Victor J. Stenger, a physicist and prolific writer on atheism who wrote the 2007 New York Times bestseller “God: The Failed Hypothesis,” has died at the age of 79.

Victor J. Stenger, a physicist and prolific writer on atheism who wrote the 2007 New York Times best-seller “God: The Failed Hypothesis,” has died at the age of 79. Photo courtesy of Vicstenger - Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

(RNS)  The atheist community is mourning the death of Victor Stenger, a prominent physicist who championed rooting out religion from the public sphere and was best-known for quipping: “Science flies you to the moon. Religion flies you into buildings.”

Stenger, who also graced a very short list of authors who hit the New York Times best-seller list writing about atheism, died Aug. 25 in Hawaii. He was 79.

Atheist, skeptic and science blogs, in the U.S. and in England, were filled with tributes and remembrances over the long holiday weekend.

“Vic was an unassuming physicist and teacher who took on the challenge (of) taking science out of the classroom and applied it to some of our most sacred cows, from psychics and New Age belief to Intelligent Design creationism,” skeptic D.J. Grothe said on The Friendly Atheist blog.

Ron Lindsay, CEO of the Center for Inquiry, a humanist organization with a long association with Stenger, said on the same blog, “With Vic Stenger’s death, the secular and skeptic communities have lost an articulate, knowledgeable, and relentless defender of the naturalistic, scientific worldview.”

Though best-known in recent years for his atheism, Stenger was also a well-known particle physicist who contributed to groundbreaking work on gamma rays, quarks and gluons. One of his last projects was working on an underground experiment that showed the neutrino, a subatomic particle, has mass. He held professorships in physics, astronomy and philosophy.

But he gained his widest notoriety in 2007 with the publication of “God: The Failed Hypothesis, How Science Shows that God Does Not Exist,” which reached the New York Times’ best-seller list, a first for Prometheus Press, Stenger’s longtime, small publisher. That book — and several subsequent ones promoting science over religion — placed Stenger in the ranks of Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett and Christopher Hitchens, the so-called “four horsemen” of New Atheism.

Though he never matched the book sales of those best-selling authors, he far outpaced them in his output. Stenger died less than two weeks before the publication of his 13th book, “God and the Multiverse: Humanity’s Expanding View of the Cosmos.”

Hemant Mehta, author of the Friendly Atheist blog and two books on atheism, offered to raise money to cover the medical bills or other needs of the Rev. Norman Hayes, who was injured when the boyfriend of a parishioner allegedly attacked him. Photo courtesy Hemant Mehta

Atheist author and blogger Hemant Mehta marveled at the breadth of subjects Victor Stenger wrote about. “There was literally no topic too large or small for him to tackle. He’ll be missed but he won’t be forgotten anytime soon.” Photo courtesy Hemant Mehta


This image is available for Web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

“I’m just amazed by how prolific Stenger was,” said atheist author Hemant Mehta, who announced Stenger’s death on his blog. “Not only that, but he wrote about some of the biggest topics, too, like the incompatibility of science and religion, the universe, and atoms. There was literally no topic too large or small for him to tackle. He’ll be missed but he won’t be forgotten anytime soon.”

In addition to churning out a book a year, Stenger maintained a breakneck pace as a speaker. Addressing a Center for Inquiry meeting in 2012, he said, “I want to urge those of you who are not scientists to try to convince those who are to stop pussyfooting around with religion and confront the reality of what it is and always has been a blight on humanity that has hindered our progress for millennia and now threatens our very existence.”

But no remark of his was as far-reaching as his comparison of science and religion with flying to the moon and into buildings. It has appeared without fail on T-shirts, stickers and posters at skeptic and atheist conventions for the last five years.

“I used to joke with Vic that hanging out with him was like dog hours — seven to one — he’d give me more to think about in one hour than seven hours of anything else I could possibly do,” said Peter Boghossian, author of “A Manual for Creating Atheists” and a friend of Stenger’s. “He will be missed beyond measure.”

YS/MG END WINSTON

43 Comments

  1. “he’d give me more to think about in one hour than seven hours of anything else I could possibly do,”

    That is a great compliment. He was a modern Socrates who had the added benefit of modern science to support him.
    And he has inspired millions to think more clearly about the price of the primitive, dangerous idea of ‘faith’.

  2. And NOW, after all that hard work, all those atheist writings, all those atheist speaking engagements, all those atheist one-liner T-shirts…

    …Dr. Victor Stenger is no longer an atheist. (Hebrews 9:27)

    • @Doc,

      So god waits to give his most convincing message
      of his existence after one has lost the ability to do anything about it?

      If one’s free will and Faith are so important to god, why does God discard them when you are dead?

      • You’ll get over it.

        Assuming u r an atheist, logic is your tool to enlightenment. So embrace it. Doc is right. He is no longer an atheist, a man, or anything he could be traditionally labeled or categorized with in the living world.

        It might just mean Doc’s power of perception exceeds your own.

      • pretending there is no God is ultimate foolishness.

        There was a news story about a white lady in Georgia who pretended there was not a black cop telling her to open her car window and giving him her license ..he kept asking her
        and asking her she kept pretending he was not there … she did not last long when he opened her window with bullets.

        .The point of thIs story is pretend games can turn out deadly for the pretender..

        • @rob,

          Your silly little racist story has nothing to do with ‘god’.
          It involves a physical manifestation of a real policeman tapping on the window.

          God – everyone keeps telling me – is not a physical manifestation.
          So you are back to square one.

          Where is this god of whom it is so foolish to NOT believe in?
          And tell me how you know there is only one god and not 20 or 50 or 2000.

          How did you discern its name if it didn’t manifest itself physically at least enough to make a sound and interact with your physical body?

