Monday, May 31, 2010

The New Atheism by Victor Stenger

This book would probably have been more interesting if I hadn't already read it all in several other books. Maybe if I had read "The New Atheism" first it would be my favorite. That said, here are my issues.

Problem 1:
Harris 14
Dawkins 13
Hitchens 10
Dennet 10

The list above is the number of pages/ranges in which Stenger cites that author. It understates the total since there are whole sections on Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens that are counted as one citation. He also cites his own books quite a bit. The book is incredibly derivative. He doesn't have his own ideas to discuss. The book is sort of an amalgamation of better books. It isn't even done in an appropriate way. I felt like the first half of the book was just a giant paraphrase of "Hey Dawkins! Hey Harris! Stop the bandwagon, I am getting on!"

Stenger seems to really want to have the definitive book on "New Atheism" belonging to him, but all he can do to achieve this is summarize what others have already said. His desire to be one of the Four Horsemen is apparent when he lists important atheists as Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens and Stenger. It was a little pathetic.

Problem 2:
Atheism isn't a religion. "New Atheists" are not a group of people that can be identified by anything other than a lack of belief in any god. Stenger seems to think that we all think, believe and, of all things, vote in a certain way. Stenger loves his Obama, but that does not mean that all atheists do! We are a diverse group of people. I object to him trying to classify us as all having the same political priorities and views on all kinds of things. Global warming? I don't care what Stenger, me or your mom believes, atheists do not all believe in or care about global warming. I do not believe that atheists in general share any trait other than a lack of belief in gods and the guts to be honest about that lack of belief.

In Summary
Just... don't bother. Read Richard Dawkins "The God Delusion" or Christopher Hitchens "God is Not Great" instead of getting Stenger's cliff notes version with his stupid opinions thrown in. Dawkins and Hitchens are a ton more entertaining too.


  1. He lists himself as one of the most important atheists? Wow, that takes some serious ego! And if you don't like reading works where authors cite their own work frequently, then I suggest you never go in to academia...

  2. Seriously! At my work we make fun of other experts who cite themselves in their work a lot. It's so... egotistical?


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