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God's Lunatics: Lost Souls, False Prophets, Martyred Saints, Murderous Cults, Demonic Nuns, and Other Victims of Man's Eternal Search for the Divine

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God’s Lunatics is an eyebrow-raising encyclopedia of the strange and shocking side of history’s religions, cults, and spiritual movements, by Michael Largo, the bestselling author of the Bram Stoker Award-winning Final Exits . A fascinating compendium of “Lost Souls, False Prophets, Martyred Saints, Murderous Cults, Demonic Nuns, and Other Victims of Man’s Eternal Search for the Divine,” God’s Lunatics contains a wealth of valuable extreme spiritual information—including the number of exorcisms performed each year and the proper method for identifying the Antichrist.

592 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2010

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About the author

Michael Largo

11 books44 followers
Michael Largo is an expert on the anomalous ways of American dying. He is the author of The Portable Obituary (a Bram Stoker Award Finalist), Final Exits: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of How We Die (winner of the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in Nonfiction), and three novels. He was the former editor of New York Poetry and the researcher/archivist for the film company Allied Artists. The son of an NYPD narcotics detective, Largo was the owner and founder of the landmark NYC East Village, St Marks Bar & Grill during the early 80s, where he served an eclectic clientele, including Allen Ginsberg, Joni Mitchell, Larry Rivers, and Keith Richards, to name a few, allowing an insider’s look and unusual vantage to observe both genius and heroin--in all its deviations--and its impact on contemporary culture.

Michael Largo has been collecting statistics and information on the American way of dying for over a decade. He is a member of The Authors Guild, Mystery Writers of America amd Horror Writers of America, and The American Historical Association.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 34 reviews
Profile Image for Greg.
1,109 reviews1,843 followers
December 21, 2010
I enjoyed this book more than my three star rating would suggest.

The book lost a star right from the introduction when the author states that he approached no religion with preconceived notions, or with the thought to condemn them. That seemed a little wishy-washy, and dude, you've called the book God's Lunatics there is a kind of a judgment being passed on what is in the book just by the title. From the introduction it the author also seems to be atoning for twenty five years of joining up with all different kinds of religions with different amounts of fervor, or maybe that is just being open minded, which isn't a bad thing. He makes a point of showing some examples of true believers who have no idea why the religions they are a part of do the things they say they do. This book would fill the gaps in some of the knowledge lapses people have about their own and other religions, especially some of the wacky shit they do.

Before I get into the book I'll give a couple of examples of not knowing much about the wacky shit religions do with a couple of examples from my own family. The first is about our former president, W. My parents are *cough*conservatives*cough*, and they would say they are Christians, but my family is really secular except when some kind of nonsense like Liberals are trying to take away Christmas or something equally silly riles them up. It's been a couple of decades since anyone in my family has stepped into a church when another family member wasn't either dead in a coffin or getting married. They might go into a conniption fit at me saying this (because it sounds like a liberal thing, but they are Northeastern living people who drive Volvo's if that isn't a liberal stereotype what is?) but we are a secular household. One night when I was visiting them we were driving somewhere and I don't know how the conversation came around, I was probably baiting them with some silly point about W, but I said something like, why would anyone want to put someone in a position of power who believes a good portion of the country is going to hell, prays for a big war in the Middle East because it will help bring about the return of JC, and believes he will be swooped up to heaven only leaving behind a neatly folded up pile of his clothes behind him? They thought I was talking silly, and told me so, and told me that W wouldn't believe things like that and I went on to start listing off the quirky little things that Evangelicals believe. They dismissed what I was saying as being wrong, or just some crap that the Liberal media made up. They wouldn't believe that the entire belief structure of the Evangelical mind set is hoping that the world will end pronto.

