The book begins with a statement of purpose in the introduction—it is meant to inform and inspire, to educate both believers and atheists on the injustices caused by religion, and to motivate them to take action. And for the most part, it succeeds.
The "99 things" that piss of the godless are listed in the 50-page long rant that comprises the first chapter. Far from being just a list, this chapter lays out the myriad of injustices and explains many of them in detail, from the “modesty patrols” in Jerusalem which harass, terrorize, and physically assault women and young girls, to cherry-picking the Bible. The writing flows nicely, and I couldn’t help but read it in Greta Christina’s voice, laughing just as hard at my favorite reason “I’m angry about Galileo. Still,” as I did the first time.
She goes on to answer common questions, explaining the validity of anger as the driving force behind almost every major social movement. She points out why religion is a unique perpetrator—it has no reality check, as it demands a belief in unverifiable supernatural entities, and is therefore armored against criticism, questioning, and self-correction.
Then, as a wake-up call to any believers reading, she spends the next four chapters explaining how “harmless” religions are still at fault. She targets moderates, progressives, new agers, the “spiritual, but not religious,” ecumenism, and interfaith, with her main argument that any spiritual belief still disables reality checks. And, in the case of interfaith and ecumenism, hostility towards atheists can result from mistaking honest criticism for intolerance. I felt that this was an integral point, as one of the main responses to religious injustice is “those are just extremists,” and this tends to absolve other believers.
Up to this point in the book, the author has merely explained and justified atheist anger to motivate the reader to take action. The rest of the book is dedicated to activism, defining her personal mission statement and analyzing the validity and effectiveness of atheist activism. This was the part of the book I was most excited about—as an active member of the atheist movement, I already know about activism; but for those who aren’t part of a community like ISSA, the resources and advice she gives are needed and important. I found her argument for the effectiveness of activism interesting and optimistic; she explains that persuading someone to let go of religion is a process—one that doesn’t happen right away.
Because she states that she wrote this book for both believers and atheists, I would have liked to see a chapter specifically offering advice for the former—a “What Now?” for the religious. A lot of the advice is contained within other chapters, but it would have been nice to see it spelled out. For instance, “If you are involved in the interfaith movement, you should realize that criticism is not intolerance.”
While there are definitely takeaways for believers, especially the assertion that “Religion is a hypothesis,” the book is aimed primarily at atheists; its main purpose is to inspire atheist activism, and I think it succeeds. The resource guide at the end lists different organizations, blogs, books, etc., for those interested, and is the only master list of these things I’ve seen.
If you’re looking for a fairly quick read to get you fired up about the atheist movement, I would highly recommend reading Greta Christina’s book, especially if you haven’t seen her speak on the subject. If you have heard her, read it anyway—it expands on the topics and still manages to be an interesting and worthwile read. And, should you ever feel unmotivated to participate in activism, just go back and read the “Litany of Rage” for a kick in the ass!
And, ISSA members, be sure to check Why Are You Atheists So Angry? out of the Freethought Library as soon as it becomes available!