I can honestly say that this is the best book of New Atheist arguments that I have read. It is clear, well argued and flows really well. I highly recommend it to anyone wanting to learn the New Atheist arguments without the angry polemical air that some of the other authors seem to radiate (although I would recommend that people read a wide variety of authors including the big names- of which Hitchens is my favourite- too!).
Stenger's approach is systematic and much stronger in the areas of physics and philosophy that many of his contemporaries. Inevitably some of the arguments will be familiar in this book but there is a lot of new material too!!
All I can say is- BUY IT, you won't be disappointed!!
In this calmly reasoned and important book, Victor J. Stenger explains perfectly the difference between the old and the new atheism, the dangers of faith, the evils of religion and its exploitation by those in power, as well as the minimum requirements to curb its funest influence on our society.
The New Atheism For the faithful, the god they worship purportedly plays an active role in the cosmos and in their lives. This activity should result in observable physical phenomena in space and time, which form the very basis of scientific investigation: the creation of the world, the design of life, the effect of praying, the revelation of universal truths, the existence of the mind. In other words, the god of the faithful is a scientific hypothesis which can, like all scientific evidence, be tested by standard methods of science. This god hypothesis has failed miserably all scientific tests. The existence of an omnipotent and benevolent god is contradicted by all the suffering in the world. Prayers don't work. The world, as well as life, doesn't need a god to be created. Mind ('the soul') is a matter of matter.
Faith Belief in the absence of supportive evidence is foolish, absurd, irrational and immoral. It is nearly always instilled by indoctrination during childhood (R. Dawkins) and leads to many evils. It plays a significant role in the violent conflicts in the world and is dangerous for the future of mankind.
Religion and its exploitation by those in power Religion has no morality. It has (and continue to have) a shameful history of the most horrible evils. It supported slavery, the oppression of women, ethnic cleansing, serfdom, the divine right of kings, extraction of testimony by torture. The roots of religious terrorism can be found in the Holy Scriptures. Those in power (governments) have used religion to help them maintain their power base and keep people in line. They fight tooth and nail all theories, like Darwinism, which attack this power base. (In the US, their blatant hypocrisy was mercilessly exposed by Thomas Frank in `What's the matter with Kansas?')
Minimum requirements Church and State should be separate. All governmental decisions should be based on reason, not revelation. The only road to human survival is secularism. But, its future depends on education and a better life (economics) for every human being in the world.
This book, written by a superb free mind, is a must read for all those who want to understand the world we live in.
This is a top class book on sceptical thinking. Victor Stenger writes in a very polite, gentle, calm, mature, caring yet powerful way. You will see the trained scientific mind at work. In this book Victor Stenger presents an impressive argument concluding that there is no reason to worry about an unseen supernatural realm. Science has searched for evidence of the supernatural and so far it has found none. Stenger is very clear and easy to read. He includes a review of the other recent super books on atheism by Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Daniel C. Dennett, Christopher Hitchens, Dan Barker, George H. Smith If you are just starting to investigate atheism and sceptical thinking then this could be the best book to buy. Victor Stenger speaks the still, small voice of reason which has been present down the ages. There is no reason to think that the Bible was inspired by a god. It has a wholly human mindset. This case has been made by Joseph Wheless in 1925 in his book,' Is it God's Word'. Even at the time of the early church there were sceptical thinkers who pointed out that Christianity had many similarities to the other pagan religons.
This is what Robert G. Ingersoll experienced when he became convinced that the universe was natural, that there were no gods and "no prohibited places in all the realms of thought". It is a wonderful way for Victor Stenger to open his latest book, because it captures what many of us feel having made the positive step from either belief or vague agnosticism into the clear air of atheism. It is also extremely vexing to believers. The "old-school atheists" like Nietzsche, Camus and Sartre at least had the decency to wander in the "disorienting wilderness of nihilism" and to indulge in "angst-ridden anxiety and serious soul-searching". Miserable atheists, like the poor, are there to be pitied and then forgotten. The smiling confidence - sorry, "arrogance" - of atheists like Richard Dawkins and Ariane Sherine seems to threaten those who mistake the quicksand of faith for solid ground.
In a world in which we already have denominational overload, where you can be a theist, deist, Buddhist, spiritualist, agnostic, and (so long as you're not running for public office in America) atheist, why on earth introduce another category of "new atheist" to confuse the punter? "Perhaps the most unique position of New Atheism is that faith, which is belief without supportive evidence, should not be given the respect, even deference, it obtains in modern society. Faith is always foolish and leads to many of the evils of society." Stenger identifies an important principle - don't respect the unjustified beliefs of others - that is unproblematic in most areas of life, except where religion is concerned. While religious folk fondly imagine they're dealing with the "big questions", they can't even handle the smaller ones to do with, for example, the historicity of Jesus. (See how they respond to Bill Maher in the excellent Religulous [DVD] .)
In one sense, I like the term New Atheist, even the Victorian indulgence in capitals. Stenger is clear as to what the real differences between nonbelievers and believers are. Is nature all there is or is there a supernatural dimension? Do theists have a "superior channel to reality, provided by God's revelations"? One man who "claimed the authority of divine revelation" was Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon Church. He "had a taste for women, and one of his most important revelations was that God wanted men to have multiple wives." How convenient. But is it any less strange to believe in a walking corpse? At least we know Smith existed.
