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The New Atheism: Taking a Stand for Science and Reason [Kindle Edition]

Victor J. Stenger
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)

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Book Description

In recent years a number of bestselling books have forcefully argued that belief in God can no longer be defended on rational or empirical grounds, and that the scientific worldview has rendered obsolete the traditional beliefs held by Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. The authors of these books—Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and Victor J. Stenger—have come to be known as the "New Atheists." Predictably, their works have been controversial and attracted a good deal of critical reaction.
In this new book, Victor J. Stenger, whose God: The Failed Hypothesis was on the New York Times bestseller list in 2007, reviews and expands upon the principles of New Atheism and answers many of its critics. He demonstrates in detail that naturalism—the view that all of reality is reducible to matter and nothing else—is sufficient to explain everything we observe in the universe, from the most distant galaxies to the inner workings of the brain that result in the phenomenon of mind.
Stenger disputes the claim of many critics that the question of whether God exists is beyond the ken of science. On the contrary, he argues that absence of evidence for God is, indeed, evidence of absence when the evidence should be there and is not.
Turning from scientific to historical evidence, Stenger then points out the many examples of evil perpetrated in the name of religion. He also notes that the Bible, which is still taken to be divine revelation by millions, fails as a basis for morality and is unable to account for the problem of unnecessary suffering throughout the world.
Finally, he discusses the teachings of ancient nontheist sages such as Buddha, Lao Tzu, and Confucius, whose guidelines for coping with the problems of life and death did not depend upon a supernatural metaphysics. Stenger argues that this "way of nature" is far superior to the traditional supernatural monotheisms, which history shows can lead to a host of evils.
The New Atheism is a well-argued defense of the atheist position and a strong rebuttal of its critics.


Editorial Reviews

Review

"One of the most forlorn ways of defending religion is to misconstrue, distort, or ignore the best arguments put forward against it. Unfortunately, this spirit of obscurantism now animates even secular critics of the 'new atheism.' Victor Stenger dispels the resultant blizzard of lies and half-truths with great skill in this timely and accessible book. We are all in his debt." --Sam Harris is the author of the New York Times best sellers, The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation

"There is nothing new - and everything new - about the New Atheism. Victor Stenger (one of the New Atheists himself) eloquently reminds us that although the persuasive arguments against religious belief have existed for millennia, they are now strengthened and confirmed with the insights of modern physics and philosophy to such a degree that we are brought to a tipping point. We have surpassed the critical mass of evidence and reasoning where the time has come for atheists to step forward - and they are indeed stepping forward confidently - to occupy the intellectual and moral high ground that is their rightful place. What is truly 'new' about atheism is that the world, after too many centuries of giving religion a free rein, is now prepared to see and embrace the positive wisdom of doubt. A freethinker like Stenger is no longer perceived as the lone, angry 'village atheist' living on the desperate fringe of society. The religious right can no longer smear atheists as 'strident, angry, aggressive, and negative.' Victor Stenger, with his affirming, incisive and illuminating observations, shows us that there is truly grandeur in taking a stand ,for something precious: science and reason." --Dan Barker, author of Godless: How An Evangelical Preacher Became One of America's Leading Atheists. Co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation

"The new atheism is not just another dogmatic belief system to be accepted on faith, nor does it make people immoral and miserable. Stenger's thorough review should make both believers and atheists take seriously the harm religions can do." --Susan Blackmore, visiting Professor in Psychology at the University of Plymouth, and author of Ten Zen Questions; The Meme Machine; and Consciousness: An Introduction.

"Victor Stenger's combined expertise in physics and philosophy prove fatal to any pretense that theism is defensible or rational. The New Atheism: Taking a Stand for Science and Reason is a clear and potent explanation of why the old theism is no match for the new atheism." --Dr. Hector Avalos, author of The End of Biblical Studies (2007) and Professor of Religious Studies, Iowa State University

About the Author

Victor J. Stenger (Lafayette, CO) is adjunct professor of philosophy at the University of Colorado and emeritus professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Hawaii. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller God: The Failed Hypothesis, God and the Folly of Faith, and many other books.

Product Details

  • File Size: 2040 KB
  • Print Length: 282 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books (September 22, 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002MUC48W
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #304,123 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
193 of 208 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Book of the New Atheist Movement September 26, 2009
Format:Paperback
I consider this book by Victor Stenger to be the best book that summarizes and expands on the arguments of the New Atheists (NA's) between the years 2004-2009. There is no other book like it. Any serious attempt by future writers to summarize the movement and/or criticize it must deal with this one written by one of the NA's themselves.

If someone had been hiding in a cave during these years and knew nothing about the NA's this would be the only book needed to understand it. The NA's mainly critique religion from a scientific perspective since they think science has a great deal to say about it. And they don't give religion much respect since: "Faith is always foolish and leads to many of the evils of society" (p, 15). The NA's thinking is best depicted by Stenger's often repeated phrase, that "absence of evidence is evidence of absence when the evidence should be there and is not" (p. 58).

