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64 of 73 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Companion Book for Lapsed Believers
Marcus Brigstocke has commented on religion before. A few years back his stand-up routine on "The Now Show" asking the followers of the three Abrahamic faiths "Not to kill us all...please" was as funny as it was thought provoking, and was one of a number of catalysts for me personally to become an Atheist (we don't have a special name for the conversion process, maybe we...
Published on 21 Jun 2011 by Scritty

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36 of 42 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Delusional Brigstocke
I really like Marcus Brigstocke. So many times, listening to The Now Show has been made bearable by Brigstocke's five minutes of comedic rantings.

However, this book was a chore to get through. It's unclear what Brigstocke was really aiming for with this meandering set of thoughts. There's no clearly discernible theme to each chapter, and the tone lurches from...
Published on 6 July 2011 by Michael Reeve


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64 of 73 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Companion Book for Lapsed Believers, 21 Jun 2011
This review is from: God Collar (Paperback)
Marcus Brigstocke has commented on religion before. A few years back his stand-up routine on "The Now Show" asking the followers of the three Abrahamic faiths "Not to kill us all...please" was as funny as it was thought provoking, and was one of a number of catalysts for me personally to become an Atheist (we don't have a special name for the conversion process, maybe we should)
It's hard for none -believers to form "groups" or "committees" because nothing unites us other than our lack of faith. But for me personally, Marcus is about as close as it comes.
This book (which is loosely based on his Edingurgh Festival show of the same name - but with much more content)explains why he has no faith in terms that would feel probably familiar to many who claim to have faith.
He explains why God (I'll use a capital "G" - though I may stop doing so in the future..it's habit) is not for him, and how terrifying a literal biblical (or quran based, or tora based) god would be.
He explains why, if the Bible were to be taken literally, he would not know of one person who would qualify for eternal life at God's side. Certainly not Mother Teresa et al. Brigstocke rails at the hypocracy of "revisionism" and "believing the bits you like and ignoring the bits you don't" of each holy book - and altering those bits around as the social zeitgeist demands it. It was less than 100 years ago in most of the world when the Bible was used as a solid argument that god was FOR slavery, even now hundreds of thousands of African children are born condemned to a life (mostly without parents) and an early AIDS stricken death because the Bible condemns barrier contraception.
There are passages where Brigstocke enters into dialogue with a biblical version of god and explans his problems and tries harder than most to rationlize a good reason why these holy canons "are what they are". The fact that he fails is more down to the twisted logic and duplicitous nature of the books rather than his own effort in trying to make sense of them.
Of course we are only human, as ours is "not to understand". There is no book that will "convert" the faithful, none will ever be written.
By definition faith does not require a logical basis for belief - if it did it wouldn't be faith - ergo - there is no point really railing against it.
So this book is "preaching to the unconverted" or at best those who are questioning their belief with an open mind.
As such, it's a book that is both serious and funny in equal measure. There will be reviews here that detest this book for it's topic and tone, and that's a good thing.
Just becasue you can't win an argument against faith, it doesn't mean you should stop challenging it. Faith unchallenged becomes a terrifying prospect - a potential "big brother" world with self appointed Demigogs ruling over us as if they were the proxy of a higher power, perverting the world to their own will. There are places in the world where this still goes on today, books like this form a small part of a "barrier of logic" that might just prevent a sectarian and religion based holocaust... but probably won't.
To go back to Marcus "Now Show".."To the Abrahamic faiths...Please don't kill us all"
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36 of 42 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Delusional Brigstocke, 6 July 2011
By 
Michael Reeve "mykreeve" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: God Collar (Kindle Edition)
I really like Marcus Brigstocke. So many times, listening to The Now Show has been made bearable by Brigstocke's five minutes of comedic rantings.

However, this book was a chore to get through. It's unclear what Brigstocke was really aiming for with this meandering set of thoughts. There's no clearly discernible theme to each chapter, and the tone lurches from light whimsy to dry thoughts.

For example, one chapter, titled "Where to look for God...", discusses Brigstocke's efforts to hunt for God. No, not in any metaphorical sense, he's actually physically looking for God. On eBay, amongst other places. This allows him to shoehorn a clumsy couple of pages about the operation of the Royal Mail - amusing material, but otherwise irrelevant to a book ostensibly about religion and faith. There's another couple of pages about how Brigstocke likes to imagine iPhone users are "pleasuring gerbils" - a surreal image that pleases him sufficiently that we are presented with it on several occasions through the rest of the book.

By contrast, another chapter, "God Delusion - the modern atheist" is almost devoid of humour altogether. This section deals with Brigstocke's disappointment with the atheist movement - a group that he is often lumped in with, seemingly much to his frustration. All of which seems odd, given how many of his own observations about the unjustness and seeming irrationality of the Abrahamic God in the Koran, Torah and Bible, are remarkably familiar from other works by contemporary atheists. In an almost astonishing piece of irony, Brigstocke states that he finds Dawkins's 'The God Delusion' to be incredibly smug, an effect "enhanced by the fact that... I had heard Professor Dawkins speak" and that "Once you have that clipped, humourless and unrelentingly posh tone in your head, it's very hard not to read the book in the same voice." He does have the good grace to concede that some of his readers may struggle with the same problem - but I was disappointed by the lack of any critique beyond perceived "smugness".

