“I’m an atheist swimming in a sea of superstition, surrounded by well-meaning, good people with whom I share a culture and similar concerns, and there’s only one thing I can do. I have to laugh.” —PZ Myers
On his popular science blog, Pharyngula, PZ Myers has entertained millions of readers with his infectious love of evolutionary science and his equally infectious disdain for creationism, biblical literalism, intelligent design theory, and other products of godly illogic. This funny and fearless book collects and expands on some of his most popular writings, giving the religious fanaticism of our times the gleeful disrespect it deserves by skewering the apocalyptic fantasies, magical thinking, hypocrisies, and pseudoscientific theories advanced by religious fundamentalists of all stripes.
With a healthy appreciation of the absurd, Myers not only pokes fun at the ridiculous tenets of popular religions but also highlights how the persistence of Stone Age superstitions can have dark consequences: interfering with our politics, slowing our scientific progress, and limiting freedom in our culture.
Forceful and articulate, scathing and funny, The Happy Atheist is a reaffirmation of the revelatory power of humor and the truth-revealing powers of science and reason.
|Publisher:||Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group|
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About the Author
PZ Myers is a professor of biology at the University of Minnesota, Morris. He was named Humanist of the Year in 2009 by the American Humanist Association and received the International Humanist Award in 2011 from the International Humanist and Ethical Union. He has lectured throughout the world on biology, evolution, atheism, and skepticism. Awards Pharyngula has received include the 2006 Weblog Award for Best Science Blog and the 2005 Koufax Award for Best Expert Blog. In 2006, the journal Nature listed Pharyngula as the top-ranked blog by a scientist.
Read an Excerpt
Why are science and religion in conflict? Because changing ideas and new knowledge are sacrilegious.
Throughout Ken Ham’s Creation Museum, in northern Kentucky, a persistent story is exhibited in display after display. Two ways of looking at the world are shown: “God’s Word,” the ultimate source of knowledge, the Bible; and “Human Reason.” For Christians, human reason is always the fall guy, the error-filled path, while the only truth lies in listening to what God has to say. Christians have an old book with the whole story laid out—literally, as the creationists like to claim—and by their definition, all observations about the natural world must be accommodated to it. In contrast stands human reason, which dares to contradict the Bible, dares to show great truths not encompassed by the Bible’s stories, and most horribly, proposes an alternate, better source of knowledge than a body of ancient myths.
That’s a major theme throughout the “museum,” that science defies the word of God, and that the only valid knowledge must be that which is reconcilable with the Bible; Scripture is the sole arbiter of truth.
According to the Creation Museum,
“In a biblical worldview, scientific observations are interpreted in light of the truth that is found in the Bible. If conclusions contradict the truth revealed in Scripture, the conclusions are rejected.”
To that mind-set, insisting on the primacy of evidence other than the Bible is heretical—a theme at the evangelical Christian creationist organization Answers in Genesis, for instance, is that even the phrase millions of years is a signifier of gross, un-Christian error, since the Bible clearly (doesn’t it?) explains that the earth is only six thousand years old.
But, you might say, isn’t fundamentalist Christianity a kind of pathological religion that carries its antirational claims to absurd extremes? Is it fair to judge faith in general on the basis of this one radical example? Yes. Because fundamentalist Christianity isn’t at all unusual. Consider that well-known sixteenth-century theologian Martin Luther. Oh, Luther offers a rich vein of distressing statements opposing rationality.
“Reason is the Devil’s greatest whore; by nature and manner of being she is a noxious whore; she is a prostitute, the Devil’s appointed whore; whore eaten by scab and leprosy who ought to be trodden under foot and destroyed, she and her wisdom. . . . Throw dung in her face to make her ugly. She is and she ought to be drowned in baptism. . . . She would deserve, the wretch, to be banished to the filthiest place in the house, to the closets. Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has; it never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but—more frequently than not—struggles against the divine Word, treating with contempt all that emanates from God.
