The Happy Atheist by PZ Myers

The creator of the popular Pharyngula blog makes a funny, impertinent and highly intelligent argument for atheism and happiness.


PZ Myers is serious and unapologetically funny at the same time–and, despite 15 churches in his immediate neighborhood and their fellows worldwide, he is indeed a happy atheist.

The Happy Atheist is irreverent in every sense of the word, experimentally seeking creative acts of sacrilege and poking fun at religion from diverse angles. Short chapters make for quick, easy reading: “The Great Desecration” relates Myers’s project of desecrating communion wafers, which inflamed the public to a degree that flabbergasted him.

He offers other reasons for the religious to be offended as he describes “the proper fate for a holy book” and instructs us to “take pride in the example of Eve–she is the author of a real promise of a great humanity.” But even in making fun–and he assures us that laughter is the greatest weapon we can wield against religion–Myers is loving and compassionate, and it is clear that he aims to increase everyone’s happiness by converting the wayward to atheism. Trusting in his expertise as a biology professor, he moves from more lighthearted larks toward a more serious scientific examination of the shortcomings of religion, especially by comparison. “Science,” he quotes Richard Feynman, “is what we do to keep from lying to ourselves.”

The Happy Atheist finishes with a heartfelt discussion of The Epic of Gilgamesh on a hopeful and inclusive note. Far from being out simply to insult, Myers genuinely wishes to improve humankind and our lot here on earth. But some hilarity along the way can’t hurt.

This review originally ran in the August 20, 2013 issue of Shelf Awareness for Readers. To subscribe, click here, and you’ll receive two issues per week of book reviews and other bookish fun!

Rating: 6 plain old crackers.

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