According to Stenger the NA's "preach a more militant, in-your-face kind of atheism that has not been seen before, except with the abrasive and unpopular Madalyn Murray O'Hair" (p. 25). Summing up the books written by Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, his own book, and Christopher Hitchens he concludes: "The atheist argues that empirical science and reason are the most reliable tools we have to determine truths about the world. The reason we trust reason and science, and have no trust whatsoever in religious arguments, is that science and reason work in understanding the world and making it a better place for humanity while religious argument leads universally to dismal failure and untold suffering" (p. 41).

In my opinion this book is even better that his previous one, "God: The Failed Hypothesis.
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114 of 123 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Rational Response to Irrational Criticism September 3, 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Stenger successfully provides a rational response to the irrational critiques of the so-called "new atheists," highlighting the more prominent of these atheists (Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, Chris Hitchens, and himself) and their positions then reviewing some of the more prominent critics ranging from Alister and Janna Collicut McGrath to Leon Wieseltier, writer for The New Republic and The New York Times.

Stenger's counter-criticisms include pointing out that the critics of new atheists aren't actually addressing the points and assertions of atheists but, rather, obfuscating the issues at hand and misrepresenting them in order to reshape the atheist arguments into those which are more manageable and easier to discount or disregard.

But Stenger's book is much more than a counter-critique. Prior to reading it, I was a bit put off by the "new atheist" term and still have my reservations about the moniker. But I now see the New Atheist movement as precisely that: a movement of consciousness-raising; a social mechanism that is truly needed in the face of modern neo-conservative and "theo-conservative" efforts which are anti-science and anti-intellectual in the United States. The New Atheist movement is an enlightenment for the modern age which brings into question the validity and legitimacy of the positions of the religious right and those that would impose their religious views on a secular society.

Atheist readers will gain insights into the thoughts of their peers; the agnostic and the moderate/liberal religious adherents will potentially have the opportunity to understand why the new atheists are so concerned; and the fundamentalist/conservative adherent will have an opportunity to reflect on their arguments and perhaps formulate better ones.
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60 of 70 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Totally Fascinationg Book September 9, 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
DR Vic Stenger, adjunct professor of philosophy at the University of Colorado and emeritus professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Hawaii , has given us the best yet of that collection of books under the genre of New Atheism. DR Stenger rejects the often asserted pronouncement that Science can say nothing about the assertions of religion. In this book the claims of religion are analyzed using the best Science available The Reader is also provided a look at the effects of belief using several case studies. While DR Stenger scrupulously avoids generalizing these case studies to all believers, it is clear from his examples the danger that irrational and delusional thinking posses in society. It is especially dangerous and destructive when this irrational and delusional thinking forms the bases for domestic and foreign policy in Nation States. DR Stenger also takes on intelligent design as well as the idea of mind body dualism. In addition, the various religious views on suffering are used to contrast religious and secular based morality. This is a well written and totally fascinating book.
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32 of 36 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Many critics of Victor Stenger's writing have accused him of taking one basic set of arguments and writing a dozen different books using them. While there is undoubtedly some overlap between his books (and some with more commonalities than others), I can understand where this critique comes from. I felt that way, somewhat, after reading Quantum Gods after having read God: The Failed Hypothesis. This book, just released this month, falls somewhere in between those two in my view. Not as good as Failed Hypothesis, not as mediocre as Quantum Gods.

Stenger kicks off this book with a look a the current state of New Atheism, and specifically, he discusses the recent success of New Atheist books by Harris, Dawkins and others. He reviews a few points, counterpoints, and rebuttals to some of these arguments, leaving this first section as a nice overview of the state of popular bibliographic atheist/theist discourse.

The middle parts of the book are more a scattershot look at some of the key arguments made by New Atheists, with chapters on evolution, suffering, and evil. Many of these arguments have been made countless times elsewhere, and while I've personally read better treatments, Stenger brings a reasonable summation of his views and those of others, such as Bart Ehrman.

The rest of the book falls off track for me. Stenger launches into a large section which loses the narrative of the earlier chapters. While I love science and religion being brought together, Stenger seems to drift off to one of his lectures and forgets to keep the reader engaged.

