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Who's Who in Hell: A Handbook and International Directory for Humanists, Freethinkers, Naturalist, Rationalists and Non-Theists Hardcover – January 1, 2000
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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
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Smith will be criticized for many of his difficult choices and assertions. The book distinguishes between major entries, real unbelievers; minor entries of persons who only wrote something related to unbelief, and peripheral entries. To assess a person's belief is always difficult. Our concepts of religion and faith are arbitrary. Different convictions may be expressed in various writings, and belief may change over time. In addition, many persons had reason to obscure their doubts or pretend to a faith they did not share. For this reason, very few modern American politicians will be found in Hell.
Readers will find some good humor, many Nobel laureates in science, literature, and peace, as well as most important philosophers and a few statesmen in Hell. Mark Twain had it truly right when he suggested we go to "Heaven for the climate, Hell for the company." No religious or secular library should be without this book.
Have you ever read a horror novel that makes reference to some obscure demon up from the pits of Hell? This book will tell you all about it. Or some historical romance which makes reference to someone who spoke out against the church? Again, you'll find them here. As well as all manner of people who have spoken out against all manner of things throughout history and from all faiths and view points.
It was the title that made me pick it up in the first place, and I think the suggestion is that these are people/things who would populate the under-world. Rather tongue in cheek I think, but eye catching just the same.
So if you are a serious reader and you like interesting reference books, pick up a copy of this. You may surprise yourself at how often you look at it - it is full of fascinating things!
WHO'S WHO IN HELL uses an umbrella approach, listing from A to Z subjects of particular interest to freethinkers and including an incredible list of over 10,000 actual people from Ancient Greece to Erasmus to Voltaire to Tom Paine to the present--Christopher Reeve, Kate Hepburn, Bjork, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., etc. Freethinkers, in short, come off as being far more important than publish-or-perish professors of philosophy when it comes to influencing the media and people around the world. I put this 6-pound, 1,200+page book next to my COLUMBIA ENCYCLOPEDIA.