A second incident was something about Mitt Romney. I don't know what started this conversation, probably one of my parents saying they thought he was a good choice for president. I told them, I wouldn't trust a person or want a person to run the country who believes in magic underwear. They had no idea what I was talking about and wouldn't believe me about the idea that Mormon's wear special underwear and thought I'd made this up or read about it on some questionable website. Eventually I did a google search for them, and showed my mom all kinds of pictures of special Mormon underwear and she thought it was hilarious and called for my dad and they both had a big laugh about it. I didn't ask them what they thought about the underwear and wanting someone to run the country who believes he has to wear those special undergarments. Or who believes in the ridiculous story about Joseph Smith and the gold plates or any of the other crazy shit that Mormon's believe. The amazing thing to me is that my parents who aren't stupid people and I like to think are representative of lots of people in this country had no idea about what these people who embrace and use their religion as a means to show what upstanding people they are, what these people believe.

I don't want to discriminate against people (yes I do, I am all for it actually, but let us pretend I'm really an accepting person and not a judgmental creep), but if you believe insane shit you shouldn't be allowed to have a position that puts a giant army in your hands. As a country we accept this, look at North Korea, most of us accept that Kim Jong-il is batshit crazy and shouldn't be in charge of his country, but his batshitness isn't that far off from the Joseph Smith story or Rapture fantasies. Maybe believers are all batshit crazy to other people. Or at least believers who only can see the world through viewpoint, or with one narrative.

A narrative is a story. It doesn't matter if the story is true or false it is still a story of something. To many secular people it's obvious that religion is a narrative, it's a story, or a myth. It has a beginning and most of the time there is an end to the story too. The world starts, and then it eventually ends and it is all the work of (X, where X can be one entity, a bunch of entities, an incorporeal mind, a spirit, etc). It's comforting to have a story that has a start, a middle and an end. Without having those conventions there is the risk of falling into thinking that everything is meaningless, or the story of existence becoming like something out of Beckett. The problem with following any one particular narrative is that even though the story is fucking epic and teleological it's also woefully myopic. And the real world is much bigger than any single narrative and there is a lot that one either needs to keep blinders on to to sustain belief, do mental contortions to fit everything into an impoverished view of the world and silence anyone who sees the world differently.

Part of this book is the story of lots of people who were threatened by others who saw the world differently and whom either hacked up the people who didn't conform to their world view or were themselves hacked up by the powers to be. Religion is a bloody business. Especially when power and belief in one particular narrative are joined together.

Today, Evangelical Christians / The Christian Right see themselves as the constant victim of oppression. They see a specter of secular-liberalism and other beliefs as moving to take away their religion and marginalize them. It doesn't matter if they are a majority, there are people out there who don't believe what they believe and don't really want to have a particularly noxious and childlike narrative pushed on them. Or more likely these heathens just don't care about the Evangelical narrative and don't see any importance in it. Evangelical literature is filled with stories of how in the near future they will be martyred for their beliefs and other paranoid delusions. What is telling about their paranoid delusions is that it's the same things that have happened in the past and that their forefathers have been more than willing to dish out to others and have had dished out to them from other Christians. Their paranoia speaks volumes about what they would like to do to their enemies, the people who won't believe what they do and who are a constant threat to the edifice of their own weak narrative structure.

I pick on the Evangelicals because it's easy. Their belief leaves them as intellectual cretins.

What I think God's Lunatics does really well is show how varied the kinds of crazy things that people will believe are, and how often there is some basis for the weird things people believe in. That there are Saints bodies that really haven't decayed like normal bodies should, that someone like Pierre Theilhard de Chardin asked for God to prove that he wasn't wrong in his Jesuit beliefs by letting him die on an Easter Sunday and that happened to be the day he died on, that all kinds of crazy things happen in the world and it can be enough for people to take these as signs of the existence of the divine. I choose Catholic examples here (and the book is probably heaviest on the Catholics who have a pantheon of crazy shit in the lives of saints and the way popes have acted, but there are lots of other religions and cults here that also have 'proof'), but they aren't unique and there are fun little stories from all parts of the world. And maybe except for the Jainists (and a few other sects actually) at one point or another they were all willing to kill, oppress or conquer others because they believed different crazy shit.