From there, the shift into a study of Eastern philosophy (as suggested in Sam Harris's book The End of Faith) drags the book into territory best left out.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great
My favorite thing about good atheism books is that they show you how atheism makes sense by making sense of the world around us. Read more
Published 16 days ago by Timothy Clancy
5.0 out of 5 stars Great stand for a New way of thinking
From the age of ten I knew I didn’t like religion and I knew there had to be something wrong with the rest of the world and not me for believing in this invisible man. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Neil The Unreel
5.0 out of 5 stars A rallying call for those frustrated by voices who dash science and...
Having read this book I describe myself as 'a new atheist' who regards religion as anything but benign. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Nicholas J. Lansley
5.0 out of 5 stars Purchased for Grandson
He was very pleased with contents of book and enjoyed reading it. Purchased it for him while he was in basic training and going through a period of his real religion.
Published 4 months ago by Patti Henson
5.0 out of 5 stars Loose ends tied up by Stenger; New Atheism defined.
This book by Stenger supplements his others but more importantly it ties up many loose ends created by apologists very nicely. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Philip M. Tierno Jr
4.0 out of 5 stars The New Atheism
In the book "The New Atheism", by Victor J. Stenger, the challenges laid out against religion in general, and Christianity specifically, are essentially a source of invigorating... Read more
Published 7 months ago by a
5.0 out of 5 stars The New Atheism
Victor Stenger is among the best voices for reason and rationality in our modern times. I particularly like that he can defend and explain science against the unfounded and... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Quahog
2.0 out of 5 stars Atheism proves Theism
The New Atheism: Taking a Stand for Science and Reason is a clear and potent explanation of why the old theism is no match for the new atheism. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Etienne
2.0 out of 5 stars A diatribe against critics of the new atheism
I loved "The End of Faith" by Sam Harris and thought that Stenger's previous book "God: The Failed Hypothesis" was quite good but this book does not live up to these or some of the... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Joe Jordan
3.0 out of 5 stars The Least Valuable Book on This Topic
"The New Atheism" is an annotated summary of the key ideas, arguments and counter arguments within the New Atheist movement. Read more
Published 19 months ago by Michael Minroad
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More About the Author

Victor J. Stenger grew up in a Catholic working-class neighborhood in Bayonne, New Jersey. His father was a Lithuanian immigrant, his mother the daughter of Hungarian immigrants. He attended public schools and received a bachelor's of science degree in electrical engineering from Newark College of Engineering (now New Jersey Institute of Technology) in 1956. While at NCE, he was editor of the student newspaper and received several journalism awards.

Moving to Los Angeles on a Hughes Aircraft Company fellowship, Dr. Stenger received a master's of science degree in physics from UCLA in 1959 and a PhD in physics in 1963. He then took a position on the faculty of the University of Hawaii, retiring to Colorado in 2000. He currently is emeritus professor of physics at the University of Hawaii and adjunct professor of philosophy at the University of Colorado. Dr. Stenger is a fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and a research fellow of the Center for Inquiry. Dr. Stenger has also held visiting positions on the faculties of the University of Heidelberg in Germany, Oxford in England (twice), and has been a visiting researcher at Rutherford Laboratory in England, the National Nuclear Physics Laboratory in Frascati, Italy, and the University of Florence in Italy.

His research career spanned the period of great progress in elementary particle physics that ultimately led to the current standard model. He participated in experiments that helped establish the properties of strange particles, quarks, gluons, and neutrinos. He also helped pioneer the emerging fields of very high-energy gamma-ray and neutrino astronomy. In his last project before retiring, Dr. Stenger collaborated on the underground experiment in Japan that in 1998 showed for the first time that the neutrino has mass. The Japanese leader of this experiment shared the 2002 Nobel Prize for this work.

Victor Stenger has had a parallel career as an author of critically well-received popular-level books that interface between physics and cosmology and philosophy, religion, and pseudoscience. These include: Not by Design: The Origin of the Universe (1988); Physics and Psychics: The Search for a World beyond the Senses (1990); The Unconscious Quantum: Metaphysics in Modern Physics and Cosmology (1995); Timeless Reality: Symmetry, Simplicity, and Multiple Universes (2000); Has Science Found God? The Latest Results in the Search for Purpose in the Universe (2003); The Comprehensible Cosmos: Where Do the Laws of Physics Come From? (2006); God: The Failed Hypothesis--How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist (2007); Quantum Gods: Creation, Chaos, and the Search for Cosmic Consciousness (2009); The New Atheism: Taking a Stand for Science and Reason (2009); The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning: Why the Universe is Not Designed for Us (2011); God and the Folly of Faith: The Incompatibility of Science and Religion (2012). God: The Failed Hypothesis made the New York Times Best Seller List in March 2007.

Vic and his wife, Phylliss, have been happily married since 1962 and have two children and four grandchildren. They now live in Lafayette, Colorado. They travel the world as often as they can.

Dr. Stenger maintains a website where much of his writing can be found, at http://www.colorado.edu/philosophy/vstenger.

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Victor Stenger's use (misuse) of evidence
David,

Victor Stenger brings points which have proven difficult even for theologians to discuss, such as the problem of evil. He also goes to answer some of the catchphrases that Christian use to explain why there must be a God and debunks them.

A lot of these are theological arguments have... Read more
Nov 20, 2009 by Marcos |  See all 32 posts
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