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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good collection but it could have been better
I've followed PZ Myers's blog, Pharyngula, for about four years, and I had looked forward to reading this book. What I like about the things Myers writes is that he is often witty, always knowledgeable about his specialities (embryology and evolutionary biology) and he writes impeccably refined English with erudition. Myers blogs prolifically, and while most of his...
Published 11 months ago by F. Odds

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10 of 22 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not so happy now...
I bought this book as a possible toilet reader, thinking it might be fun to have short essays to dip in and out of on visits to the throne, and to be hyperbolic I'd suggest this book could be put to good use in the water closet, just not for reading.

The essays themselves are poorly written and edited, the sources are minimal, the arguments are straw and...
Published 11 months ago by Occam's Whetstone


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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good collection but it could have been better, 31 Aug 2013
By 
F. Odds - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Happy Atheist (Hardcover)
I've followed PZ Myers's blog, Pharyngula, for about four years, and I had looked forward to reading this book. What I like about the things Myers writes is that he is often witty, always knowledgeable about his specialities (embryology and evolutionary biology) and he writes impeccably refined English with erudition. Myers blogs prolifically, and while most of his posts are not of lasting significance, from time to time he writes pieces that have clearly enjoyed careful thought. They are first-class essays that deserve wider reading. The Happy Atheist is a collection of those best essays that focus on the topic of religion(s).

Across the Atlantic, the book has been heavily criticized on Amazon.com because it is no more than a collection of some of the Pharyngula blog posts, with no original material. As one who, over the years, has bought -- among many others -- collections of Clive James's TV reviews, Steve Bell's cartoons and Jeremy Clarkson's rants, I am obviously unfazed to have bought a collection of blog posts, printed and bound. However, the Myers book nowhere acknowledges that it IS a selected collection of blog posts. They appear undated and without any introductory comments. This results in a set of "take-it-or-leave-it" essays that risk being described as disjointed. There IS a flow to the order in which the posts appear, but I feel they'd have benefitted greatly from some sort of annotation. Apart from 7 pages of introduction (surely this was the place to explain that the book is a compilation of blog posts) there is no new material. There are no preludes to the posts/essays and no follow-ups (Myers' website is awash with comments from its readers, many of which would have made entertaining addenda to each item).

If the downside of The Happy Atheist is the way it's managed to go into print without anywhere acknowledging what it comprises, the upside is the quality of the content. Many of the essays in the book are new to me, suggesting they predate my own initiation to the Pharyngula blog. All of them have great merit. Some are important reading for adherents of religious superstition. The essay called "Happy Easter!" (originally posted with the title "The Silliest Story Ever Told") addresses the so-called self-sacrifice of crucifixion that Christians deeply revere. Those who debate the role of women in society or the church should read "Daughters of Eve" and reflect on just how far the Church of England is conveniently ignoring almost all of Christian historical teaching and reinventing the "truths" of their religion. (By the way, I was astonished to find even Martin Luther, commonly regarded as a light of pleasant reason within christianity, was capable of a vilely misogynist comment.)

"The courtier's reply" is perhaps Myers's most famous blog post, and is deservedly included in the present compilation. It responds to all the god believers who protest about Richard Dawkins that he has not read the work of any theologians. In precis: how dare Dawkins crudely point out the emperor is wearing no clothes when he admits he hasn't read all the learned philosophical discourses on exotic leathers and ruffled flounces. Ever since I first read that one as a blog post I've been amazed how often those who criticize atheists are really just using the courtier's reply. It's great to have it handy in bound book form.

To sum up... "The Happy Atheist" is a small book. It would have been nice if it acknowledged its origins in a straightforward manner. It would have been nice if, in a book by an academic, Myers could have added references to sources of his quotes and information. It would have been great if the essays were all revisited and expanded, rather than simply reprinted -- the acknowledgements of Myers' wife "working late nights going over and over the text" seem remarkably hollow since simple compilation books like this are inevitably lazier than writing new stuff. But the content is basically first-class, and merits reading by atheists and god-believers alike.
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10 of 22 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not so happy now..., 19 Aug 2013
This review is from: The Happy Atheist (Hardcover)
I bought this book as a possible toilet reader, thinking it might be fun to have short essays to dip in and out of on visits to the throne, and to be hyperbolic I'd suggest this book could be put to good use in the water closet, just not for reading.

The essays themselves are poorly written and edited, the sources are minimal, the arguments are straw and there's no theme or consistency. There is nothing additional to the original blog posts in most cases and it just doesn't work in this format. Would be better off printing out a few copies of the blog posts for yourself rather than fund this.

Not up to the standards of Dennet, Harris, Dawkins, Shermer or even a teenager.

Would not recommend.
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6 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Mediocre., 19 Oct 2013
By 
M. Duplessis (Canada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Happy Atheist (Hardcover)
I don't own this book, buying instead Hirsi Ali's Nomad, but I convinced a friend to buy it used. I haven't read all of it only parts.

So far it seems a mediocre book by a mediocre activist. I'm discouraged, and perhaps biased, by PZ Meyer's co-creating and supporting Atheism+, a terrible idea that pits feminists vs. neutrals/men's rights activists as well as pitting progressives & liberals vs. conservatives, libertarians and people who want atheist activism to solely focus on religion.

But there's nothing impressive about this.
For a cheery but light reading you'd be better off with something like Penn Jillette's God, No! which I find rather underrated.
For a serious book about science & religion you might try something like Carl Sagan's Demon Haunted World or Jacoby's Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism.
Even Dan Barker's old book where he first wrote about the Easter Challenge would be more interesting, or perhaps some Hitchens.
Nonie Darwish & Ayaan Hirsi Ali are good for learning about Islam & other cultures.

The atheist community has enough book resources; we don't need another mediocrity.
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3 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It made this atheist happy., 18 Aug 2013
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N. J. Phillips "Neil J Phillips" (Chichester, Sussex) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Happy Atheist (Hardcover)
I got this yesterday and spent last night reading it. It's great fun, I laughed out loud several times. Although it didn't really contain any information that was new to me it did phrase many points in such a pithy way that I shall be using extracts in my teaching.

When I say it didn't have information that was new to me I don't mean to put it down - it's nice to read something which sounds honest and sensible. So much writing and communication around at the moment is namby-pamby that it is really pleasant to read someone who can state an honestly held and empirically supported opinion.

Now I must work on remembering that he's Pee Zee Myers, not Pee Zed Myers. Pee Zed definitely sounds better.
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