An Atheist's Tale

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Outside Looking In
by Gil Gaudia
Xlibris, 2003
Paperback; $19.54

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First-time novelists are content usually to tell a good story. Only occasionally does one gamble in an attempt to convince readers of a controversial view. Outside Looking In by Eugene's Gil Gaudia attempts both and succeeds with me.

There is a thread -- sometimes more like a rope -- of autobiography in this tale of an independent-minded boy from the streets of depression-era New York City. Late in life, the protagonist, Gene Geminni, finds a measure of peace living in Oregon with his lifelong partner, Ginny, a pseudonym for Gaudia's wife, Jeanne.

Wherever Gene travels or whatever circumstances he finds himself in, the author advances his thesis that non-believers are persecuted by intolerant people who believe in an institutional "god." Note the irony in the favorite expletive of the atheist hero: "For Christ's sake!"

Gaudia's view is a reaction to Pascal's Wager, the philosophical suggestion that a belief in "god" can be logical and pragmatic: "You weigh the gain and loss by wagering that god does exist. If you are right, you gain all. If you lose because god does not exist, there's really nothing to be lost. So one has to wager that god does exist."

Prior to undergoing kidney surgery, Gene has a pre-operation visit with the surgeon, who asks Gene and Ginny to join hands with him and "pray for God to guide my hands."

Gene explodes: "Not on your (______g) life! If you think I'm going to let someone chop into my body while he's counting on some mysterious being to be responsible for it going right, you're out of your mind!"

Ginny's intervention repairs the medic-patient relationship, and the operation proceeds and is successful. But even as the anaesthetic dims his awareness, Gene thinks: "How did I get here, trusting a theist who believes a cost-benefit-analysis could pave one's way to heaven?"

The novel speaks to Gaudia's troubled torment over the non-believer's mistreatment in a society that proclaims itself to be god-fearing.

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