People gave ear to an upstart astrologer [Copernicus] who strove to show that the earth revolves, not the heavens or the firmament, the sun and the moon. Whoever wishes to appear clever must devise some new system, which of all systems is of course the very best. This fool wishes to reverse the entire science of astronomy; but sacred scripture tells us [Joshua 10:13] that Joshua commanded the sun to stand still, and not the earth.”
Note that last objection: this is not just the opinion of some radical Protestant. The idea was shared with the Catholic Church, which similarly resisted the conclusions of astronomers. Islam also promoted geocentrism, despite the fact that the Koran is said to be without error and contradiction. That’s the problem with having a source that is claimed to be infallible but was actually written by people who knew next to nothing about the world around them—the stories don’t hold up.
Unfortunately, the religious strategy for coping with this conflict is not to maintain flexibility and adapt to new information, but instead to restrict new knowledge and condemn it when it contradicts tradition.
At the very least, religion’s fear of honest information about the world leads to stagnation; at worst, it is destructive to any culture that values scientific advances and the education of its children. Here’s a nightmare to contemplate: the staff of Answers in Genesis teaching children about science. And they do! They lead groups of children through recitations condemning evolution and all science that denies the “facts” of the Bible, sing songs about how the earth is only six thousand years old and the dinosaurs sailed on the Ark with Noah, and teach them how to stump scientists. (It’s easy: ask scientists “Were you there?” and when they say no, you’ve demonstrated that they have no evidence to back up their science.)
I’m beginning to think that child abuse is a tenet of the Abrahamic religions.
So here are some more sacrilegious acts you can commit: Learn something new. Teach something new. Question dogma. Challenge tradition. Laugh at the quaint myths religion offers us.
Table of Contents
Morning in the Midwest 3
About the Author 10
The Joke 14
The Great Desecration 18
Get a Job 28
It's So Easy to Be Outraged! 31
I Am Not a Spoiled Child Having a Temper Tantrum 34
The Proper Fate for a Holy Book 39
Ask but Don't Tell 42
Dirty Words 47
The Top Ten Reasons Religion Is Like Pornography 51
The Purpose-Free Life 52
Happy Easter! 58
Afterlife? What Afterlife? 62
What Dreadful Price Must We Pay to Be Atheists? 69
Imagine No Heaven 74
Daughters of Eve 82
Prometheus's Sin 91
So Alone 95
One Nation Free of Gods 100
An Embryo Is Not a Person 104
The Courtier's Reply 109
The Big Pink Guy in the Sky 112
The Karen Armstrong Diet 121
God's Little Crisis of Confidence 126
Laughter as a Strategy for Diminishing Religion 131
We're Happier out of a Straitjacket than in One 137
Marketing Godless Science 141
"Science Is What We Do to Keep from Lying to Ourselves" 146
Our Brains Are Full of Contradictions 149
Ken Miller, Poster Child for Compatibility 151
Religion Fails as a Source of Knowledge 157
Science as a Lever to Move the World 159
The Active Hand 161
The Proper Reverence Due Those Who Have Gone Before 167
We Stand Awed at the Heights Our People Have Achieved 180
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I enjoy PZ Myers' writings quite a lot. He speaks with an honest voice and tells the world the truth - you *can* be good without a god-being. That you can live a happy, productive, joyous, loving life with lots of friends and family and not go to a church. While I don't always agree with some of his writing, I have to say this is a well-written book consisting of some of his best posts from his blog. Want more? Visit Pharyngula and enjoy what he has to say.
Well-written, well thought-out arguments against having close ties to any religion in your life. Paints a picture of a happy life being a non-superstitious one.
This was an amazing, informative, and well written book. Mr. Myers also has a wonderful sense of humor. Will also be checking out his blog.
Enjoyed the whole book! Died a littlt bit at the end!
Thank you for putting in clear, understandable language what I have been trying to express for years!
finally a book for atheists... thank you america!!!
Rubs his co.ck
GOD IS FOR REAL. THIS IS TRASH.
GOD GIRL!! GOD'S NOT DEAD!!! btw the movie called God's not dead can also b for atheists so i recomend that movie to all of u
Such a deep grip the enemy has on this poor man.