The same chapter goes on to comment on 'The Four Horsemen', a filmed conversation between Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins, and comments that several of the participants were drinking alcohol, before launching into a frankly puzzling passage about the similarities between drinking alcohol and participating in religion. It's a lighthearted observation, but one which completely overlooks the somewhat glaring point that there is no debate about whether or not alcohol exists.

In any case, lurches in tone and style aside, the fundamental problem that I had with the book was that it reads like a long, transcribed comedy routine. Given its roots in Brigstocke's Edinburgh show, this is unsurprising. However, there are points where Brigstocke's delivery style does not lend itself well to written prose. At times, he is wont to provide examples that prove a point. In his stand-up delivery, it undoubtedly works well to go off on flights of fancy providing four or five examples - in his prose, it serves to bring a developing argument to a shuddering halt.

There are moments of genuine entertainment in the book - particularly toward the end where Brigstocke introduces some personal anecdotes about his family, and his friend James to whom the book is dedicated. I got the impression that the book would have been much more entertaining if Brigstocke had told more such stories, which explain his interest in, and fascination with, the world of religion and faith... rather than trying quite so hard to be both funny and profound.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars God Collar - Marcus Brigstocke, 4 Dec 2012
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This review is from: God Collar (Paperback)
Very, very funny and surprisingly reverent! How to personify the "god-shaped hole". . Good luck to you Marcus in your search.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Funny, but not for too long, 28 Aug 2013
By 
B. R. Barton (Dorset, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: God Collar (Kindle Edition)
Although I agree with the atheist sentiments in the book, it's "A joke in every sentence", which is just fine for a while, but it soon starts to feel like a LIFE sentence. It's bang bang bang..... interminable, endless, unceasing, joke joke joke...... and although I've now got 3/4 of the way through it, I'm beginning to lose the will to live. The words "5th form smart-arse" are beginning to form in my mind. I'm not about to abandon the book, but the words "I must abandon this book" are also beginning to form in my mind. This review is actually written in the style of the book, just to demonstrate to you how interminably, endlessly unceasingly..... Well, you get the picture.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking, 24 Mar 2013
This review is from: God Collar (Kindle Edition)
I found this book thought provoking, well considered, funny but not particularly gripping. It made me angry and let down, in between the belly laughs, but its message could be delivered in half as many words.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A thought provoking read, 25 April 2012
By 
Mrs. T. N. Henshaw "Tracy" (Prestatyn, Wales, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: God Collar (Kindle Edition)
I thought I was agnostic but now i'm not so sure thanks to Marcus and his musings (or should that be amusings?). Loved this book, kept annoying my husband by reading him quotes every now and then but I wanted to share the book with him.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars funny, moving but verbose, 21 Mar 2012
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Mr. D. P. Jay (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: God Collar (Paperback)
Having said that Christopher Hitchens was verbose, the author then spends over four pages telling us he hasn't been abused as a child, but I suppose that is how stand-ups talk. There is much serious material in this book, dealt with humorously.

The author is clearly an intelligent man, though he has some odd ideas, e.g. that the pope can talk directly to God or the urban myths about the chair in the Vatican used to check masculinity of a newly elected pope and that orthodox Jews have sex through a hole in a sheet. However, he has some pertinent things to say about gay marriage, structural sin and the radical nature of Jesus's message that the churches have sanitised.

He is also one who has been through the mill, having coped with teenage obesity, drink and drugs and he writes endearingly about parenting his son and movingly about the premature death of his best friend.

My favourite quotation seems to me very similar to Jesus's views: Life's for living. You wouldn't spend your life dressed in black tie and remaining still and spotless in your living room just in case someone was preparing a formal dinner in the other room, would you? There simply isn't time. ..... We are busy living. Bugger pleasing God, let us learn how to please each other and live well. If there's a God to be found anywhere and He had anything to do with making us, then the aim of cherishing life, learning, loving and sucking the marrow out of experience surely would please Him somewhat. Wouldn't it? (cf. I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. John 10;10)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Read and inwardly digest!, 5 Sep 2011
This review is from: God Collar (Paperback)
Bought this for my husband, a confirmed atheist. He liked much of the reasoning, lightened by the inevitable Marcus Brigstocke humour. Recommended
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Highly Entertaining, 14 Aug 2011
This review is from: God Collar (Paperback)
This book (in it's audible version) kept a whole family entertained throughout a long drive back from Switzerland. It is laugh out loud funny in some places and thought provoking in others. Marcus is in search of some reassurance that his good friend, recently deceased, is still a spiritual presence and had somewhere to go after death. However, after a thorough exploration of the available options, he is left wanting. You won't find answers in here but you will enjoy the journey. Possibly not recommended for those whose beliefs cannot withstand critical enquiry.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Brigstocke Delusion, 12 Nov 2011
By 
Paul D "Paul" (Darwen, Lancashire) - See all my reviews
This review is from: God Collar (Paperback)
Marcus Brigstocke is a comedian, writer, and atheist. Or at least, he used to be. Now, he's not so sure. He's still pretty certain there's no God out there, but isn't as certain as he used to be. This book is his attempt to work out why he's having a crisis of lack-of-faith. How can you be an atheist but feel that atheism isn't working for you, and yet be unable to adapt to a belief in a deity?

