ever buckle under a commandment; his libido seems too tumescent. But often the most Venusian people are the most sentimental, and so perhaps he does honor his parents, at least in his own eyes. I could believe that he would object less to this commandment than to others. Certainly his socialistic ways of thinking would preclude him from believing that coveting his neighbors' goods was a sin.

Revenant said...

atheists seem to spend just as much energy on tearing off masks just out of spite.

Atheists generally don't discuss religion at all. The ones who do are a small minority of the total.

I'll say again that when we consider the existence and quidity of God, we are confronted with a mystery; a little more humility all around seems, in my opinion, to be not only the most pious response, but also the most honest

Eh. If I said there were invisibile elephants in my pants people wouldn't humbly consider the mystery of the invisible elephants. They'd think I was being silly, and say as much.

Sure, the existance of gods can't be definitely known. But there are a literally infinite number of things which cannot be definitely known and have no hard evidence supporting their existance, and with very few exceptions people respond by simply not worrying about them. Which, actually, is what most atheists do with gods -- that is, they don't waste time worrying about the idea.

I do, but that's because religion interests me.

George said...

What TV show are these excerpts from?

Did Allen have his own talk show?

Dirty Harry said...

David Letterman could learn a thing or two from Woody about interviewing those you disagree with without being a jerk.

Both men come off very well. Charming, funny, and enjoying each other's company. That was more fun than anything I've ever seen Letterman, Stewart, Colbert, or Maher do. It really is possible to disagree without being a jerk.

A Menken Moment said...

Revenant,

Would you kindly do me the favor of explaining how a discussion of God, which (even if you do not believe God exists) is a discussion of a concept that refers to (let us say putative) infinite and not-contingent being, compares to a discussion of invisible elephants, which (let us grant they might exist) would be contingent objects of sense?

If you conceive the idea that God does not exist, nobody else can empirically verify, by marching up and down and reporting what his eyes register, whether that idea matches an sensible object. But others can, by your thesis, verify whether the senses can reveal an invisible elephant--or can they?

I submit that a discussion of invisible elephants has no bearing on a discussion of God.2

WisJoe said...

What a delightful clip. Two people who are sincere in their disagreement but are not vitriolic. They actually seemed to enjoy one another's company. I am a deist, but I have always kind of liked Billy Graham. I also think he has aged very gracefully.

A Menken Moment said...

wisjoe,

heh, he does seen to possess a self-confidence that is not merely staged. I was rather surprised.

With Woody, it's a little more difficult to discern how genuine he is, because he starts from a(n implicitly smirky, I perceive) point of view of criticism.

It is not as though the orthodoxy Graham supports is beyond criticism; it's just that I, for one, couldn't find a wise criticism among Allen's remarks. Although, to be fair, he was not markedly hostile.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful exchange! I had no idea anything like this existed.

I liked Graham's comment that he could see Allen being a minister. I think he was sincere, and I don't think Allen was expecting that response.

I wonder if Woody ever did go to a Graham crusade.

Revenant said...

Would you kindly do me the favor of explaining how a discussion of God [...] compares to a discussion of invisible elephants

Well if it is the mundanity of elephants that's bugging you, let's just say that they're all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful invisible pants elephants. :)

If you conceive the idea that God does not exist

What a strange way of putting it. I don't need to form an idea that something I have absolutely no reason to believe in doesn't exist. There are an infinite number of things I've no reason to believe in that have never so much as crossed my mind.

I never "conceived of the idea that God does not exist". I was, like all people, born with no conception of a god. I was later offered the idea that he DOES exist and rejected it on the grounds that it made no sense.

I submit that a discussion of invisible elephants has no bearing on a discussion of God

Submit away. The only difference is that the latter is widely believed in, and discussion of it is therefore not considered silly.

R.S.Buck said...

I too, have had impure thoughts involving Art Linkletter.

WisJoe said...

I have to admit that until I went to Wiki, I had no idea who Art Linklater was.

kettle said...

Billy Graham was a bright dude. I surprised at how genuine, and unflappable he managed to come across in that interview. I also thought that the dialogue was much more personal, and involved than what we tend to get from similar shows these days.

Freeman Hunt said...

Atheists generally don't discuss religion at all. The ones who do are a small minority of the total.

That's interesting to me because it has not been my experience at all. Most atheists I know have an intense interest in religion.

Somehow I've managed to go through life without ever seeing an interview clip with Billy Graham. Wow. I agree with Paddy; he's a real class act. The word grace comes to mind. I'm going to have to look up more video of him.

