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God, No!: Signs You May Already Be an Atheist and Other Magical Tales Paperback – June 5, 2012

3.8 out of 5 stars 355 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Not only can the man rant, he can write. From the larger, louder half of the world-famous magic duo Penn & Teller comes a scathingly funny reinterpretation of The Ten Commandments. They are The Penn Commandments, and they reveal one outrageous and opinionated atheist's experience in the world. In this rollicking yet honest account of a godless existence, Penn takes readers on a roller coaster of exploration and flips conventional religious wisdom on its ear to reveal that doubt, skepticism, and wonder -- all signs of a general feeling of disbelief -- are to be celebrated and cherished, rather than suppressed. And he tells some pretty damn funny stories along the way. From performing blockbuster shows on the Vegas Strip to the adventures of fatherhood, from an on-going dialogue with proselytizers of the Christian Right to the joys of sex while scuba diving, Jillette's self-created Decalogue invites his reader on a journey of discovery that is equal parts wise and wisecracking

Amazon Exclusive: Teller Interviews Penn Jillette

Teller is an American magician, illusionist, comedian, writer, and is the smaller, quieter half of the comedy magic duo Penn & Teller, along with Penn Jillette.

Teller: I presume your new book is all about me, right?

Penn Jillette: We've done three magic books together and I wrote two novels without you. I wanted to put something out there that was all me, my ideas and beliefs and take on things that would be thought-provoking and funny. I do a lot of op-ed stuff and TV pundit stuff. I'm always the nut on those panels that they go to for a joke, but end up being the guy the host says "Hey, Penn’s a whack job, but he’s right." Oh, and I guess I talk about you, too.

Teller: I'm going to pretend to ask you about the book, as if I haven't read it yet. So Penn, what's your book about?

Penn: 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. Oh, and I guess I talk about you, too.

Teller: I love the Siegfried & Roy story in the book.

Penn: I think it's my favorite and it really captures the essence of the book. It's funny, nutty and from my heart.

Teller: Do you have to be an atheist to read this book?

Penn: God No! (get it?). I’m very respectful of Christians in the book. And it's not all about being an atheist. It's a funny, humorous book about a lot of stuff that goes on in the life and head of a nutty Vegas magician. There are lots of heavy books out there about religion and Atheism. But this one might be the feel good one. Too bad Oprah’s Book Club has shut down.

Teller: Why should I buy this book if you’ve already given me a free copy?

Penn: Well, you owe me $24.99.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"Penn Jillette is a 21st-century Lordof Misrule: big, boisterously anarchic, funny, Rabelaisian, impossible--andunique. There isn't--couldn't be--better not be--anybody like him." --Richard Dawkins, bestselling author of"The Greatest Show on Earth" and "The God Delusion"

"There are few people in the country who question more boldly, brashly and bravely than my friend Penn Jillette. This book is funny, provocative and profane. But is it right? God, no!" --"Glenn Beck"

"This planet has yielded exactly one mutual friend for Glenn Beck and me and that friend has written a brilliant book called "God, No!. "Penn reveals 'the big secret of magic, ' tells you why tattoos are perfect expressions of atheism and exactly what to eat when you know you're going to vomit later." --"Lawrence O' Donnell"

"Jillette has made a career as a provocateur, and it is tempting to dismiss this book as another piece of carny shtick, but there is a forceful intelligence at work here that demands to be taken seriously. He has shaped his argument with care." --"Daniel Stashower, " Washington Post Book World

"People who say that libertarians have no heart or atheists have no soul need to read this book. Because Penn Jillette has a lot of both." "--Matt Stone and Trey Parker, creators of "South Park "and award-winning Broadway musical" The Book of Mormon
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 5.6.2012 edition (June 5, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451610378
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451610376
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (355 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #220,178 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By TChris TOP 500 REVIEWER on August 15, 2011
Format: Hardcover
God No! is, I think, about the possibility of being a good person without believing in a supreme being. When Penn Jillette stays on point, he uses humor effectively to make meaningful arguments. When he rambles and digresses -- which he does frequently -- he dilutes that message. In the introduction, Penn tells the reader that he rambles, but the admission should be in all caps, printed in bright red ink, surrounded by stars and preceded by a WARNING sign.

