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“Not for all tastes”

Uh-oh, another review of The Happy Atheist, this time from Booklist.

Myers’ exploration of his atheism is brilliantly designed and executed to entertain and enlighten, but also to be shocking; for some, it will surely be hurtful. He uses words almost as weapons, calling religion “a kind of parasite of the mind,” calling God “a lazy invisible man in the sky.” But he’s not just doing this to be insulting; Myers has a plan. He wants us to be appalled, to be angered—to be so steamed that we’re compelled to try to refute his arguments, which are, it must be said, usually cogent and well presented. (Heaven, he says, no matter which way you look at it, would strip us of our humanity.) Readers of the author’s popular blog Pharyngula, from which many of this book’s chapters are drawn, know him to be outspoken and a bit on the antagonistic side, but even they might be surprised at the linguistic and thematic extremes he goes to here. This is a very entertaining and thought-provoking book, but it’s definitely not for all tastes.

What do you mean, “not for all tastes”? Does that imply I’m not going to get the seal of approval from Oprah and Chopra? I was writing for everyone! There go the sales, plummetting into the dumpster.

Comments

  1. says

    Note: “hurtful”. I’d like to make Dembski and Ham cry. Not that I expect they will, or that they’ll even read the thing.

  2. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Yes, I’m sure it’s “extreme”. But the bible isn’t, claims of eternal damnation aren’t. No, it’s PZ who’s “extreme.”

    Oh my goodness—NOT for all tastes? How . .how. . inappropriate.

    Hurtful, indeed. Is there any other sphere of public discourse where we characterize people being told “what you believe is nonsense and worse it’s destructive” as “hurtful?” Where we assume grown adults turn into simpering infants (and much to be pitied and comforted) when confronted with “you’re wrong and badly wrong?”

  3. silomowbray, sans frottage pour la douche says

    Allow me to refer to the Grand Tome of Communications & Marketing to settle this matter.

    (flip flip flip)

    Let’s see here….ah!

    Not for all tastes could also be written with less inveigling and obfuscation as Not for those unwilling to scrutinize their religious fee-fees. Hunh. Never would have guessed it.

  4. enukt says

    “not for all tastes” . . . I hope I get the chance to use that in a conversation today.

    PZ, is the ebook version only available via Amazon, or are there other options (Kobo?!)?

  5. kevinalexander says

    You’re not! going to be on Oprah?!?
    I would have subscribed to cable just to see that.

  6. silomowbray, sans frottage pour la douche says

    Josh @ 5

    Hurtful, indeed. Is there any other sphere of public discourse where we characterize people being told “what you believe is nonsense and worse it’s destructive” as “hurtful?” Where we assume grown adults turn into simpering infants (and much to be pitied and comforted) when confronted with “you’re wrong and badly wrong?”

    Does it have anything to do with having enormous institutions backing their beliefs? The RCC has done a bang-up job of solemnizing (and therefore deriving acceptance for) their beliefs, for example. So telling a Roman Catholic that their beliefs are ridiculous might be viewed by the general public as more hurtful or offensive than if you told the same to a Wiccan. Just thinking out loud.

  7. Goodbye Enemy Janine says

    The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers remains the only book that I know of in the Oprah Book Club that I have read. And that was years before there was that book club. Despite that, it still remains one of my all time favorite novels.

  8. davidrichardson says

    Oh, *please* get on to Oprah. I can’t wait to see you bouncing about on her sofa. Surely she’d make your book one of her books of the month.

  9. silomowbray, sans frottage pour la douche says

    While I would pay some decent coin to see PZ on Oprah, I don’t think he could ever surpass Tom Cruise’s freakout when he was on the show.

  10. Dauphni says

    Becca Stareyes @14:

    I don’t think I’ve read a book that was for all tastes.

    I don’t know, plenty of cookbooks have got the sweet, the sour, the salty and the bitter covered. Sometimes they’re even all in the same dish…

  11. ChasCPeterson says

    He uses words almost as weapons

    Indeed; as it is written updated: The pen keyboard is ^almost^ mightier than the sword Predator-drone.

    cookbooks have got the sweet, the sour, the salty and the bitter covered

    don’t forget umami!

  12. Sastra says

    Okay, I’m trying to think of a book on religion which could be said to be “for all tastes.” Heck, I might as well widen the pool of potentials and come up with a book on any subject whatsoever which is clearly “for all tastes.”

