Happiness is The Happy Atheist: A Review

The Happy Atheist by PZ Myers


I should probably begin this review by admitting that PZ Myers was my gateway drug to atheism, and some of the essays in this book helped me become the type of unapologetic atheist that haunts the nightmares of deeply religious people. I stumbled upon Pharyngula during a determined effort to decrease the deficits in my scientific knowledge, specifically biology. I learned there that this squidgy, squishy, ofttimes smelly branch of science was actually quite a lot less boring than I’d believed. I also learned that, contrary to what society had shrilled at me for over 30 years, you didn’t have to be a despairing, suicidal, evil, and unpleasant tool of Satan in order to be an atheist. You could, in fact, be charming, witty, rapier-tongued, wicked-smart, adventurous, full of lust for living, in awe of this grand old world, and… actually happy. Not to mention completely Satan-free.

This book might just be the gateway for a great many other people to become happy heathens as well.

For me, this book was a nice, concentrated dose of Pharyngula, from which many of the essays originated. I could catch up on some bits I’d missed, and enjoy old favorites (“The Courtier’s Reply” will remain an atheist classic for centuries to come, I like to think). The whole book rolls smoothly along, shading from religion and the excoriating thereof into the wonder and beauty, the exquisite truths, of science. All along the way, atheism is unapologetically presented. This isn’t an accommodationist’s book. No forelocks are tugged in due deference to religion; no beliefs quietly tip-toed around; no ugly bits of faith discreetly papered over or studiously ignored while a cringing case is made for atheists to please, if it wouldn’t be too much trouble, be allowed a place at the table, maybe at the foot, or perhaps underneath it if actual atheists in actual chairs are offensive to delicate religious sensibilities.


Religion is given no quarter within these pages. The concealer is scrubbed from all its pimples and warts; bandages ripped from its oozing sores; its sheep’s clothing stripped from the mangy, devious wolf* within. Religious people are treated with respect and compassion, as long as they’re not frauds and cons like Ken Ham, but religious beliefs are not spared.

I think you can get a sense of what they’re subjected to by this quote: “Religion is the Mega-Shark of culture.”

But it’s not all bashing Bible bashing beliefs. Myths about atheists are dispatched, and a whole new universe, free from superstition, is opened up. Unfettered by belief’s chains, we can explore, learn, grow, and savor. Science is celebrated. Lives free from faith are shown to be far from meaningless. And every page is suffused with PZ’s quirky, sometimes caustic, sense of humor.

This book made me a happy atheist indeed. Hopefully, it will do the same for you and yours.

The Happy Atheist book cover, which is a blue smiling Darwin fish.


*Apologies to wolves for the above analogy – they don’t deserve to be insulted so, but I’m afraid ebola doesn’t have a folk tale about it sneaking round under false pretenses

Happiness is The Happy Atheist: A Review

4 thoughts on “Happiness is The Happy Atheist: A Review

  1. 2

    Well, my background’s the reverse of yours, Dana: degree in biology with interests in systematics, evolution and paleontology. That leads inevitably to the gates of hell sedimentology, so I came here as a way to learn me some geology. I’ve been a regular reader and sometime commenter at Pharyngula for several years, though, so THA is firmly ensconced in my kindle, just waiting for me to finish working my way through Jody Hey’s book.

  2. 3

    Going to have to get that – PZ has written some beautiful, inspirational essays.

    I was already an atheist the first time I visited Pharyngula, but PZ was my gateway drug to being out-and-proud. I was frankly shocked by the tone of discussion there, said so, and was promptly advised to fuck off. Which got me thinking, and I realized the abuse atheists have been absorbing from Christians all along.

  3. 4


    (grinning) Yea, the tone trolls get their asses handed to them on a regular basis. What earns respect, though, is when said tone troll THINKS about it, instead of, you know, actually fucking off. Good on you.

    I know what it’s like. In a fit of outrage, I once called Michelle Bachman and bitch. My ass is still stinging. Which I deserved.

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