Weird, miraculous (being an event that happens that defies normal explanations) and beautiful things happen in the world. And in a twisted way this book showed me some more of these things than I had known about before picking it up. The religious person can point to them and say, see that is proof that I must be right. A skeptic can scoff and mumble some answer to explain how it was all a trick, or a lie because it doesn't fit in to his or her current understanding of the world. Or one can see the world as a wondrous place that we don't know everything about and see that there is more to it than just trying to come up with definitive causal explanations for and then shutting off all other viewpoints. One of the explanations could be right but the other narratives can add layers of beauty to the world that is missing when all wonder is taken away.
August 6, 2016
I want to read this for three reasons:

1. It sounds fascinating.
2. I can get it for $3.95 brand new.
3. There is a very long and angry review saying this book is a load of shit because it goes on about the West Memphis Cult and there is no such thing, if you Google it you get nada etc etc. So I Googled it, true, very few results. But Google West Memphis Three and you get 247,000 results. So it's made me interested in what has got that reviewer going to such an extent.
Profile Image for Anita Dalton.
Author 2 books157 followers
March 19, 2012
I picked this up thinking it would be an easy-a for I Read Odd Books. But had to stop reading it when I reached the Cs in this compendium of religious oddness. In the section called "Cults, Copycats" I knew this was not worth my time.

With all apologies to The New Bohemians, though I'm not aware of too many things, I know what I know. Know what I mean? I know cults and I know the West Memphis Three. And this book screwed up both.

Largo has murder victims of the Jeffrey Lundgren Mormon offshoot cult digging their own graves before they were killed. Never happened. The graves were dug by other cult members in a barn before the family was lured out to the farm. The family was taken to the barn one by one and shot. I guess this isn't that important but it was a signal of things to come.

But as odd as the above was, the part about the "West Memphis Cult" was just outright insane. According to Largo, the "West Memphis Cult" was influenced by the "Kentucky Occult Teen Killers," who killed a family in 1998. Let me quote it.

Inspired by newspaper accounts of the Kentucky Cult, three bored Tennessee teenagers, dubbed "the West Memphis Cult," killed three children in a botched satanic ritual. They stripped, beat and mutilated their victims in the woods, and all cult members are now serving life terms.

Okay, at first glance, this sounds like a really shitty recount of the accusations against the West Memphis Three, one of the most notorious miscarriages of justice in modern times in the USA. The West Memphis Three struck a deal to be released last year on an Alford plea, because it was the only way to get Damien Echols off death row.

While the WM3 were accused of killing three boys in the woods, Jessie Misskelley was not sentenced to life and Echols was sentence to death. So they don't fit the description of life sentences. And the WM3 crimes took place in 1993 so they clearly were not copy-cat crimes from something that happened in 1998. And they took place in Arkansas, not Tennessee. But then again, there is no West Memphis, TN, so who the hell knows what Largo was talking about in that regard.

So given all of those discrepancies, perhaps he was not discussing the West Memphis Three. Perhaps there was a "West Memphis Cult" from 1998 that committed virtually identical crimes to the crimes the WM3 were accused of and received life sentences and somehow I managed to overlook that the WM3 travesty had somehow spawned its own copy-cat crimes.

Except if you Google "West Memphis Cult" you come up with nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. NOTHING. There is no "West Memphis Cult." Actually, if you do Google, you get six results. Five entries that refer to the WM3 and one result that refers to this book. There is only the "West Memphis Three" - there is no "West Memphis Cult."

Clearly Largo managed to get complete wrong details of one of the most notorious crimes in the last two decades, a ridiculous miscarriage of justice that at the time this book was published had spawned three books, two documentaries, and benefit concerts. I mean, even if he didn't want to research it, just a quick perusal of Wiki would have cleared up the dates, the location and the actual sentences handed out.