As others have also already said, I wish that I could see this sort of interaction on television these days. I might actually watch it.

A Menken Moment said...

Would you kindly do me the favor of explaining how a discussion of God [...] compares to a discussion of invisible elephants

Well if it is the mundanity of elephants that's bugging you, let's just say that they're all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful invisible pants elephants. :)

No, no, you misunderstand, I am rejecting the analogy with elephants precisely because they *cannot*, once you understand what it means to be an elephant, even be concieved to be omniscient, etc.

If you conceive the idea that God does not exist

What a strange way of putting it. I don't need to form an idea that something I have absolutely no reason to believe in doesn't exist. There are an infinite number of things I've no reason to believe in that have never so much as crossed my mind.

Alas, we are not making a tally here; we are discussing the difference between contingent being and being that is not contingent. It is not a discussion of numbers or any scan of infinite possibilities. It is a question of the veracity of concepts, and what exists when the subjective mind contemplates an objective concept.

One of the points I was trying to make was that God is an intelligible existent, not immediately a sensory existent. You could still dispute this, but I don't think you could convincingly dispute that "furniture" is an intelligible existent, even though there has never been "furniture" directly perceived by the senses.

I never "conceived of the idea that God does not exist". I was, like all people, born with no conception of a god. I was later offered the idea that he DOES exist and rejected it on the grounds that it made no sense.

I cannot prove this to you, but I simply do not accept that you were born devoid of the capacity to apprehend the concept "maximum being" (although, obviously, the phrase was not implanted; though I maintain its referent was). If you want to dispute me here, I cannot convince you; the proper response, I believe, is pity, because I believe you have consigned yourself to an everlasting metaphysical retreat to a cavern of finitude and a refusal even to contemplate the possibility of an infinite "world without end, amen."

I submit that a discussion of invisible elephants has no bearing on a discussion of God

Submit away. The only difference is that the latter is widely believed in, and discussion of it is therefore not considered silly.

Ugh, I have yet to meet the verification that was cemented by "widely believed in" and "considered silly" (by whom?).

Theo Boehm said...
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Adam said...

It's from a 1969 tv special Allen hosted; other guests were Candice Bergen and the Fifth Dimension.

Internet Ronin said...

Billy Graham is the only evangelical preacher of any consequence who has not feathered his own nest at the expense of his believers and spent his lifetime actually practicing what he preaches (with very few apparent personal failures). A remarkable human being.

The world would probably be a better place if more recent generations of the practitioners of his craft emulated him rather than engage in secondary (and occasionally, primary) worship of the almighty dollar, and spent less time in self-aggrandizing efforts to exercise political power.

(Interesting conversation as well, given subsequent trends in out-of-wedlock births, STD's, marriage & divorce, not to mention Woody Allen.)

JazzBass said...

Graham's class and grace are evidence of his deep and abiding faith. Now that's Christianity, baby.

Ann Althouse said...

"Most atheists I know have an intense interest in religion."

You mean: Most of the people I know who display their atheism also display and intense interest in religion. As for everyone you know who fails to display an interest in religion, isn't it likely that they are withholding information about their beliefs and that one of the beliefs people feel most motivated to hide is atheism? I think most atheists keep it to themselves and may even pretend to have religion. I assume every church congregation contains atheists. Why wouldn't it?

Anyway, yeah, Graham was obvious quite brilliant, incredibly articulate, had the ability to communicate with nonbelievers and a great sense of humor.

(Woody too.)

Shanna said...

He's a class act through and through, disagree or agree with him. He was one of the pioneers of the movement, and if current leaders had his character and integrity and focus, methinks we wouldn't be hearing about all the nastiness.
Graham has always been a class act. I heard once that there is an excellent book about his management of his organization, but I cannot remember the name of the book and have never been able to find it. Graham has never gone down a bad road with politics and has never let himself be dragged into the mud. There will never be a Billy Graham scandal.

Allen came off decently in this exchange as well. I like Graham telling him he would be a good preacher and it was very interesting to see this in light of his later actions.

Bongo Journalist said...

All you have to do is look at the lives both men have led since that interview to know who's right and who's wrong.

pr9000 (paul) said...

I'm a HUGE Billy Graham fan ... funny though, that I only know him from his appearances in the 80s and 90s. Seeing him here, listening to the audio as I surf other sites ...

He sounds like Bill Clinton.

Oligonicella said...

Perhaps it would be more correct to say athiests don't start the religious conversations.

