Monday, February 06, 2012

Booknote: God, No!

Though I may have had a disagreement with the author here or there, do not let that deter you from reading this book. Overall, I enjoyed it, and I think other people might enjoy it as well. So, I am sharing my review as I posted it on GoodReads. The book is pretty easy to read, and since it is organized in short segments, it is the kind of book you can pick up and read a bit here and there.

God, No!: Signs You May Already Be an Atheist and Other Magical TalesGod, No!: Signs You May Already Be an Atheist and Other Magical Tales by Penn Jillette

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Though overall I liked the book, there were parts of it that I disagreed with Mr. Jillette. I suppose that is not a bad thing in the great scheme of things. The one thing that turned me off was his view that people, all of them (or the great majority) are good. It is something I disagree with because I believe the opposite: people overall are selfish, and if they have a chance to screw others over they will. All I have to do, in addition to point to various despots, tyrants, and dictators and those who enabled them is point to the unethical banking and finance bastards who pretty much ruined the economy in 2008, from which we are still reeling? Does anybody think those people were good? Hell no. They were motivated by greed and self-interest, and damn everybody else. And that is where I often part ways with Libertarians, when they pretty much embrace the "everybody for himself" mentality. I happen to believe things like good social nets and taking care of each other are good things. Contrary to the Libertarian belief, no, churches are just not enough, nor will they never be enough. Do I think government is perfect? Far from it, but it is necessary if for no other reason than to curb the worse excesses of greedy assholes in civilized society. But let me get away from the digression, because that point aside, this is overall a very good book worth reading.

Mr. Jillette rants, but he can also write pretty well. He can be funny, and he can be moving at times. Those moving passages really bring the reader in and serve to show that the magician and skeptic is a humane person. The story of how he cares for his parents as their health deteriorates, especially his father, is quite a moving statement. He does care for others overall, even if we disagree at times on how to accomplish some things. He makes people think as well. Then, there are the funny things such as having sex while scuba diving and hanging out with Ron Jeremy, who should likely run for President of the U.S. Worth reading as well.

The book is a combination of commentary and biography/memoir. Mr. Jillette goes over the Ten Commandments, the offers the Ten Atheist Suggestions. In between those segments, he tells stories, anecdotes, and commentaries on various issues that help to illustrate some of his suggestions. They also make for entertaining reading. And for all that some people may say that atheists are arrogant, his simple, "I don't know" is quite the expression of humility. Something to ponder about.

Fans of Penn & Teller as well as fans of Mr. Jillette's solo work will probably enjoy this book. I know I did, even as I disagreed on some things, I did agree on others. In the end, that may be part of a good conversation, being able to agree to disagree at times. This is a very good book that I think atheists and non-believers will like. Plus, I think a believer here and there may get something out of it as well.

View all my reviews


Will Robinson said...

Great book review. I recently heard an interview with him on Marc Maron's podcast and I share your belief that people are inherently selfish for the most part. Jillette is a Libertarian and does not believe in taxes. He supposedly gives a lot of money to charity and that is a good thing. But his belief that if we do away with tax funded government support programs the needy will be helped by people out of the kindness of their hearts is ridiculous.

Angel, librarian and educator said...

Will: Thanks for stopping by. Yea, I knew he was a Libertarian, which then again, he does make clear in his book. It is interesting in the book how he talks a bit about his act with Teller how they make sure it is not really "preaching" their values, but if you get it, then it is there. One does have to give credit; he does give to charity generously. I found him, at least from the book, that, once you go under the act, he can be a complex individual.

Best, and keep on blogging.