So I know what I know, if you know what I mean, and Largo has shown he doesn't know what I know. And I'm not even the one writing a book about what I know.

And this leads me to the realization that if he can't get right the things that I do know, how can I trust that he got anything else right? I can't. So I stopped reading and wrote this.
Profile Image for Rod Horncastle.
722 reviews73 followers
November 21, 2018
YES, this book deals with lunatics - but seldom are they God's.

This is basically an encyclopedia of religious foolery and cultish behavior. Sure there's a small bit of Bible relevance thrown in (often confused and corrupted by the author's poor Biblical understandings and research). The author does share his Catholic origins, then his Eastern meditations and New Age Spiritism, then he sprinkles in a weekend Christian retreat for some supposed validation. Then he gets his palms read, learns about his past lives and then does mushrooms with druids.
All this exciting stuff we learn in the first 5 pages.

Then Mushroom-BOY tries to teach us about religious insanity and truth. (mostly insanity)

He does some poor research on religious wacko's that most religious buffs (like me) have often come across. But this book isn't really about historical religious facts or theological truth: mostly it's here to make us say "Ewww, that's freaky!".
But there's no reason to lie or exaggerate - the truth is weird enough. Even the truth of Atheism can be horrific. Can't blame God for that one.

But in this book we get numerous Catholic Saints, Angels, Popes, Priests, and then it moves over to all the weirdo's of major religions (Buddha, Guru's, Mormons, Witchdoctors, secular know it alls - and then the freaks of some minor religions that most of you probably haven't heard of.

For a much better scholarly effort (and just as weird):
read Another Gospel: Cults, Alternative Religions, and the New Age Movement
by Ruth A. Tucker,

It's a fun read: just be careful what you learn from it.
Profile Image for Michelle.
216 reviews6 followers
May 2, 2018
A very good encyclopedia of all sorts of religious fanaticism and interesting cults and religions that are still being practiced today. Though I wish some bits had more information, it gives good brief introductions that one can later look deeper into.
Profile Image for Jim Whitefield.
Author 7 books26 followers
September 4, 2012
I was looking forward to reading this book which promised hundreds of accounts of ancient myths and legends as well as a look at various more modern cults and sects. I was quite happy learning new and interesting facts until I reached page 75 where the author is talking about religion and food. He casually mentions in passing “Mormons are discouraged from eating chocolate, and from consuming various prescription drugs.” I was quite amazed to read this. Whilst most of what I was reading was new to me, the one sect I do know a great deal about is Mormonism, having been a member for forty-three years before discovering the truth, resigning and publishing several books under ‘The Mormon Delusion’ title, exposing the deliberate hoax behind Smith’s creation.

I can state that whilst Mormonism proscribes tea, coffee, alcohol, tobacco and illegal drugs, it does not discourage eating chocolate nor does it proscribe prescription drugs that are advised and prescribed by doctors. The author’s complete misunderstanding of the Mormon ‘Word of Wisdom’ led me to immediately skip forward to page 462 where he covers Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism. There, I found another glaring error which no one who knows the remotest thing about Mormonism would ever make.

The article states that Joseph Smith claimed to have a vision in the woods where “Two ghostly apparitions hovered above Smith and were later said to be angels, Moroni and Nephi.” This refers to what Mormons term ‘The First Vision’ and whilst it is true that Smith first described this vision in 1832 as one of Jesus alone (backdating it to 1821), and had two more attempts at it in 1835, (then backdating it to 1820), stating it was a vision of ‘unnamed’ angels, and then finally in 1838 dictating the now used ‘official’ version in which two beings appeared, taken by assumption alone to be God and Jesus as one called the other his son; Smith never once claimed anywhere that the vision was of Nephi and Moroni together. That claim was never made anywhere by anyone throughout all of Mormon history. The closest it gets, is to the later supposed visitations of the Angel Moroni, who Smith initially claimed was actually Nephi but the Church later falsified all the ‘Nephi’ accounts to read ‘Moroni’ so they were all consistent. The funny thing is there are far fewer accounts that say Moroni than there are of Nephi and it would actually have been easier for the Church to falsifying the ‘Moroni’ accounts to read ‘Nephi’ instead. Still, that’s another story, details of which are in The Mormon Delusion, Volume 2. See my Goodreads profile or www.themormondelusion.com for details.

