Review: God, No! 14

God, No! by Penn Jillette, Simon & Schuster, 231 pages (published today)

Penn Jillette is half the comedy-magic act, Penn & Teller.

God, No! is full of real-life stories, some of them exuberantly pornographic. It doesn’t tell you how the magic tricks are done, or even describe any, but it does tell you a lot about Penn Jillette.

In the entertainment industry there may be many atheists, but few say they are. Penn Jillette does, and for that we applaud him.

We know there are very few stars of stage, screen and television who are not lefties. Penn Jillette is one of the few, and for that too we applaud him.

He states plainly and emphatically what he means.

Reading the Bible is the fast track to atheism.

There is no god and that’s the simple truth.

You have to make it clear to everyone, including your children, that there is no god.

It’s amazing to me how many people think that voting to have the government take money by force through taxes to give poor people money is compassion.

Atheism was a real comfort to me when my mother and sister died. … I could never have understood suffering as part of an all-powerful god’s “plan”.

There is a world of safety in doubt. The respect for faith, the celebration of faith, is dangerous. It’s faith itself that’s wrong.

One of the stories is about an orthodox Jew who loses his faith. With Penn’s assistance he orders, and much enjoys, his first non-kosher meal. But not yet being comfortable with his atheism he asks himself, “Who will take care of me?”

Another new atheist says: “For me the biggest part of letting go of god was holding myself accountable for my own actions… It felt safer to be a passenger in my own life than to take the wheel.”

Perhaps with time, experience, and Penn’s influence, those two came to feel as excited as Penn himself clearly is to be responsible for themselves, as happy as he is to be free.

Posted under Atheism, Humor, Reviews by Jillian Becker on Tuesday, August 16, 2011

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This post has 14 comments.

  • Liz

    I finally got around to reading “God, No!”, and I just have to say how extremely disappointed I was with it.  Yes, he makes all those good points, but by the time I got halfway through with it I really didn’t care about his clever insights.  I just wanted to get it over with, since by that point it had become obvious that this book is not about contributing anything useful to the argument for atheism, but about being as obnoxiously juvenile as he possibly can while ostensibly promoting some agenda of his own about free speech (a la Lenny Bruce).
    In my opinion, using profanity every other word and telling every obscene story you can think of (in-between touching stories about your mother), doesn’t do a service to the cause of free speech, or atheism, or any other cause. 
    Would you promote the cause of the “right to freely assemble” by getting a bunch of Occupy Wall Street types at the local park and have them trash it out, defecate on the sidewalks, and run around naked?  That type of behavior may come naturally to them, but it wouldn’t do much to promote your cause.  This book does the same thing on a verbal level.  Christians who read this are going to respond predictably, by saying, “See, become an atheist and this is what happens to you!  You lose all decency and morality, just like I thought!”
    Thanks, Penn!  That really helped.  You need to grow up and get over yourself, and join the rest of the adults who can talk without degrading the language and the conversation.  

    • Jillian Becker

      We also disliked the profanities, Liz, and the pornography.

      Our policy is not to refuse to review any book that is FOR atheism if the publishers send it to us. They all serve to spread the idea at some level, or so we hope.

      • Liz

        Well, it’s not your fault that Mr. Jillette seems to be in a state of arrested development (which he seems rather proud of!)
        As George points out, we have an uphill battle in promoting awareness of conservative atheism, and this book helps about like a loaded diaper.    

    • George

                            You’re right regarding your statements Liz.    Many Christians , as well as quite a number of atheists don’t actually know that there  are quite a number of moderate, libertarian and conservative atheists out here.  It’s the liberal left-wing atheists that have given us such a bad name and I am  living proof of that from my personal experiences. Even though I am a an atheist  , I have conservative Christians agree with my political , cultural and societal views nearly all the time , moreso  than I have from any liberal atheist.  Most assurdely it is going to be conservative atheists that are going to bring about respect and acceptance regarding  secular freethought , but we have an uphill battle on our hands to undo the massive damage and stigma that the liberal left atheists have done. Even the liberal atheists don’t like us because we do not embrace their liberal left-wing agendas and mindset.  So we have a double whammy on our hands  :       (1) Trying to be accepted in a society that is saturated with religion ( primarily Christianity ) , and   (2)  Trying to convince our society that not all secular freethinkers are LEFT WING LIBERALS.  Now that’s a battle .  The negative stigma  and social damage that liberals have done when they “hijacked” secularism  is overwhelming and the more we get the word out to our society that we are out here , the more society as a whole will open their eyes and see that we are just like them minus the belief in the supernatural and the paranormal .   These religious beliefs are based upon indoctrination and if we can get society to think then things can turn around for the betterment of all.  You and Jillian are right on target  !!!!! 

