Atheists come in many varieties. For example, they can be angry like Greta Christina, or they can be Friendly, like Hemant Mehta, or they can be Positive, like all the Atheists in Minnesota. PZ Myers, it turns out, is The Happy Atheist, and all the other Atheists should be happy that he’s about to publish a book by that name.
The Happy Atheist is more of an anthology of essays than a tome. PZ Myers, mainly on his blog, Pharyngula, writes about biology with emphases on evolution and development, social justice with an emphasis on feminism, politics with an emphasis on secularism, and Atheism with an emphasis on the perils and problems of religion, religions, and religiosity and the positive aspects of non-belief. The essays on the Happy Atheist draw mainly from the second two of these categories, with emphasis on the last.
To many people, including, I think, people first thinking about non-belief, Agnosticism, and Atheism — walking away from a cultural background that involves faith — is troubling. When we want to be funny we can say that the meaning of life if “42” but really, that is a serious question that probably troubles people leaving their religion more than many others, because religion took care of that sort of thing for you. For many, being an Atheist is philosophically hard, even if they are strongly drawn towards non-belief. This is where PZ Myers’ writing excels and is tremendously important; his views on how to be a “Happy Atheist” clarify and inspire.
If you read PZ’s blog you will recognize the themes, and in some cases, the stories, in this book, but rest assured this is NOT a collection of Pharyngula blog posts. On his Blog, PZ does an admirable job, putting us other bloggers to shame, with the level of refinement of his writing. I assume he’s just plain good at first drafts. So, this book is not simply a set of more advanced and refined drafts of his blog posts either. These essays actually have a different feel to them. I sense that PZ wrote most of these essays in a different place, perhaps using different software, maybe with a different mix of caffeinated beverages, at a different time of day, and using different prompts, than he usually uses for his blog. Don’t get me wrong, this book is the real PZ Myers, and if you are a fan you won’t be surprised or disappointed. But, most importantly, if you are a regular reader of his blog, you will want to explore these essays because they are not his blog, they are his book.
I haven’t seen what the final product is going to look like, as I’ve only got a proof copy. But hopefully it will be a pretty little book that will make an excellent summer read when it comes out in August, and a totally appropriate stocking stuffer later on in the year!