I read the rest of the book but with far less enthusiasm, finding myself wondering how accurate the information I was reading actually was. The last straw came on the last page of the book where the author is talking about Zoroastrianism (The Original Magi). The author claims the three kings who attended the nativity were in fact Zoroastrian priests. Personally, I have no idea where this idea comes from or whether it is true or not. But I will come back to why that is the case in a moment.

The author states, as if it is a fact rather than superstition, “They unfortunately checked in with King Herod upon arrival into Jerusalem. With this knowledge, Herod the ordered the “Massacre of Innocents,” which set out to kill every male under two years old who could one day possibly vie for Herod’s throne – as many as sixty-four thousand toddlers were murdered in the purge.” This finally put the lid on trusting anything the author wrote – although I had now read the entire book. I had recently watched a documentary about Herod’s life and whilst he was indeed ruthless and killed indiscriminately, including members of his own family, Herod was far more afraid of Rome and his leaders there than he ever would have been about the many upstarts and claimed Messiahs of the day in his area. The commentator casually mentioned that incidentally, even if the myth about Herod having babies killed were true, the area concerned was in those days a tiny village and the number involved would not have filled a minibus. So, where Largo gets his sixty-four thousand from goodness only knows. Whatever the case, it’s numerically impossible.

That brings me back to not knowing whether what the author says is true or not. This is because of the other major disappointment about this book. Whilst the author lists hundreds of ‘Sources’ in what would be a bibliography in any other presumed academic work, not a single one of them (let alone a page number) is referenced in the text, making the whole ‘Sources’ section entirely pointless and utterly useless. There is no way of using it and no way of ever finding out exactly from where the original details were obtained. The fact that there are such terrible errors in what is claimed, just from the little I did know, made this a far less enjoyable read as it is entirely unreliable. Had the work proved accurate, with proper referencing to a bibliography, I would certainly have given it at least four stars. As it is, I am not even sure it is worthy of the two I ultimately did give it.
Profile Image for Brad VanAuken.
Author 7 books16 followers
October 28, 2012
While the book is 564 pages in length, it is a surprisingly quick read. It is both highly entertaining and informative. It includes almost every spiritual or religious movement that has occurred since recorded history, and especially the more modern ones. It talks about those religious founders who were informed through visions, channeling and visits from angels and space aliens. In has many black and white photos and illustrations. I found the book to by funny and fascinating and I even extracted some profound spiritual nuggets from its pages. As it is organized alphabetically, it does not have an index, which is unfortunate. It can be browsed, read cover to cover or used as a reference when one wants to understand a particular religious or spiritual movement better. More entertaining than a deep look into any particular movement, it gets many things right and does share some insights. It is perfect as a bathroom reader. Whether you want to know about John Calvin, Edgar Cayce, Aleister Crowley, the Crusades, King David, Eckankar, Mary Baker Eddy, the Essenes, EST, Gnosticism, Falun Gong, Fatwa, Mohandas Gandhi, Hermes, L. Ron Hubbard, David Koresh, Charles Manson, Merlin, Pythagoras, Raelism, Joseph Smith, Jr., Emanuel Swedenborg, Mother Teresa or Urantia Brotherhood, this book covers it.
Profile Image for Lauri.
224 reviews53 followers
March 7, 2011
This book doesn't quag on religion nearly as much as I thought it would. It does a fair job of explaining every last religion, leader, and cult. Overall this book is educational while still managing to be light and mildly comical.
Profile Image for Marsha.
Author 2 books33 followers
March 27, 2019
Religion draws many people to it, mostly among the disenfranchised, desperate, lonely, grief stricken or addled. From such beginnings rise cults that become churches, religions whose congregants number in the thousands or millions, even when their leaders are shown to be nothing more than perverted child molesters or grasping charlatans whose sole desire is to make money at other people’s expense.

