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Celebrities in Hell.

by Warren Alien Smith (Fort Lee, NJ: Barricade Books, 2002); 288 pp.; $14.95 paper.

For me, books are often tools--not just to be read but used. And Celebrities in Hell has proved useful indeed. Being conveniently sized and well focused, it became the primary resource for my mealtime presentations about famous humanists and freethinkers, which I gave this year at the humanist summer program, Camp Quest. Youths of all ages, as well as many adults, clearly feel a closer identification with the likes of Jodie Foster and George Carlin than, say, David Hume and Aspasia--the latter two being among the more than 10,000 individuals listed in Warren Allen Smith's comprehensive 1,260-page preceding volume, Who's Who in Hell.

In this new book, Smith not only provides a description of each listed celebrity's work--and a mini-biography when possible--but evidence for concluding that the person actually belongs in the book. Typical, perhaps, is the entry for Sally Jessy Raphael, who is quoted as saying, "I don't believe in God. Although it isn't what most people think, I believe this is all there is. No reincarnation. Once it's over, it's over. Once you believe that, it causes you to live every day of your life to the fullest."

In the introduction, Smith sets forth his criteria for inclusion: all those with "unorthodox outlooks about supernaturalism and concepts such as Hell. Also, almost all would agree that when they die, they die." He takes an "umbrella" approach, listing not only avowed atheists and humanists but many others, including deists, secular Jews, and even transcendentalists.

The book's primary fault, however, is the space it sometimes wastes on internal humanist organizational lore of no interest to a wider public. I would rather read about more of the celebrities that such a generous umbrella approach, welcomes. Smith even says, "If you're a celebrity and have not been listed" you should complain to the author and insist on being included in the next edition. Therefore I'd like to speak up for some who this book missed and who may miss this book and conclude my review with a personal list for the next edition. I recommend adding Leonard Bernstein, Phil Donahue, Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss), Stanley Kramer, "Grandpa" Al Lewis, Marilyn Manson, Yoko Ono, Tim Robbins, Gene Roddenberry, Salman Rushdie, Susan Sarandon, Charles Schulz, Gloria Steinem, Oliver Stone, Tom Toles, Ted Turner, and Alice Walker.

Fred Edwords is the editorial director of the American Humanist Association.
COPYRIGHT 2002 American Humanist Association
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2002, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Edwords, Fred
Publication:The Humanist
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 1, 2002
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