Silverman’s unrelentingly combative tone will likely only appeal to the choir.



An evangelical manifesto to recruit “closeted atheists” to become firebrand activists.

Silverman is the president of American Atheists, the same post once held by the late Madalyn Murray O’Hair, who long took pride in being called the most hated woman in America and whom Silverman tries to emulate. Thus, his brand of militant atheism is not one of gentle persuasion, nor does it employ the more intellectually nuanced arguments made by the likes of Sam Harris. For Silverman, there is no continuum of belief, no gradations, no alternative such as “agnostic” or “humanist” or “freethinker.” Either you believe in a “literal god,” which he calls a “living, thinking, supernatural being,” or you don’t. This means that all agnostics, most Buddhists, and likely many Christian ministers and parishioners alike are, in fact, atheists. And that some are charlatans, others fools, though, like the Christian who claims to hate the sin but love the sinner, the author maintains that what he describes as a war is against religion (all of them), not the religious (whom he mainly pities). “I have read, thought and studied enough to satisfy myself that there is no god, all gods are imaginary, and actively believing in a god is silly,” he writes. For the author, the ultimate arbiter is human rationality, which he holds supreme. Some might argue that it is reductive to restrict a divine spirit that inspires faith and awe to a god that is living and/or thinking. Some might claim that plenty of value transcends logic—the meaning of a poem, the power of an abstract painting, perhaps the creative impulse itself. To Silverman, however, anything that lies outside the realm of human logic is unprovable and therefore false. Some issues worth raising—such as the relationship between church and state and particularly the tax-exempt status of religious institutions—are undermined by assertions such as, “atheism is perfect” and “the Ten Commandments are not benevolent but barbaric.”

Silverman’s unrelentingly combative tone will likely only appeal to the choir.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-06484-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Aug. 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955

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