This encyclopedia, comprehensive but necessarily incomplete, lays out for the curious reader all sorts of facts, trivia and history about some of mankind’s burning questions: Is there a God? If so, what does s/he/it want from us?

There are a lot of facts that I knew here and many that I didn’t. Many saints, madmen, liars, crooks, con men and others are in these pages and Mr. Largo presents them with a surprising equanimity and tolerance. No one is singled out for censure, even when their actions were understandably horrific. Self-flagellants (whipping yourself for Jesus!) are on the exact same footing as martyred saints, poverty-ridden holymen and avaricious, self-styled prophets who run megachurches.

This is one fascinating book, filled with the kind of minutiae that you want to toss out at gatherings. Did you know Gandhi used to sleep next to beautiful, young girls in order to test his devotion to sexual abstinence? Which saint was broken on the wheel? Which saint tore out her own eyes? Which saint was given three strokes with an axe that failed to sever her neck (ancient Roman law forbade a fourth stroke if the first three didn’t do the job) and then bled to death days later? Which saints were known to levitate through the air? Which religion promotes worship by way of smoking hemp and practicing nudity?

Even in a historical context there is something really absorbing about religion, perhaps because it brings out such passionate and wacky behavior in human beings. That’s certainly how I felt about this book; in spite of it being a massive tome, I read it all the way through in only a few days. The only thing I found really dissatisfying about it is a lack of an index. There are so many entries but with inclusions that would be easier to find if there was only an alphabetical and page listing in the back.

Whether you’re religious, spiritual, atheist, agnostic (or whatever you fill out on surveys), if you’ve ever had curiosity about why devout people do the things they do or believe what they believe, this is one of the best resources out there.
Profile Image for John Hood.
140 reviews12 followers
February 1, 2011
Bound: Believe It or Else!
SunPst Weekly August 12, 2010 | John Hood

Michael Largo Gives Us God’s Lunatics

Gotta hand it to Michael Largo — the cat really knows how to pick a subject. His first book of the new century — Final Exits: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of How We Die — was a comically keen look at something everybody’s got in common. Fortunately, we all don’t all gotta go by electronic air fresheners, heating pads, non-stick pans or any one of the other odd ways Largo cited in his lavishly entertaining encyclopedia of death.

Largo’s follow-up — The Portable Obituary — gave us more dead people, only this time they all were famous (or at least infamous), as were most of the ways they died. So too his Genius and Heroin, which catalogued our most famous creatives’ abuse of substances, from James Agee (drink) to Stefan Zweig (barbiturates).

Now Largo’s dispensed with death (kinda) and instead looks at the after-life, as proscribed by religious tyrants and the like. In other words, the ways of those fast-talking kooks who are crazy for deity and insist we believe them — or else. The book’s called God’s Lunatics (Harper $16.99), and, as the subtitle attests, it’s loaded with “Lost Souls, False Prophets, Martyred Saints, Murderous Cults, Demonic Nuns, and Other Victims of Man’s Eternal Search for the Divine.” It also happens to be an enlightening riot, and one that will steer you away from religion quicker than a pervert priest.

Largo, who spent some time residing right here in the MIA, is coming back to town next week in order to hype his beloved Lunatics. So I decided to slip him a few questions that’ll whet your appetite for what’s in store.

Why God’s Lunatics?