In another more important sense, however, the term "new atheism" is inaccurate because it occludes historical figures, such as that great champion of free thought W. K. Clifford, who declared over a hundred years ago that "it is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence". This is, if anything, even stronger than Stenger's denunciation of faith as "belief in the absence of supportive evidence and even in light of contrary evidence". Faith communities often bang on about their traditions, even if they've involved "slavery, the oppression of women, ethnic cleansing, serfdom, the divine right of kings, and extraction of testimony by torture". The long and honourable and often courageous opposition to faith should also be recognized and celebrated and used in the war against unreason.
The religious like to talk about the spiritual world (for the existence of which they can provide no evidence) but they also "make claims about the real world" including, for example, how prayer heals. Since "science and reason can be applied to anything and everything that involves some sort of observation" these claims "are thereby open to scientific testing." It cannot be repeated too many times that, just as for so-called paranormal events, there has never been any satisfactory scientific confirmation of these claims. Stenger disagrees "with the National Academy of Sciences... that science has nothing to say about God or the supernatural. The gods most people worship purportedly play an active role in the universe and in human lives. This activity should result in observable phenomena, and it is observable phenomena that form the very basis of scientific investigation." Less surprising than the Academy's blind spot is the "ignorance of science that is pervasive among theists and theologians" who "try to argue that science operates on faith". Stenger spells it out in terms simple enough for a theologian to understand. "Faith is belief in the absence of evidence. Science is belief in the presence of evidence."
Ah, but absence of evidence does not mean evidence of absence! Actually, sometimes it does. Why isn't there "a single piece of independent historical evidence for the existence of Jesus or the veracity of the events described in the New Testament"? Another huge God-shaped hole is the lack of evidence to support the efficacy of prayer. Together with the straightforward "logical deduction that an omniscient, omnibenevolent, and omnipotent God does not exist given the gratuitous suffering in the world" Stenger concludes "beyond a reasonable doubt that the God worshipped by Jews, Christians, and Muslims does not exist." (See also his excellent God, the Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist for a fuller treatment.)
So, all those still proselytizing the world over for religion are wasting their time. Why should the rest of us care, if we're lucky enough to live in a secular society? Because not everyone in the world is free from the malign influence of religion and a good humanist value is to reduce suffering where possible. Because nonbelievers are seen as less than human by some believers, and history tells us the fate of some groups so regarded. And because time and again "believers ignore the evidence and make up facts to suit their own prejudices. That's the way faith operates and that's why it should be challenged."
Another excellent and entertaining work on the absurd nature of religious thought. The market is now a large one (no bad thing) but I would put this on the same level as The God Delusion. Every school library should buy it.
One of the delights of this well written book is that it captures, in no uncertain terms, the moral high ground for atheism as it evidences beyond all reasonable doubt that atheism is a much more reliable gateway to morality than any kind of religion. Whereas sincere religionists feel unable to throw out obvious falsities based on myth and legend for fear of destroying their religion, atheists are always able to aim for the highest moral life style without fear that any priestly figure or holy book will compromise their commitment to absolute morality by the imposition of taboos that run contrary to truth. This is such a happy book, full of joy and positivity and totally free from the doom, gloom and threats one often finds at the heart of a great deal of religious belief. This book deserves five stars in every possible way, not least because it's such a thoroughly enjoyable and inspiring read.
A great book. A must for those who have not fully opened their mind to the absurdity of religion. Stenger goes one step further that many new atheists and demonstrates that there is not just the complete lack of evidence for the exisitence of God, or that such an entity is not needed to explain the cosmos, but that the science of today can show positive evidence that no designer existed in the beginning of our universe.(indeed, that there probably was no "beginning"!) A great read alongside the other top new atheist reads by Hitchens, Dawkins, Dennet et al.
Having read some of the books by the Four Horsemen and others on the need to counter religious belief and take a stand for reason i soon found this book on my 'to read' list.
Written by a world class physicist this is a book which shows that the explosion of books advocating atheism in the last decade is not just a few people standing on their own but represents a whole intellectual movement, a new enlightenment, the new atheism Stenger combines much of the material from his other books and presents an attack on all religious belief. The arguments are the ones usually presented and already covered in depth by other writers such as Dawkins and Hitchens but Stenger adds something extra with his expertise on physics and cosmology showing that the god hypothesis is a totally failed one with no evidence of any cosmic dial turning. The universe works exactly as we would expect it to look without the need of a divine watchmaker, he tears apart the cosmological argument as inconsistent and shows the fine tuning argument is no proof of design. Its a moving book and i hope that it will motivate the more lukewarm atheists who read it to take a more critical approach to religious belief and realize the danger that faith poses to both people and society. I for one am glad to be taking my stand on the side of reason and humanism.
Stenger gives a good account of the current debate. The only thing anyone preaching or defending religion can really do after such a blistering destroyal of all their points is to send god scurrying off down some ethereal and nebulous rabbit hole. But even this dimensionless portal provides only a very small and thin vail in which to hide one's intelectual dignity and god's obvious personal embarrassment.
The Wizard of Oz at least came to his senses when he was caught red handed.
Stenger's chapter on mormonism is excellent and demonstrates just how easy religion catches on and why successful religious methods for mind and group control are so easily adopted by totalitarian despots around the world (such as Stalin and Kim Jong-il).
A must read for those trying to understand the debate and why it is so important to do so.
For me this is one of the best books ever written about atheism (if not the best). The new atheism is brilliantly written and commands your undivided attention from the moment you pick up the book. Victor j Stenger has produced the knockout blow to religion,myths and the superstitions which have taken a hold of peoples fears for so long.Read this book and free your mind and maybe you will start to see things for what they really are?