Penn Jillette, of Penn and Teller fame, recently release his new book entitled God No!: Signs You May Already Be an Atheist and Other Magical Tales that I believe to be a great addition to the atheists library.
I purchased this book because I’ve been a big fan of Penn Jillette, Teller, their show Bullshit!, their magic acts, and Penn Says. Naturally I’m going to be drawn to his writing. On top of all that, Penn Jillette is my unmistakeable doppelganger. Multiple times every week I get someone coming up to me and saying, “You know you who look like?” and I always say “Yea” – they proceed to tell me that I look like that Penn guy, you know, that Magician from Las Vegas. We’ve got the same hair, same build, similar facial structure, same glasses, same goatee…I swear it was never intentional, it just happened. Honest. We are both very, very sexy men.
God No! initially caught me off guard a bit. I expected philosophical and scientific musings explaining why Penn didn’t believe in a god and why belief in god was outdated and outmoded as a way of life for the human race in the style of Christopher Hitchens or Richard Dawkins. What I got instead was a collection of very personal stories about family, friends, sexual exploits, and freedom all of which conveniently tied into an atheistic interpretation of one or more of the 10 Commandments. Though it wasn’t what I expected, I’m glad that this is how the book was presented and in the end I wouldn’t change anything about it.
Any fan of Bullshit! knows very well the voice of Penn Jillette – how it ranges from yelling in frustrated anger at the sheer stupidity of some people, and gently heart-tugging when he is passionate about something. One of my favorite things about this book is that as I read it I could easily hear those tones in the writing and imagery, which added to the hilarity and emotion in ways that most writers fail to do.
This collection of stories ran through the emotional spectrum; some were outrageously hilarious, others were gut-wrenching and painful to read, sometimes the same story would hit both ends of that spectrum effortlessly. I had dust in my eye many times when he would discuss his parents and sister, his love for his children and wife, and losing friends to AIDS but with each story there was always some sort of positivity and humor. I think this book displays Penn’s raw talent for finding the comedy that is tangled up in every part of the human tragedy and the lessons we can learn from our experiences – all devoid of a god .
Conclusion: I give God No! a 4/5. It’s a great book that is both easy and fun to read, you’ll laugh a lot – you may cry a little and you won’t want to put it down. I’d recommend it for any adult atheist or believer with a sense of humor and tolerance for the F Bomb (This is Penn Jillette you know). The only groups I would not recommend it to is anyone under the age of 16 or anyone that will be heavily offended by incredibly colorful curse words, blasphemy of any and all gods, sex (lots of sex), sexuality, homosexuality, Libertarianism, and rational thought. To close with my favorite quote from the book:
If every trace of any single religion were wiped out and nothing were passed on, it would never be created exactly that way again. There might be some other nonsense in its place, but not that exact nonsense. If all of science were wiped out, it would still be true and someone would find a way to figure it all out again. ~Penn Jillette
This is a book humble enough to say “I don’t know” and bold enough to say “Love and respect all people, hate and destroy all faith.” Pick it up, it’s well worth the read.