While writing the death trilogy (Final Exits, Portable Obituary, and Genius and Heroin) I found that a significant category of mortality has been, and still is, caused by religion. Punishment for sins, religious warfare, proselytizing, staving advancements in science, and the strange quests for divine enlightenment have all considerably shortened the lifespan of many throughout history. I am fascinated by anomalies of human nature, and religion has given us a mother lode of oddballs to scrutinize.

The subtitle promises a who’s who of wackos. Can you tell us about some of the False Prophets?

One man’s wacko is another man’s saint, but yes, God’s Lunatics is a compendium of the fanatical fringe, in addition to examining the legends and mythologies of the world’s most popular religions. From the U.S. Navy vet who washed ashore on an isolated South Pacific island only to assume the role of the islander’s long awaited messiah, to the sun gazers who claim to turn themselves into solar chips and need only air and sunlight to survive, or why one man was chosen as the patron saint of hemorrhoids, or why another is worshipped by drug dealers to help avoid getting busted, I hoped to offer a bit of equal opportunity blasphemy for everyone.

What about the Murderous Cults?

Many religions, of course, started as “cults,” and usually involved some claim of knowing when impending doom or an apocalypse was to take place. Nearly 90% of all cults used fear to gain recruits in record time, and many, such as the visions of Charles Manson and Jim Jones, led to horrific crimes.

And Demonic Nuns?

I am sure Sister Mary Gabriel, my former elementary school teacher, would crack my knuckles with a wooden ruler for writing such a book, but there were not only “real” flying nuns as well as claims of entire convents that were supposedly possessed by sexually deviant apparitions. In trying to understand the divine, religions have surely given us some incredibly creative stories, even if offered as fact.

Who are some of the other Lunatics which stood out from the pack?

The Adamites, who believed we should live as Adam and Eve did without clothing, were interesting, or the free-love communes, which sought divinity through pleasure, are some of the fun-loving lunatics I covered in the book, even if they were prosecuted or killed off. I also like the ones who believe in the “Ancient Astronaut Theory,” in as much that we are supposedly genetic seeds from an extraterrestrial race. As you’ll find in this encyclopedia, religion has invented some wild stories.

Do the Lunatics hail primarily from the States?

Theology attempts to offer answers to the questions that have puzzled humankind from its earliest origins: where did we come from, how should we live, and where do we go when we die? The prophets who claimed to know these answers are not exclusive to the U.S. But, since we are supposedly more religiously tolerant than many other countries, at least constitutionally, the States have given us a number of bizarre visionaries.

Are people just preternaturally susceptible to fast talk about religion?

It seems we need to believe in something. Religions offer a ready-made set of beliefs and rituals, which if followed, implies we’ll get a reward later. If you argue or question a principle or dogma, then you don’t have faith — which immediately stifles any meaningful discussion. I intended God’s Lunatics to at least make a case for religious tolerance and to flag the dangers of trying to convert others to one’s cause.

Et tu? Has belief ever gotten the best (or worst) or you?

My first religious experience was as a Catholic altar boy. I tried Eastern religions, from Zen to transcendental meditation, went on Christian spiritual weekend retreats, attended New Age lectures, had my palms read, did a past-life regression, attended a Santeria session, and visited many holy shrines in Rome. In my journalistic research for this book I attended services held by Episcopalians, Methodists, Baptists, and Calvinists. I went to Pentecostal meetings, as well as sat among the crowds of a Mega Church. In addition, I ate matzo ball soup with Jewish friends in their sukkah in Brooklyn, and did mushrooms with some women who were into Druids and Earth religions in upstate New York, among other stuff that I’ll discuss at the reading at Books and Books.

Who’s next on your hitlist?