  • George

     Once again ,  we in our American society ( as well as globally )  find ourselves in a delema .  We are back again in a situation of choosing between a Christian theocracy  world society and a Muslim theocracy world society.  If I had to choose between the two , I personally  would feel a margin safer  in a Christian society,  but being an atheist , I wonder if  in time even they would eventually be as ruthless and intollerant  toward atheists themselves . 
                         I do not see any secular freethinkers anywhere preaching secular jihad , nor are they ( or we ) or on a mission or crusade to militantly and forcibly convert the world to secularism by force, vilence, threats , deceit , intimidation and coercion. We ( secular freethinkers ) put the message out there for people to decide for themselves ( yes or no  ).  It’s their decision by choice.  On one side of the fence we have the right wing Christian zealots who want to turn America  into a Christian theocracy and on the other side we have an ever increasing build up of radical Islam emerging that would impose sharia law or a  Muslim theocracy on everyone if they are allowed to with no resistance. 
                    Remember , religious zealots of any kind do not believe in the old adage—   ” Live and let live “.  According to religious zealots , it’s either their way or the highway. Religious zealots of any group automatically believe that only THEIR belief-system is the true way and all others are automatically WRONG and misguided.  Religious zealots are NOT taught to think, reason, rationalize, analyze,  ask questions critically, decipher fact from fiction, use common good sense decision making and respect for others , and leave other people the f### alone !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • George

    You’re so right Liz regarding your post of 7 hours ago.     When Christians hear the word [ ATHEIST ] , they automaticlly associate it with communism,  socialism, ultra-left wing politics ,  or worse ————with immorality and unpatriotism.
                  During the Cold War , Christian Americans “welded” the name atheism with communism because of their mental association of the USSR ( read- Stalin )  and hence in their indoctrinated mindset, the  term  [ communist atheist ]  became  a duality conjunction.
                That’s like saying ALL Christians are hate mongering racist bigots associated with the Christian Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and plot or support the  lynchings of blacks .  Of course that is absurd ( even though Im am not a Christian ).  It is indeed a fact that the liberal atheists have given atheism a bad name with their denegerate , perverted , socialist minded left wing dubious agendas.   The liberal atheists even hate or have a disdain for us conservative secular freethinkers because we are conservative.  I’ve been considerably much better by Christians overall  than by the liberal atheists because I don’t buy into the left wing politics of liberal secularism or liberalism in general.    
                 I don’t want to sound like a broken record or as if I’m beating a dead horse but even we conservative atheists or rather atheists in general spend too much time talking and little or NO time doing to bring about real changes. I just recently attended a freethought/atheist meeting and I was bored to death.  During the Q & A session , I walked out of the building and I wasn’t alone. It’s the same ole predictable and boring BS ad nauseum. I actually get nauseated in those meetings. I would probably feel more comfortable in a Christian Church ( minus the God and Jesus talk ). I am more in tune with Christians who are pro-family and pro-patriotism, pro-decency , pro- values and pro-morality. 
                        I feel more comfortable talking to my Christian friends than with liberal left wing atheists who drive me up a wall. I have a buddy who is a Muslim and we get along just fine and he hates this terrorism stuff that he says has shamed his religion and embarrased him .  Now I am not in accord with Muslim beliefs but I do understand where he is coming from.  I hear so many atheists talk all the rational talk but they NEVER do anything that is rationally pragmatic but just pay lip service to the problems and situations. I don’t consider this as being rational at all.
                   I have begged, pleaded, and have  done everything short of shouting off a roof top to get atheists to get involved and help people  [ even on a small scale basis ] to let people see that we are good people who are friendly, charitable, helpful , decent, etc. but it’s like “pulling teeth”. It always falls upon deaf ears.   I’ve heard several other atheists say the same thing and they say they gave up a long time ago for the same reason and they still ask me even today why do I continue to waste my time.  We have to continue to carry the “torch” of freethought and rationality for future generations.
                    I can’t even get  atheists in the  area  to write a letter to the editor in the paper or call in to a radio talk show or attend a city council meeting or make a commentary at a public event on a friendly “positive note” or pitch in at a community upliftment event.   If atheists are too cowardly , lazy and intimidated to write a letter to the editor in the newspaper , do you think they are going to stand up and fight bloodthirsty terrorists ?  The same Christians who use to bash me and insult me for being secular now support me when they see my activities in the community, charity donations and helping people in need.  This is what makes the difference . What harm is this going to do ? It can only help and improve our image.  This is what people are attracted to. This is what wins the people over. You can  attract more bees with honey than you can with vinegar.
                  I know I sound aggressive at times , but that is only when people attack me or my beliefs in my face or harrass me  indirectly .  It’s my mentally autonomic defense mechanism kicking in.
                        We can talk to each other until the cows come home and this is not what is going to win people to secular freethought. We have to intermingle with the religious people and be mature and intelligent and let them see for themselves that even though we do not believe in the supernatural or the paranormal , we are indeed good ,  decent ,  moral and patriotic and we are NOT all monolithic. With the exception of the political aspect or viewpoint , I don’t see conservative atheists much different than the liberlal atheists when it comes to rolling our shirtsleeves up and getting busy instead of just running their mouths and chit-chatting.
                  Almost on a daily basis I feel like  “throwing in the towel”  , not because of the religious community , but because of my frustration with the secular society as a whole.
                         We should be organizing a blueprint for community activities. We need a call to action to address the media, the political leaders, and the community. We need to start programs to get people introduced to freethought ( especially from a conservative perspective ) which will really be a positive attraction . I’ve spent aout the past three decades trying to encourage and organize atheists to get involved in community activities all to no avail.  If the religious zealots take over , then we will have no one to blame but ourselves for our inaction.   

