Monday, August 26, 2013

The Happy Atheist by PZ Myers

The Happy Atheist, PZ Myers.  New York: Knoph Doubleday Publishing Group, 2013.
e-book, 167 pps.

The book is called The Happy Atheist but I keep wanting to turn it into "The Happiest Atheist" instead.  Go figure.

This is a picture of a cartoon-ized fish with a background suggestive of sand and sky.  The fish bears three stubby legs complete with the suggestion of shoes-- something that is not present in the original plate.  The fish was a derivative work based on a singular plate hanging on someone's Maine kitchen wall.  The original artist is unknown to me.  This picture actually resembles the original very very little.  The background was legally included in my legal copy of PaintShop Pro 10.

The Happy Atheist was published in e-book format on August 13, 2013-- just several days after the PZ Myers / Michael Shermer fiasco which erupted over at P.Z. Myers' blog Pharyngula-- a slim volume chock full of atheist goodness.  For posterity's sake, the post in which PZ brings to light accusations of sexual assault/rape/misconduct by several women currently exists at: : at least until a take-down notice is activated.  [Mirrors of the post and comments probably already have been made all over the Interwebz].  This bombshell has all the appearance of an ensuing court battle between the two of them.  Some guy has organized a raise finances for Michael Shermer's legal services campaign.  PZ reportedly has employed the assistance of blogger Popehat in procuring his own legal representation.

PZ Myers is no stranger to controversy.  I do remember with clarity the university student who carried his Jeebus cracker back to his church pew instead of ingesting it and the outrage that caused.  P.Z. was along for the ride.  And so was I...

 This is a picture of the white paw with orange kitty stripes at the "ankle" of the late great Twinkle reaching for what appears
to resemble a white unmarked Jeebus Cracker which has been laid to rest on one of my black pocketbooks.  Twinkle is dead but he was mine and I was his for way too short a kitty life.  The props in the picture are things that I own legally.  The picture frame came from my legally owned copy of PaintShop Pro 10.  The fonts were also included legally in said legal copy.  Fuck off copyright terrorists and information monopolizers.

"The Great Desecration" is humorously recounted beginning on page 20.  I stand by my original opinion.  The student did not steal the Jeebus cracker.  Once the priest or lay clergy handed the thing to him, the student was perfectly free to do with it as he wanted to.  I've yet to see a church setting where the mouths of parishioners are checked to ensure that vigorous swallowing of the Greatest Offering on Earth has occurred.  But yes, I digress.

One of the things that I like about the stuff I've read that PZ has written is his willingness to take on the issues of the day as related to religion-- all religion-- in his blog and in The Happy Atheist.  The chapter titles are darling and curious.  The writing is pithy and delicious.  I appreciate expertly applied snark.  After all, why should the fundamentalists have all of the fun?  Here is one such gem lifted from page 125:
     Perhaps the cruelest aspect of conservative 
     religions is their insistence that all people 
     must follow one straight and narrow path...
     By fostering fear of deviation, they impose 
     endless misery on so many people.  It's the 
     Chinese foot-binding of the human mind.
And another from page 126:
      I'd like to see the hippies win.  Peace and freedom, man...
     Besides, it makes the fundies and Republicans freak out.

One of the things that all of us ought to keep in our brains, readily accessible when we need any such reminder, is that it is not only the Republicans and the fundies "freaking out" these days.  Over on Twitter, the Unite the Blue crowd have regular twitniptions along with everyone else over well, pretty much everything everywhere.  PZ does well to mention that some folks in the less literal religions also have some batshit ideologies.  The line is crossed whenever anyone anywhere begins to loudly proclaim that there is only one way to view things, think about things, experience things.  Suddenly, a bunch of religious folks has become mystical and magical.  Because it is not enough to believe that some deity or deities somewhere dictated stuff to human beings to write down a long time ago.  The mystics among us demonstrate our willingness to do whatever we have to in order to make old time religion appetizing to the masses.  We've become evangelical in our delusions that said deity or deities communicate with us directly as if we were all secretaries waiting for the latest and greatest jibberish to arrive over the live wire.   