Critics who give me bad reviews — no, seriously, death is a big subject, and I’m sure my next book will not stray far from my true love.
147 reviews7 followers
August 22, 2018
If you’re going to criticize anything, it’s best to do some actual research. Saying that cherubim are angels that look like babies is such an easily fact-checked mistake that I don’t trust anything else in here.
Profile Image for Theremin Poisoning.
232 reviews15 followers
April 30, 2018
Mildly entertaining, but riddled with inaccuracies including - gasp - rampant spelling errors!
Profile Image for Zach Alba.
3 reviews1 follower
January 29, 2014
Have thoroughly enjoyed this book thinking I was learning so much about religion, one of my favorite topics to study. I was born and raised in the suburbs of Salt Lake City and grew up in the Mormon religion, a religion I no longer practice but feel I am knowledgeable on its teachings. The brief summary of Joseph Smith was riddled with so many inaccuracies, I couldn't help but wonder how his investigations on the other sects, saints, etc, etc, compared to the lazy summary of Joseph Smith. Three stars.
December 1, 2014
Why isn't there a "I could not finish it it's so bad"-option? I never not finish a book I've started but this just got so much blatantly, lazily wrong I actually threw it in the trash. Normally I'd consider that sacrilege, if I don't like a book doesn't means someone else will not enjoy it. But this one has so many facts wrong I didn't want anyone to read it again ever.
Profile Image for Brittanie.
524 reviews44 followers
June 13, 2017
My least favourite of his encyclopaedias but still really interesting. Found a few too many typos and some of the images were not the best quality, but a good resource for those interested in the subject.
107 reviews2 followers
September 10, 2010
Again, this is not a review kinda book. It is an A-Z recitation of all the weird religious shit going on in this world, including the major religions. Given that, I enjoyed it. Didn't learn anything new, but I am a reader of encyclopedias and dictionaries. Take it for what it's worth.
Profile Image for kattykatkat.
59 reviews
March 13, 2012
Fun, light, organized like an encyclopedia. Definitely not in depth but still a nice overview of various religions and religious facts. Good book to carry around because you can read an entry and then put it down again but still like picking back up.
Profile Image for Darrel.
Author 4 books114 followers
July 20, 2012
If you want bathroom reading, this is it. Not something you read cover to cover. It has some interesting things, it also seems to have some inaccuracies. On the whole I would not waste you time on it unless you just want some light reading while doing something else.
6 reviews
October 12, 2013
Fascinating view into what people will believe in the name of God. Good book to be taken lightly, not for precise documentation of either historical or religious literature...but that makes it an easy read. Fun and a little frightening!
20 reviews1 follower
August 27, 2010
Good Bathroom book. Some of the origins of modern churches is unbelievable. My guess is that most of those who go there now don't know...or are bat-shit crazy. Fun read.
Profile Image for Jamie.
52 reviews1 follower
November 7, 2010
Darker and satirical look at world religion and the fringes of each religion. Encyclopedia format with short entries, so it's a pretty quick read and keeps you entertained with lots of quirky info.
Profile Image for Craig Patton.
25 reviews3 followers
June 14, 2011
Throughly enjoyed not just from a historic perspective but, from a cultural one as well. It is interesting to see what others believe while attempting to understand why they believe it.
Profile Image for John Arnette.
84 reviews1 follower
October 11, 2011
Great encyclopedic volume concerning the religiously overzealous, evangelically obnoxious and the terrifying dogmatic of this world's religions, faiths and creeds.
Profile Image for Book Shark.
138 reviews1 follower
April 3, 2018
Very well written and entertaining to say the least.

(Reread maintain previous review.)
July 12, 2012
An equal-opportunity collection of craziness from all religions where we see that money, power and celebrity have always been strong influences in religions gone wrong.
Profile Image for Kei.
1 review1 follower
March 8, 2013
Encyclopedia that actually caught my attention and made me want to read it from cover to cover. Very interesting facts about things one hears about, but never knew the full story. I enjoyed this.
Profile Image for Dan Gentle.
4 reviews1 follower
September 15, 2013
Great book for those who are interested in why and how religions, sects, and cults originated, thrived, and/or ended. It is a secular book that is not bias to any particular religion or faith.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 34 reviews

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