His stated intention is not to take other people's faith away. Rather he wants to share it: as he says ( p67): "It's perfectly reasonable to ask - given how resistant I am to religion, why on earth do I think I want to invite God into my life? The truth is I don't know exactly. It's just a feeling that if there's something up there or out there, or in here that could reasonably improve the quality of my life and of those around me, then I'd be willing to try it. I have a nasty feeling this willingness to explore a state of `other' could bring me to God or just as easily see me develop a massive heroin habit." His purpose is not to ridicule or condemn people who have a religious belief, but rather it is "About trying to understand why anyone believes in anything and why I can't seem to." (p.149)

He is wary about organised religion, and rightly angry about the evil perpetrated by the religious: the murders, the abuse. `About the inherent hate and violence so prevalent in the three Abrahamic faiths.' (p.152). About the Catholic Church's refusal to encourage contraception, and their encouraging of people to have large families which they struggle to feed, together with their blatant lie that the use of condoms helps the spread of Aids, thus condemning large numbers of people in Africa to a hideous death. About a Pope who was once a Nazi and who considers the `state of the universal church' more important than the well-being of young children raped by priests, which he conspires to conceal.

If he can't believe in God, what can he believe in? Not in humanity. A `humanity' which refuses to believe in global warming in face of all the evidence, and which will elect a `dull simian fool' to the White House and a `waffling clown' to the Mayoralty of London. One which reads the Daily Mail and buys books by Jeremy Clarkson. One whose youngsters put empty Tango cans in hedges. Who could have faith in such a species?

So, if he is to find God, where should he look for Him? Not in the places of worship, majestic and awe-inspiring as many of them are. To say nothing of having been built by underpaid (when paid at all) labourers and paid for out of the pockets of people who were, in many cases, too poor to buy food. Nor can anything else take the place of the search for God - not even the iPhone, no matter how great the app.

He makes the valid point that being an atheist does not automatically mean that someone is more intelligent than someone with a religious faith, however he seems to believe that IQ is a genuine measure of innate intelligence, and when he claims that: "Faith is the rejection of reason, but with rewards for the faithful that make the choice a reasonable one to make." (p.153) he is simply wrong. Rejecting reason is never a reasonable choice, although it may be an understandable one.

A comedian by trade, he does include some amusing comments, one particular stand-out is his account of how to get someone in church to begin singing too early.

In some respects, however, the book frequently reads just like a transcribed stand-up routine. Which it actually is, Brigstocke having tried out this material during his God Collar tour, before writing the book to use up the material. The enterprise put me in mind of Jeremy Hardy's My Family and Other Strangers in which the trenchant comedian used the loose framework of a search into his family history to hang his comic observations and politically motivated rants. At one time, comedians tended to end a stand-up tour by making a TV series and / or releasing a DVD using up most of the recent material. Now, it seems, the method of choice is to package the routines as a book.

For me, the biggest of several problems with this book is that it has nothing to add to the atheism debate. He claims to find Richard Dawkins's polemic The God Delusion smug, but can find no specific instances of smugness. He likens Dawkins's certainty that there is no God to the certainty of the religious zealot without seeming to understand that there is a difference between the zealot, whose position is based on blind faith, and who will ignore any and all evidence that conflicts with his views, and the scientist like Dawkins who relies on observed reality, reason, rationality and science.

"This desire to believe in something and to have a permanent, ever-present force at work in my life is hard to explain." Brigstocke claims. It is no such thing. It is simply the desire not to be in control of our own fate, the one ultimately to blame for anything that goes wrong. It is the desire to abnegate one's responsibility to oneself and the world around us.

A recovered addict - to drink, drugs and food, he is intelligent enough to know there's something lacking in his life, and articulate enough to express that knowledge. But is he intelligent enough to understand what it is that he lacks? The book is a question, rather than a quest, but among all the middle class liberal angst, the soul-searching, the speculating and the scoring of cheap points, the reader will search in vain for any vestige of an answer, or even a coherent examination of what his sense of a God-shaped hole in his life really means, or what may have caused it. Wary of liberal middle class guilt he may be, but he has produced a vapid, middle-brow examination of the emptiness of the middle class existence.
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God Collar
God Collar by Marcus Brigstocke (Paperback - 23 Jun 2011)
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