"...I simply do not accept that you were born devoid of the capacity to apprehend the concept "maximum being""

Sorry, that in no way implies being born with the concept of god ingrained. Only the ability to concieve of such. Abstractions are the cornerstone of our intelligence.

By the way, the all-powerful aspect of his elephants make them quite capable of avoiding your detection.
Omniscience, omnipotent... god-like.

"..the proper response, I believe, is pity, .."

And, the proper response to that would be, I believe, you're being pompous. You presume him to be suffering and in distress.

This presumptive attitude is exactly why athiests don't typically initiate theological discussion, although it is also precisely why they will enter the fray willingly -- at least, in my case.

My family is full of religious people. People of deep faith. We get along fine because they do not presume to pity me.

Fenrisulven said...

Try to imagine an undiscovered primary color.

Hamsun56 said...

Great find - this is new to me. I was 13 and a big Woody Allen fan at the time of this clip. Don't care much for him now, but I can see why I admired him then.

John Althouse Cohen said...

All you have to do is look at the lives both men have led since that interview to know who's right and who's wrong.

In other words: Woody Allen is an atheist, and he's done bad things, therefore atheism is wrong. Great logic, there, Bongo. Also, check the Metafilter link if you think Graham is perfect.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic. Thanks for posting that. I can't imagine a Muslim cleric sitting in Graham's position and acting the same in light of the questions and remarks made by Allen. But I'd like to think it could happen.

Jeff Z said...

I loved this clip! I wonder what other wonders exist in the talk show archives...

3 points:

1) WA's least favorite commandment is probably not a 60's thing--he's never shown much shared identity with that--but part of his standard neurotic Jewish child schtick.

2) The question about religion is not simply answered by, "no," even should that prove correct, but why it is and what it is. Religion is the repository of human wisdom, flawed, wrong, or even evil. Even atheists appeal to religious morality to disprove religion, condeming it on grounds such as causing "evil" or repressing "free will," two concepts that make no sense in an atheistic universe.

3) Re JAC's last remark: BG never says he is perfect or denies sinning -- that would be blasphemy.

Paddy O. said...

All I saw at the metafilter link was a rather unwise statement he made to Nixon thirty years ago. Given Graham's staunch anti-communist beliefs then, it's not too surprising. I suspect it was more out of saying what Nixon wanted to hear, rather than a considered comment, but that doesn't make it any better.

Of course Graham isn't perfect. That's the whole point of his message really. He's not perfect, you're not perfect, I'm not perfect. We're sinners in need of a lot of grace to make up for our lack.

But if, after 50 years in the spotlight, a comment made to Nixon thirty years ago is the sign of Graham's wickedness, I figure he's a lot closer to being perfect than most of us.

Mr. Snitch said...

It's fun, but nothing more than facile enteratinment. One can see the questions and answers coming a mile away, and there's little or no nuance. And, alas, a serious theologian would have serious disagreements with Graham's 'pop Christianity'. Allen is, of course, just playing for laughs, and Graham knows a chance to expand his audience when he sees one. Probably no harm done, but no ground broken, either.

Freeman Hunt said...

You mean: Most of the people I know who display their atheism also display and intense interest in religion.

No, that's not what I mean. I used to be an evangelical atheist. I would work actively to find out people's religious beliefs. When I would find out about some quiet person's atheism, it would instantly turn into a private camaraderie between us. I've never had more frequent religious discussions than I had with my various atheist friends, many of whom never displayed their atheism apart from other atheists and some only displaying it there after prodding.

I wouldn't dispute that there are atheists in church pews, though I would guess that most of them are actually agnostics.

daniel scott buck said...

"Two people who are sincere in their disagreement but are not vitriolic. They actually seemed to enjoy one another's company." WisJoe


I agree. That was delightful to watch. And if there is a point to be made by all of this, what you said above gets it just right.

And I would like to make a call for MORE STUFF LIKE THIS.

MORE STUFF from that period of time before Sesame Street and MTV wrapped everything up in five seconds or less.

This kind of thing is a Head Trip for my generation. It shatters the "I told you so" moment.

Sad that some people have missed the point here: Judge not, lest ye be judged.

John Althouse Cohen said...

JAC's last remark: BG never says he is perfect or denies sinning -- that would be blasphemy.

I was responding to Bongo, not Billy Graham. Anyway, you're taking me too literally.

dividingbyzero said...

It's nice to see that two people who disagree on some very fundamental issues can be both entertaining and civil.