Penn tells us that he is an atheist, not an agnostic, because anyone who doesn't know whether there is a god necessarily doesn't believe in one and must therefore be an atheist. It seems to me Penn defines agnosticism out of existence. Most people I know who call themselves atheists deny the possibility of a deity while those who argue that the existence or nonexistence of a supreme being is unknowable tend to call themselves agnostics. Penn understands the distinction but rejects it; in his words, "If you're not willing to pretend that matters of god can be certain, you're an atheist." I suppose Penn can define his terms any way he wants, but he didn't persuade me that "Do you believe in god?" is a question "that needs to be answered yes or no." I think it's a question that can legitimately be answered however an individual wants to answer it (including "I have no belief either way"), even if Penn thinks that any answer more nuanced than "yes" or "no" is "a cheesy grade school dodge."

Definitions aside, there is something to be said for Penn's larger point: It is possible to live an ethical life based on rules derived from shared experiences that are not dependent on biblical commandments. This book, Penn tells us, is a response to Glen Beck's challenge "to entertain the idea of an atheist Ten Commandments.
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Format: Hardcover
Penn is profane and obnoxious, as anyone who's seen him on TV shows such as [and the irony here is that although they can sell it by name, I can't write the actual name without being censored, so let's just say "BS"] knows. And there's plenty of that in "God, No!" What some readers might not be as prepared for are the moments of sentiment, sometimes slipping into sentimentality. Penn is a big guy with a big voice, big opinions, big appetites, and a big heart. He values individuality above most things, and wears his admiration for courageous action and original thought on his sleeve. All of that comes out in this book.

All of it.

And not in any organized format, either, but as it occurs to Penn. And you know what? That's actually pretty cool. I found the book very hard to put down, precisely because of its conversational nature. The one thing I could live without--something Penn also employed in his novel "Sock"--is the more-or-less random use of song titles and quotes.

Sometimes I found myself wishing he were a little less obscene because there are plenty of people I would love to share "God, No!" with, but a sizeable percentage of them would be put off by some of the language. But in truth, that's Penn's style, and even saying one wished things were different sounds like wishing "Lady Gaga would put some damned clothes on." Absurd on its face.

So take Penn as Penn, and prepare to meet an interesting cast of characters from all strata of society, punctuated by a fresh take on the "Ten Commandments" that is unbelievably sane and erudite. But the heart of "God, No!" relates to friendship and family. The "baptism" of former Hassidic Jews into a sort of sacrament of bacon, for example.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I must admit that my feelings about this book are a bit schizophrenic. I do really enjoy Mr Jillette - funny as hell, irreverent, outspoken, unfiltered. All stuff I love. Hence, it was fun to read about his escapades and outlook. Yes, I am an atheist, a scientist (climate change - yes, we exist!) and have an eclectic political viewpoint. So, I am a forgiving reader of Mr Jillette, for sure.
So, first the bad news: The trouble I had is a similar problem I have had with some books of late written by entertainers in which they attempt to tread, at times, on more serious matters with a license borrowed from their celebrity. It is a danger that a big microphone has on many..... they think because the big microphone keeps showing up (because they are funny, sing well, act well, entertain) their view on politics, family psychology, science, etc are equally sharp, informed and worth listening too. This is often just not true (though there are exceptional cases). His libertarian snippets for example...... he falls into the same childish, simplistic view of the world that most unstudied libertarians do. Once you spend any time actually trying to manage anything bigger than a 2-man show or a small business, you quickly learn that the Randian bumper stickers sound great but are for dorm rooms and chat rooms - not serious contributions to actually governing much and just serve to add to the clatter of uninformed opinion.
Similarly with climate change - though Jillette confesses he doesn't know much about it and recounts his overstatements in the past, he does so with the "insult first, then say it was a joke" approach. "I don't know" is indeed an honest position if he had just left it there. But while proclaiming to do that, he plays that "maybe" game that just comes off as manipulative.
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