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The New Atheism: Taking a Stand for Science and Reason

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ISBN-13: 978-1591027515
ISBN-10: 1591027519
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Editorial Reviews


"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 (1935 - 2014) was an adjunct professor of philosophy at the University of Colorado and emeritus professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Hawaii. He was the author of the New York Times bestseller God: The Failed Hypothesis, God and the Atom, God and the Folly of Faith, The Comprehensible Cosmos, and many other books.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 282 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books (September 22, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591027519
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591027515
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #117,166 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

199 of 214 people found the following review helpful By John W. Loftus VINE VOICE on 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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116 of 126 people found the following review helpful By cfeagans on 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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61 of 71 people found the following review helpful By Robert B. Zannelli on September 9, 2009
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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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33 of 37 people found the following review helpful By David Nichols on September 15, 2009
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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