Penn Jillette, on the introduction of his new book God, No!: Signs You May Already Be an Atheist and Other Magical Tales, states that he is “a loud, aggressive, strident, outspoken atheist, and I’m an asshole–but what I’m claiming is in no way arrogant. it couldn’t be more humble. It’s just ‘I don’t know.'”, as a response to the typical claim that atheists are know-it-all arrogant people who disregard god because they have it all figured out. Penn’s proposition is very simple, if you “don’t know” about god, you may already be an atheist.
God, No! is an honest and laid back narrative, written in Penn Jillette’s well-known unrestrained style and language; it covers many topics, like terrorism, the reasons why he is Libertarian, and includes many anecdotes and adventures. In his chapter “I also couldn’t get laid in a women’s prison with a fistful of pardons”, Jillette tells a hilarious story about his trip to a gay bathhouse in San Francisco. Not all of these stories are related directly to atheism, but are well embroidered into Jillette’s leading path to his main goal: The Penn Commandments.
Jillette says God, No! is the result of Glenn Beck having asked him to entertain the idea of an atheist Ten Commandments, which he does with a well organized and fresh account of events. Each chapter consists of stories, some of them personal, that illustrate Jillette’s suggestion for each of his Ten Commandments.
His suggested commandments are quite practical. For instance, the biblical third commandment “Thou shalt not take the name of the lord thy god in vain; for the lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.”, becomes the atheist suggestion “Say what you mean. Even when talking to yourself.”
Later into the book, Penn tells about when he described himself as a “hard-core atheist” while on some show on CNN. “What’s a hard-core atheist?”, asks someone next to him, Penn says, “I don’t even believe that other people believe in god.”
In God, No! Penn calls all atheists to come out and be outspoken.
“Atheists are also morally obligated to tell the truth as we see it. We should preach and proselytize too. We need to help believers. Someone who believes in god is wasting big parts of his or her life, holding back science and love, and giving ‘moral’ support to dangerous extremists.”
With a little rambling, discovery, humor, wisdom and irony, an overall enjoyable book.
In Penn’s own words: “It’s a pretty funny look my life and all the goofy things that are important to me: skepticism, truth, atheism, our show, my family and friends, Libertarianism. I share funny stories about those things and talk about my beliefs and even tell one about the skin falling of my scrotum.”
Thanks to Simon & Schuster for contacting me, and providing the book for this review.
xPenn Jillette’s upcoming appearances:
August 16 — Washington, DC — Lisner Auditorium — sponsored by CFI DC
August 25 — Corte Madera, CA — Book Passage — sponsored by Book Passage