Hecla Ma said...

Glenn Reynolds is correct - this is riveting and I was sorry to see it end. Respectful, humorous and even affectionate debate. What a concept!

Very classy. I'm not an Allen fan, and I still came away liking him.

knoxgirl said...

I would've pegged Woody more of a coveting his neighbor's wife kind of guy myself.

No, that'd be his neighbor's daughter. Charming indeed.

Troy said...
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Stephen said...

A conversation from a bygone era...I'd like also to put in a good word for the nonpartisan audience, which was respectful of both men and appreciative of their wisdom and wit, regardless of who was zinging whom.

I enjoy watching Bill Maher and John Stewart, but the tiresome aspect of their shows is the raucous cheering that erupts when a certain point of view is enunciated and the dead silence or hissing that greets the other side's arguments.

johnstodderinexile said...

Wow. A conversation between two intelligent people who fundamentally disagree...who let each other finish sentences, who show their most charming side to each other and the viewers, who aren't speaking from a sheet of talking points, who use actual wit to make their points rather than grim, cynical, insults, who don't use Google to play 'gotcha'...

Did this take place on Mars? I just don't recognize the form of this "interview" at all.

johnstodderinexile said...
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Johnny Nucleo said...

Johnstodderinexile said: "Wow. A conversation between two intelligent people who fundamentally disagree...Did this take place on Mars?"

I was thinking exactly the same thing. Is it me, or was that clip utterly delightful and refreshing and sort of sad because something like that is almost unimaginable now?

Johnny Nucleo said...

By the way, does anyone know what show that was from? Did Woody Allen have a talk show or was he guest-hosting for someone?

Johnny Nucleo said...

Forget my last question. I now see that it was answered in the thread.

Daryl Herbert said...

Woody isn't the kind of guy to covet his neighbors. I would go so far as to say that he definitely would not covet a neighbor.

His neighbors' neighbors, however--Woody might covet those.

Internet Ronin said...

What's this about Woody coveting his neighbor? Didn't he covet his adopted step-daughter and then marry her? Or am I confusing him with someone else?

jaed said...

I think you are confusing him with someone else; he actually coveted his girlfriend's daughter. Soon-Yi Previn was not adopted by Woody Allen and she stated clearly that she never thought of him as a father figure, that she already had a father.

(I realize "Woody married his adopted daughter!!!" is so deeply embedded in the conventional wisdom at this point that this post is fairly pointless, though. I also would like to mention that there is something wrong with breaking up with your girlfriend and then taking up with her daughter, but it is not the same wrong thing as taking up with your adopted/step/psychological daughter.)

Revenant said...

I think you are confusing him with someone else; he actually coveted his girlfriend's daughter.

She was also the step-sister of some of his own adopted children, though, since he *had* adopted children with Farrow -- just not Previn herself.

He didn't marry his stepdaughter, but it is certainly Jerry Springer material however you look at it. :)

Uncle Mikey said...

What a great find. I would give anything to see a debate this respectful on TV today.

Bill R said...

I recall a Dick Cavett (remember him?) interview with Billy Graham. Cavett was trying to bait him and asked.

"What do you say when you hit your thumb with a hammer"

Graham let the audience snicker for a bit and then deadpanned.

"I say 'ouch'"

A class act, Billy Graham.

LarryK said...

Wow...this is a blast from a more humane and civilized past. Of course some things were obviously wrong in America and needed to change at the time this was recorded (early 60s, I'm guessing) but, at the same time, it reminds us that our culture has lost something important. Far too many on the right and left (or, more precisely, the religious and secular) look at the other as an enemy on the other side of a battlefield that needs to be destroyed rather than someone they can actually engage in good faith and humor.

barry said...

Revenant wrote: "I was, like all people, born with no conception of a god."

I find it remarkable that you can remember the thoughts you were born with! Please, let us know some of the ones you WERE born with, and resolve thousands of years of so-far fruitless philosophical and psychological debate.

Even more remarkable: you know what thoughts EVERYONE ELSE was born with! Staggering; how do you do these tricks?

Odd, too, that every culture ever encountered has ideas of God. If no one was ever born with the idea, how did every culture come to accept it? This is either a paradox or the strongest proof ever presented that God does indeed exist.

William said...

"I had impure thoughts about Art Linlater" At the time Art Linklater was best known for his interviews with children and his book "Kids Say the Darndest Things". In view of Mia Farrow's allegations about his behaviour with children can this be regarded as a kind of Freudian foreshadowing.