    That’s just not going to work. The whole point of classifying something as a ‘taste’ in the first place is to signify that there’s not going to be a consensus … and it’s not important that there should be. So the faint air of implied disapproval is actually a sort of endorsement. If PZ Myers offends you, then well … that’s just a matter of taste.

    Rather than morality. So it’s a step up.

    Josh #5 wrote:

    Is there any other sphere of public discourse where we characterize people being told “what you believe is nonsense and worse it’s destructive” as “hurtful?” Where we assume grown adults turn into simpering infants (and much to be pitied and comforted) when confronted with “you’re wrong and badly wrong?”

    Yes: the paranormal. Also, alternative medicine.

    In fact from what I can tell this rule that we assume the other side needs gentle forbearance includes anything which ‘skeptics’ routinely go after, whether it involves the supernatural or not. If the other person feels their belief is not just a conclusion, but a deeply personal ‘taste’ which really matters because it expresses who they are — then watch out. The most we’re allowed is to ‘agree to disagree.’

    As Daniel Dennett put it in his forward to Nicholas Humphrey’s Leaps of Faith:

    Our culture, Humphrey says, has played a remarkable confidence trick on us: “This is to persuade people there is a deep connection between believing in the possibility of psychic forces and being a gracious, honest, upright, trustworthy member of society.” We skeptics sometimes need to apologize for our mean-spirited skepticism! It is not polite to expose the gullibility of decent, intelligent, well-meaning folks, spiritual folks, who have savored the depth of meaning to be found in these experiences.

    Also consider Wendy Kaminer’s insight:

    I can’t stress strongly enough how much this reliance on personal testimony and this mandate that we take personal testimony at face value contributes to the irrationalism that abounds today. It comes right out of popular therapies, and popular therapies took it straight from the religious tradition of testifying and the conflation of feelings about god’s immanence with facts about his existence

    When atheists wonder why ‘it’s okay to make fun of belief in the Loch Ness monster, alien abductions, and fairies but it’s NOT okay to make fun of belief in God’ I wonder what they mean. We must travel in different circles. Apparently they have not met up with people who pride themselves on believing in the Loch Ness monster, alien abductions, and/or fairies. They find such criticism hurtful. Very, very hurtful.

    Once someone sticks a conclusion into the Identity Smorgasbord then the polite, sensitive, and even reasonable thing to do is back off respectfully. They’re invoking the privileges of Faith and blithely taking it for granted — or indignantly demanding — that they be immune from “you’re wrong and badly wrong.”.

  13. Randomfactor says

    Can hardly wait for the Amazon reviews to start coming in. “This is the best book on atheism ever to be written by a poopyhead.”

  14. says

    I have to admit though, the implication that it’s all a trick to force you to logically defend your beliefs sounds like a sly compliment to me. I mean they just about admit that one cannot win such an argument because religious beliefs will never stand up to science…

  15. truthspeaker says

    calling God “a lazy invisible man in the sky.”

    What is “shocking”, “hurtful”, or “insulting” about that?

  16. timanthony says

    Conclusion: So if you would like to know whether the book suits your tastes, buy it and read it, and be kind enough to let us know if it didn’t, could you, please?

    Trying to imagine a lot of religious types buying this book, reading it, then throwing it down in anger and proclaiming, “WELL! That book is certainly not to MY tastes!”

    I think it was a pretty good review, just a little very timid. Maybe the reviewer’s mom is a fire-breathing preacher who reads Guns & Ammo?

  17. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Excellent, Sastra. That’s just right. On reflection I would have said religion/DeeplyHeldBeliefs/Spirituality, etc.

  18. mikeyb says

    The success of the book will depend on how many fleas it attracts with titles like “the unhappy atheist,” or “the angry snide obnoxious atheist,” etc.

  19. Darka says

    it’s rather amusing to see the emperor’s courtiers complaining that someone is being “mean” when all that is being done is telling the truth. Poor folks at Booklist, how dare anyone want people to think for themselves and question the nonsense they’ve been taught! How dare someone treat adults like adults!

  20. mikeyb says

    I would also be interested in finding out what Massimo Pigliucci thinks about the philosophical acumen of the writing. That will tell if it is worth reading. Just kidding.

  21. erik333 says

    @3 Lords Burgos

    I’m unconvinced you can be witty without being potentially offensive to someone, somewhere.

  22. saysomething says

    Whelp, that does it. I was planning to eventually, but I just did it: I pre-ordered the book. Can’t wait until August!

    “But… but… he might hurt some feeeeeelings!”

