Monday, October 31, 2011

God, No! by Penn Jillette

This was a total impulse buy. I just got paid and I was in the book store, saw a book by Penn Jillette about atheism, and thought, "Hey, sounds fun!" I was expecting an interesting, thoughtful, funny discussion of Penn's atheism and how it's affected his life.

Unfortunately, the book is a mess. I wouldn't mind that so much since a lot of the anecdotes are really funny and I don't mind rambling text if I'm being entertained. But there's almost no content. Occasionally he'll make a stab at explaining his views on atheism, but he's too easily distracted from the topic. Any points he brings up are lost in the bluster and noise of his writing style.

I started the book being open to his views; I'm certainly sympathetic to anyone who rails against lies and ignorance, whether I agree totally with them or not. And I've always thought Penn was a clever guy. But by the end of the book I was so turned off by his personality that he could have told me I needed to breathe air to live and I'd have thought, "You are so full of shit."

For someone who states repeatedly that people are mostly good, he sure hates a lot of people. He spends page after page trashing individuals who've slighted him in the past--sometimes decades before. Let it go, man. Geez. Women he's angry with he calls cunts, and women he's not angry with are pretty much 100% in the book so he can mention having had sex with them.

In short, it's a wankery of a memoir, not at all what I expected. I was disappointed, since it's not entertaining enough as a memoir and not intelligent enough as a discussion of atheism. I was particularly turned off by his increasingly ranty political essays, which were so weird that I wonder if the book fell through a wormhole from another dimension.

Although Penn's obviously dying to infuriate people who don't agree with him--he repeats himself when he gets sacrelicious, which makes me think he uses the same phrases a lot to shock people--there actually isn't much criticism of any religion except Islam, which he loathes with a white-hot passion. Christianity? Oh, well, his dad was a Christian and his dad was great. Judaism? Oh, well, isn't it weird that Jews can't eat bacon? That's pretty much it for religion. He doesn't even talk much about atheism beyond some generalities and a chapter on how Santa Claus is a stupid concept.

I can't imagine many atheists finding God, No! very interesting--there's just not enough substance. I suppose people who think they're fighting the good fight against atheism might pick up the book to see what their enemies are up to, but they'll be disappointed too. Unless they're really prudish about swear words, of course. Then they can get righteously angry.

B&N link


Kelly Robinson said...

"A Wankery of a Memoir" would make a great subtitle.

K.C. Shaw said...

It might already be on there. I'll have to check my copy. :)