  • Anonymous

    I’m so glad you gave this book a piece of your mind. Penn Jillette is a fantastic role model for all the right reasons: patriotic American, government skeptic, rational inquirer, devoted father, and utterly independent thinker all in a single person.

    My only beef with him is that he refuses to be vocal about Islam in the name of protecting his family, but I suspect he’s holding his tongue very hard. Maybe we will see a change of tone while young Moxie grows up, but this does in no way diminish the value of all of his other contributions.

    Would love to get my hands on his new book.

  • George

    We have people like Penn Jillette , Pete Stark and the late George Carlin who have been high profile people who have bravely acknowledged that being an atheist is  a positive thing  and have shown that being a proud rational thinking secular freethinker is nothing to be ashamed of .    
                         There are quite a number of secular freethinkers in high profile positions but many are still   “in the closet”   for fear of losing their jobs/ careers , friends,  and status in society because of the high degree of secularphobia that permeates our society.   As more of them  come out and speak up , the more atheists in general will start to come out and acknowledge that they too are atheists and are proud to be among our  rational thinking society. 

    • Mark

      Carlin is among my heroes.
      Catapulting death row denizens into brick walls…. that’s freaking poetry!
      “Thou shalt always be honest and faithful to the provider of thy nookie….”

    • Liz

      I wonder how much of the stigma attatched to atheists is caused by the leftists who gave it such a bad name.  If Christians didn’t automatically think “evil communist dictatorship” every time they hear the word “atheist”, maybe rational inquiry into the existence of god would come easier to them.  Bravo for atheists like Jillette, Rand, etc, who have proved that being an atheist doesnt necessarily make you a leftist. 

      • Anonymous

        Liz, that is a brilliant insight. When I was growing up as a Christian, I strongly associated atheism with communism. Whenever Madalyn Murray O’Hair filed one of her ridiculous lawsuits over such things as the Apollo 8 mission reading from Genesis, I couldn’t help but wonder why anybody would want to push the country toward the drabness and scarcity that characterized communist countries.

        I’d like to believe one needn’t be a lefty just because one is an atheist (which I why I read this blog), but it’s nevertheless true that most atheists are lefties. It’s been argued that Libertarians (like Penn) belong to the left of the political spectrum, too. He is hardly a conservative in the tradition of Hume or Burke.

        So I am torn. Much as I value the entertainment Penn provides me, would I want everyone to model their lives on his?  Sure, the rationality stuff is great. And I’ve never substantially disagreed with anything he’s ever said on Bullshit. But would I want all my neighbors hanging out in strip clubs and sharing their hooker stories at the neighborhood picnic?

        Conservatism seems like a safe middle ground between the Commies and the Libertines. If I had to have neighbors with extreme, outside-of-the-mainstream beliefs, I kinda think I’d opt for deluded LDSers who mow their lawn over rationalists whose fingers have been up a stripper’s anus (apparently Penn tells a story along these lines in the book).

        In other words, I still have some doubts whether atheism doesn’t make you a leftist. I sure know I’m olften pulled that direction now that I am one. 

        • Frank

          I understand your dilemma; once you identify with a group you are identified with the entire group. You are identified with its majority members and its fringe members. Being an atheist conservative can cause an identity crisis.  The vast majority of atheists are liberals and the vast majority of conservatives are religious. I find myself very conflicted over the upcoming election. I am a fiscal conservative and a social liberal – a Republicrat. If the Republican Party nominates a religious whacko like Rick Perry or Michelle Bachmann I will not vote for them. So in that case no matter who wins the election our freedoms will be compromised.

        • Nietrick

          This election is a no win, that’s for damn sure. Theocrats to the right, Marxists to the left and a majority ( IMO) of Americans who don’t really want either in the middle.

          Libertarians are *not* Lefties. If one wants to play by the false left/right paradigm, the farthest right is anarchy, the farthest left is tyranny. Libertarians want the very least amount of government, so that puts them very much to the right. The very nature of being a libertarian makes the lifestyle choices wide and varied. Some Libertarians are wild, like Penn. Some are very traditional and conservative in every way. Another word for this is FREEDOM.

          When you choose the path of freedom, by being an atheist or a libertarian, you have to be strong enough to not give a damn  what the rest of society or the world thinks of you. They are mental slaves bound to what an invisible sky bully says, or what daddy government says. To me, feeling beleagured by what they say is like asking my dog how to live my life. He wouldn’t know what to do without his master, and neither do they.

        • Liz

          I have to admit I haven’t read Jillette’s book, and from what you’ve described I don’t know if I want to now.  I guess he’s a fiscal conservative only.  
          I don’t think being a leftist is an inevitable consequence of becoming an atheist.Could be that alot of atheists tend to follow their upbringing – just as people brought up in a religion tend to remain in that religion, people brought up as leftists tend to remain leftists.
          How one gets to be as morally “libertine” as Jillette I don’t know, but I don’t think that’s an inevitable consequence of becoming an atheist,either.