The Happy Atheist

PZ Myers. Pantheon, $24 (208p) ISBN 978-0-307-37934-4

In this collection of punchy essays, Myers, an associate professor of biology at the University of Minnesota (he also happens to be the voice behind the popular blog Pharyngula), takes on what he deems the many contradictions and absurdities of religious thought. As Myers puts it, “religion is a parasite of the mind that makes people do stupid things and think stupid thoughts,” and it “breeds the most disgustingly vile haters in our country.” Written in an accessible, informal style, the author lashes out at the Catholic Church for its sexual-abuse scandals, at the faulty science employed by anti-abortion activists, and at proponents of intelligent design. Particularly scathing is his dismissal of Christianity as a fundamentally misogynist, patriarchal system, in which “women are treated as chattel to be abused and misused.” Myers is able to deftly present serious scientific and philosophical counterarguments to belief in God, but he also acknowledges the necessity of humor—of fighting fire with fire: after all, “religions sure do promote some goofy stuff.” Effectively kicking the legs out from beneath the wobbly logic that undergirds religious thought, he ultimately argues that “meaning is derived from the reality of what we see and feel, not from some convoluted vapor and self-serving puffery about the abstract concept of ‘God.’ ” Agent: Max Brockman, Brockman Inc. (Aug.)