btripp_books (btripp_books) wrote,
btripp_books
btripp_books

This is a fun book ...

As regular readers of this space will no doubt recognize, it is (due to my now long-term unemployment) a rare thing for me to actually buy a book for cover price (or even Amazon's discounted price), so when I do so, as is the case here, it says something about my attraction to a particular title. I have been a fan of Penn & Teller for a very long time … I used to use dial-up (at 300 baud) on long-distance lines to New York back in the 80's to get into their “Mofo Ex Machina” BBS, and was always looking forward to Penn's columns in PC-Computing magazine back in the early 90's, and have followed Penn in his various projects on Twitter, so it was unsurprising that I was very much looking forward to Penn Jillette's God, No!: Signs You May Already Be an Atheist and Other Magical Tales when it came out this Fall.

Penn, of course, is a noted Libertarian and Atheist, and I certainly share a lot of viewpoints with him (although he'd belittle my agnosticism, as he clearly does in here), and I was perfectly willing to be “the choir” to which he was preaching in this, but I was surprised to see how uneven the book was. Nominally, the book is structured to parallel the “Ten Commandments”, with a section for each containing one to four essays, more-or-less relating to the subject of each commandment. Unfortunately, the “more-or-less” frequently veers into the “less” side of things with stories that have very little to do with Atheism, and more with generally painting Penn as a goof (the much-promo'd “hairdryer” piece being prime among these) with “TMI” for anyone.

Of course, when Penn's good, he's very good … and here are a few choice bits:

It's not fair to blame all the Muslims for the horrible acts of a few people. That's wrong. You cannot blame all those people. And we shouldn't blame a particular faith for the horrible acts of a few people. At least we shouldn't blame just Islam. We should blame all faiths. We should blame faith in general. But Bush and Obama couldn't do that. No religious person can do that. Being religious means being okay with believing in things without evidence. That's the most important part of any faith. Catholics say that questioning is bad; Jews say questioning is good; but they all say that faith is a-okay. They have to. The deal religious folks make with each other is: we'll argue about the specifcs of our separate bugnutty crazy, but the general idea of being bugnutty crazy is good. Once you've condoned faith in general, you've condoned any crazy shit done because of faith.
I had intended to put in a different paragraph here, but it's been rendered a meme out on the web (see HERE) and would be redundant for me to type it up for this review, however, a supporting paragraph says:

People try to argue that government isn't really force. You believe that? Try not paying your taxes (This is only a thought experiment – suggesting someone not pay their taxes is probably a federal offense, and I'm a nut, but I'm not crazy.) When they come to get you for not paying your taxes, try not going to court. Guns will be drawn. Government is force – literally, not figuratively.
And then there's this:

Just about everyone who writes and produces comedy on TV is a {f'n} lefty and is pushing the agenda of gay rights and liberal causes, and my liberal friends – even though they're against the {f'n} corporations running TV – are thrilled with those writers, but when the {f'n} psycho right wing says the TV writers are doing just what they're doing, my liberal friends scoff. I think that's why my lefty friends are so comfortable calling the Tea Party people racist, even though the Tea Party doesn't say they themselves are racist. My lefty friends just assume that everyone lies about their real agenda.
This is the sort of stuff I was waiting to read, and not the bits about … well, you really do have to go get the details of “the blowdryer story” for yourself.

Now, let me be perfectly clear … this is an awesome book … it's a good 70% great stuff, but the off-topic bits stand out like a sore (oh, man, I'm missing a easy joke here) thumb, and make me wonder just how much “editorial guidance” Penn had on God, No!. Again, not that the “off” bits here weren't amusing in their own right, I just wish he'd “kept on target” here, and saved those other bits for the start of a new book (“Penn's TMI” would be a nice title, no?).

This has been out for a few months, and must be doing very well (the used guys have copies out, but only for a buck or so less than the on-line discount price), so I'm sure you'd be able to find a copy pretty much anywhere that carries new books, but both Amazon and B&N have it for 41% off of cover, which makes it a pretty sweet deal. Again, I loved the book, just not as much as I had hoped to … I'd recommend it to anybody who appreciates Libertarianism or the Atheist side (“not collecting stamps”) of the religious spectrum, and (with my Discordian leanings) to all and sundry (especially those who are fond of “F-bombs” in print). I do feel, however, that this is another example of a volume where a firmer editorial hand would have made a very good book a classic.


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