    Whiners.

  23. says

    Is there any other sphere of public discourse where we characterize people being told “what you believe is nonsense and worse it’s destructive” as “hurtful?” Where we assume grown adults turn into simpering infants (and much to be pitied and comforted) when confronted with “you’re wrong and badly wrong?”

    To me, this is a fascinating question. My first instinct was to think that belief in god is different culturally because of its depth of feeling and strong association with moral “character”. But is that really much different than political beliefs?

    Maybe the real difference is that belief in god is actually much more like a belief in Santa Claus than political beliefs, which are generally arrived at more intellectually (or at least later in a person’s development). Maybe belief in god is intrinsically an *infantilizing* belief.

    What’s avoided when atheists try to discuss the issue in a non-”mean” way? It’s not the “wrong”, the “badly wrong” or even the “destructive”. It’s the “ignorant”, “childish” and “gullible”.

  24. says

    What’s avoided when atheists try to discuss the issue in a non-”mean” way? It’s not the “wrong”, the “badly wrong” or even the “destructive”. It’s the “ignorant”, “childish” and “gullible”.

    Broadly speaking, I think you may have a point. I can’t say if it’s applicable to PZ’s book, however, since I haven’t read it yet.

  25. Lofty says

    This will be an easy book to dismiss for those who don’t read it.
    For Ye shall Judge it by The Cover.

  26. stevem says

    “Not for all tastes” is just the “polite” way of saying, “Only for ONE taste. (those atheists who can’t taste anything)” And no matter how “ignorant” (we think) theists are, is there really ANY chance of a Theist seeing a book titled, “The Happy Atheist” buying it and being surprised that the author writes that theists are deluding themselves with a well-worn fantasy?

    Does this review say anything other than, “This atheist doesn’t like God; BEWARE (he says naughty things about the ‘father of us all’)”?

  27. AussieMike says

    but even they might be surprised at the linguistic and thematic extremes he goes to here

    Oh I fucking doubt it!

  28. Charlie Foxtrot says

    All right! All right! I’ll buy the damn thing…sheeesh!

    mutter…good thing I’ve a birthday coming up..mutter…

  29. says

    So much criticism. People, I’m not really unhappy with the review…and when I do get bad reviews, I’m not going to be one of those authors that argues back.

  30. Azuma Hazuki says

    These days, a lot of people seem to think there is a right not to be offended, and they cry bloody murder when someone does. And no group is worse about this than Christians (in the US; Muslims fill the same evil-logical niche elsewhere).

    What scares me (and, yes, offends me) is the combination of constitutional and legal illiteracy and complete lack of mental backbone displayed by most Americans. “I’m offended!” is to the inner world what “ZOMG Terr’ists!” is to the outer, and policy is being made around it.

    People reviewing this negatively, for any reason other than legitimate gripes with the scholarship or philosophy inside, aren’t going to be looking at it objectively; they will be “offended” and say as much in a number of different ways. Well, being “offended” was what got me on the long, frightening road out of theism. I hope their offense makes them think, even as I know it won’t for the vast majority of them :(

  31. David Marjanović says

    To me, this is a fascinating question. My first instinct was to think that belief in god is different culturally because of its depth of feeling and strong association with moral “character”. But is that really much different than political beliefs?

    No. Political beliefs are very, very commonly treated as inherently untestable and matters of taste & faith & personal identity.

    These days, a lot of people seem to think there is a right not to be offended, and they cry bloody murder when someone does.

    Exactly.

  32. DLC says

    I’d like to make Ken Ham have a breakdown, myself. Except I know he’s such a cement-head that it would take the mental equivalent of a 2kg shaped charge of C-4 to open his mind.

  33. Thumper; Atheist mate says

    Dammit PZ, you uppity, strident douche! Can’t you see you’re making all Atheists look bad!?

    [Obligatory snark tag]

  34. Thumper; Atheist mate says

    @Sastra #17

    When atheists wonder why ‘it’s okay to make fun of belief in the Loch Ness monster, alien abductions, and fairies but it’s NOT okay to make fun of belief in God’ I wonder what they mean. We must travel in different circles. Apparently they have not met up with people who pride themselves on believing in the Loch Ness monster, alien abductions, and/or fairies. They find such criticism hurtful. Very, very hurtful.

    The difference is that while believers in those theories may be hurt by criticism of those theories, such criticism is not roundly condemned by those who do not believe in those theories. Criticism of religion is condemned by members of other religions and even by some Atheists.