The ugliness of religious belief occurs when people decide that religion, religious traditions, and religious mysticism ought to dictate political policy.  To state, "This is what I believe and I believe it regardless of the scientific canon, dammit" is quite different from the twisting of science to fit a religious mold.  PZ covers the dilemma that some folks feel regarding the science / religion split in a chapter titled "Science is What We do to Keep from Lying to Ourselves."  I am free to believe whatever I want to.  If I want to believe that there is a tree spirit residing in the crab apple tree, I'm free to do so.  Involving others in my belief system and then lobbying so that my idea about a tree spirit out back is included in science textbooks to be taught in public schools is a bit over the top.  [N.B.: By the way, the Lemon Test is what is currently supposed to guide public school education policies, not decision-making strictly on the basis of what belief systems the majority of public students in public schools-- or their families-- hold.  This is part of why home-schooling is a viable choice for some percentage of families.].   We have a past president who supposedly ordered an invasion based on a sincerely held belief in end time theology and biblical prophecy.  We have a current president who attends church services on Sundays and spits out the most errant nonsense concerning his belief that we all ought to bend over and take willingly up the ass what the N.S.A. is doing to us and in our name because privacy is the direct opposite of security.  

Reality and truth are objective, not subjective.  Science serves to reign in the worse of the cray which is sleeping beneath our feet.  Calling on the Invisible Pink Unicorn, bless her holy hooves, to save us when we are required as adults to save ourselves from our own stupidity is bad form.  Yet, religion comforts many people who are not looking to some hereafter in order to escape current adult responsibilities.  At one time, it comforted me to some degree.  Visualizing "eternity" or "nothingness" or "ceasing to exist in any form" is mind-blowing.  My knowledge that it is almost certain that I will never be re-united with Twinkle across some fabled rainbow bridge forces me to appreciate the happy memories that I do have of him rather than look to the relief of my grief in some fictional future after I also expire.  Most of us are free to hold contradictory opinions about nonsense.  As long as we also take on the mantle of our adult responsibilities instead of holding out for hand-outs, we are probably satisfactory human beings.  Yet, ancient tribal identity required a certain amount of imperialism.  Our brains are not entirely modernized.  It is indeed our brains that inform us that the fables we grew up with are superior to those of our neighbors across the ocean, desert, or mountain range.  The shrill screaming that "My god or gods is or are better than your god or gods" is the stuff that has to stop if we are to survive well on Space-ball Earth.  There is no mothership waiting to blast us away to a new home once we nuke this one.  If only the whole lot of us can advance enough to learn how to stop endeavoring to kill each other off.

sapphoq reviews saysI like P.Z. Myers and I don't give a damn about the controversy regarding his latest remarks concerning what women have alleged regarding Michael Shermer.  Actually, I support PZ's exposure of what women have alleged, even if I fear that the involvement of the legal system will make things end rather badly.  Fact:  Reporting a rape, sexual assault, or other to the authorities does not always result in justice or even in relief for the victims.  Been there.  Done that.  Got the t-shirt. 
We have all become too nice in the arena of civil discourse.  We are hawks at war but chickens in public.  Disagreement is now a sign of trolling.  Trolls are bad, m'kay.  And of course we ought to be willing to hand over our wallet info to any jackass interwebz service that comes along.  And these new atheists are big meanie poo-poo heads.  Sigh.
     The Happy Atheist is a pretty good collection of PZ Myers' writing that is representative of his clear-headed thinking about stuff.  The only criticism I have is that it is individuals on all sides [not just the Republicans] who are guilty when it comes to politicking for inane bullshit.  So yeah, get hold of the book and read it.  Yeah, and read it before writing your "reviews" on the book sites offering the startling revelation that PZ is going to your version of Hel along with the rest of the heathens in your glorious hereafter.  As always, the salt pits are most dangerous to those that show a predilection toward a type of high blood pressure that is sensitive to salt.


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