From Publishers Weekly
Smith's enormous reference work aims for the libraries and living rooms of people who don't believe in a personal God, and who care a lot about their disbelief. Despite the raunchy title, Smith, a freelance writer, takes no interest (except coincidentally) in debauchery or evildoing. Instead, he's compiled a biographical dictionary (with subject entries interspersed) of tens of thousands of freethinkers, secular humanists, Unitarian Universalists, Ethical Culture activists and famous folks who hewed to no religious creed. There are the great dead, like George Eliot and David Hume. There are present-day blasphemers and secularist writers, from Woody Allen and Salman Rushdie to philosopher Richard Rorty and novelist Will Self. There are newsmakers who happened to be "non-theists," like New Wave singer Gary Numan, Chinese democracy activist Xiao Xuehui, physicist Leo Szilard, runner Jesse Owens (a UnitarianAfor Smith, this counts). There are figures from the history of "free thought," ethical culture and secular humanism, like Scottish editor William Ross ("Saladin") and Supreme Court plaintiff Vashti McCollum. And there are people who seem to be there just for the heck of it, like atheist, elephant-hunter and WWI casualty Sir Frederick Courteney Selous. Entries range from one sentence to several dense columns; subject entries include "Torture," "Semantics," "Nepalese humanists," "Homosexuality," "Cocaine" and, of course, "Hell." When Sartre wrote that "Hell is other people," he may not have had so many in mind, but if unbelievers get to spend eternity in this varied, illustrious company, a season in Hell might be a treat. (Oct.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
What kind of reference book would have entries for individuals as disparate as Marie Curie, A. A. Milne, the Marquis de Sade, and Joseph Stalin? This peculiar but entertaining and well-researched and documented tome describes itself as "a kaleidoscope of contentious individuals: poets and philosophers, royalty and revolutionaries, secular saints and reprobates, all sharing one thing in common--a desire to think for themselves rather than to follow time-honored strictures or divine commandments." RBB
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