Daniel's Reviews > God, No! Signs You May Already Be an Atheist and Other Magical Tales

God, No! Signs You May Already Be an Atheist and Other Magica... by Penn Jillette
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's review
Aug 19, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: humor, atheism, libertarianism

Disclaimer: Penn Jillette has been a hero of mine for years. He's an atheist libertarian peace-loving hippy who is a boisterous, obnoxious asshole and isn't afraid to tell you when he thinks you're wrong, no matter what it's about. At the same time, he's so profoundly optimistic it borders on naivete. Even with his strong convictions being the minority, he remains a strangely optimistic and humble person about them, in a frequently self-depreciating way. He's quick to acknowledge when he's wrong or when he doesn't know something. He's a fascinating and unique nutjob, and I love him for it.

You won't be surprised to know I loved the book. It's essentially a collection of anecdotes and experiences, most of which are hilarious or outrageous, a few of which are heartwarming and sappy. It feels like he's just sitting with you spewing stories off the top of his head, indeed if you watch his video blog Penn Point it feels very much as if he had simply written down some monologues intended for that blog. Which is okay. Great, even, because he's great at it.

For me, there's nothing eye-opening here. There are revelations to be had surely, but I'm not the audience for them; sadly I'm not sure the audience which would need or want to find them could do so, given Penn's abrasive manner. I want to believe otherwise, because I can't imagine reading this book and believing anything other than Penn being an extraordinarily heartfelt, honest, loving person.

In the few areas I disagree with Penn, it's because I don't think he's 'gone far enough' with his beliefs, and the book made me yearn for an opportunity to give him a push.

His arguments against government are equally valid for the few areas he professes to believe it has a role, I think he just needs someone to show him.

He's still trapped in the notion that 'Intellectual Property' is equally as legitimate as physical property, although if you examine the function of property among humans, you must come to the conclusion that IP is illegitimate. Property is scarce. Ideas are not; at least not in the same way. Sharing my recipe for pie with you does not require me to give up the recipe, as physical property does.

I also sense that he's not that familiar with Ludwig von Mises, Murray Rothbard, Lew Rockwell and Tom Woods, or the Austrian School of Economics in general. Sadly, this is likely due to his affection for Reason and CATO, who severely downplay their significance, and generally prefer to ignore that LvMI exists. They are utilitarian libertarians, and while they do some great work, Penn Jillette strikes me as a principled libertarian. For a principled libertarian, mises.org is a much better fit than Reason or CATO.

Regardless, Penn is inspiring. His odd combination of humble yet forceful beliefs make me try to be a better, more optimistic person.
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