          Or – are you just believing this nonsense because your grandmother told you to!?

      • a max a real disbeliever that there is a God does not believe after death a fellow could say any thing.

        your just at war with god. as in said . unless you can prove your a total fool we wont believe your any thing but very angry at God for some reason.. that you wont tell us..

    • You and Doc are cut from the same cloth, I see. Assuming you aren’t just a troll, and that you’d consider Dr. Stenger “wicked” because of his beliefs, maybe the both of you ought to read Ezekiel 18:23.

    • Perhaps not. After seeing a lot of people and things come and go, I believe that many, if not most, scoffers would willingly walk into eternal death rather than yield lordship to any god other than Self.

      • @Shawnie:

        “….rather than yield lordship to any god other than Self.”

        1. Sure I would.
        2. Show me how to contact the god.
        3. Show me what the god will give me in return.
        4. May I ask the god some questions?
        5. Which Holy texts are the true ones? There are 78 religions with holy texts.

        • a max you don’t mean it yet i will give you what you ask any way..

          there is only one God that was God enough to win heaven for you all by himself.. all the other gods just show you what they think is the way ..Jesus he won your way.. its a no brainer which one is more God than the false ones ..

          got questions get Gods biblical answer’s ..
          www.whataboutjesus.com

          the more you click on a topic the more there is..

          • I keep giving you a chance to show me god
            and you keep showing me links to nothing better than an argument for leprechauns!

            I simply cannot fathom how you believe this gibberish.
            Can you make a coherent argument
            about the SOLEMN LIFE CHOICE OF FAITH IN JESUS which you have committed yourself to?
            OR NOT?

      • Let me explain the dichotomy of yeilding to Jesus to be your Lord, giving up leadership of you own life: ” He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.” – Jesus, Matthew, 10:39 … I’ve followed for 50 years now, married to my best friend, 41 years, both virgins when we met! God does what He promised! I’ve really ‘found’ my Lifein Him it is good in Him.

  3. “Thr atheist community is mourning..” FALSE!

    Atheists are all knowing, all seeing. So one could assume they saw his death coming. Thus they would be prepared, and have no need for mourning as that activity is needless and counterproductive.

    • That may be the dumbest thing ever written. Omniscience and prophesy are on the religion side of the aisle. Maybe you should read one of Dr. Stenger’s books and see if some of your irrational thinking can be corrected.

  4. From Dr Victor’s own quote: “…and now threatens our very existence.”

    Seriously? One must be very careful with such aggressive, arrogant statements. Where’s the scientific evidence for that? Since when has any religion threatened the world’s existence?

    I thought it was science’s nuclear & chemical weapons that threatened (and threatens) our existence?

    • @Dear Dave,

      Religion “… now threatens our very existence.”

      He is correct. Religion is the danger in the world.

      “We will conquer all people of the world and force the choice; believe or die in the Prophet (PBUH), Inshallah”
      - Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi (leader of ISIS)

      He is talking to you.
      As Osama Bin Laden did and others before him.

      Only when religion is abandoned for the folly it is will the armies fold.

      • Max, you write to Dave …

        @Dear Dave,

        Religion “… now threatens our very existence.”

        He is correct. Religion is the danger in the world.

        “We will conquer all people of the world and force the choice; believe or die in the Prophet (PBUH), Inshallah”
        - Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi (leader of ISIS)

        He is talking to you.
        As Osama Bin Laden did and others before him.

        Only when religion is abandoned for the folly it is will the armies fold.

        **********************
        You mention Osama bin Laden, so I thought I would share a dream I had three days after his death. He was laid out on a stone slab in the basement of a building that was being used as a tourist attraction—people were coming to see his dead body. I found myself in the upstairs and had no intentions of visiting the body, but I was shown that I was to go down and see it. Reluctantly, I went down a set of stone steps to the basement where I saw a figure dressed in a lower garment covering his privates and keffiyeh (of some sort), but that was it. There were people in line walking up to the figure, and these were not of any particular religious for he was “the tourist attraction.” I went to the stone slab on his right side and walked around the figure moving head to left side then back to where I started. When I reached this spot, and while I was looking down at his ashen face, and what appeared to be marked skin from battle (although no blood), he opened his eyes. When he SAW ME, he immediately got up to go after me. It was scary as hell—that look he gave, as if he saw something and wanted to capture or destroy it. I raced up the stone steps and looked back only once to see him staggering because his knees were buckling. He had no lower strength. That was the last I saw of him, but I entered another place and …
        There was more to the dream but this is all I will share. Pretty weird, huh?

        You also write …

        @Marius Potgieter,

        “Are you perhaps searching for something?”

        Yes. Many things:

        1. A damper on religion’s influence on politics.

        Max, this is just part of your post to Marius (interesting name). You have every right to weigh in on the advent of religious underpinning, regardless of what you claim to be, or wish yourself to be know as. Religion of specific dogma and doctrine is profuse in politics, and I find it disheartening that so many claiming the Christ abuse this to influence and gain votes. It was not so long ago that Protestants and Roman Catholics battled, and history has demonstrated the ills of religion RULING the masses. Too many deny this obvious part of historical evidence. They think in terms of a short life span—their own, without REALIZING the greater scope in Prophesy. The truth, however, can be gleaned in the Book of Revelation, Chapter 11, where the Angel speaks to John of the Holy City (Temple) … “outside the temple is given to the Gentiles to tread the Holy City underfoot for forty-two months.”
        Man either did not read this and come into some understanding of it, or he thinks his religious rules and its leadership are this Holy City, having no knowledge of what are months in God Time.

        As I have shared before, the Church spoken of in Matthew is not “the church” of religious venue and practice that you see in the World, for it is OF the World … one has only to watch it play out on the political stage. Now, do not call it CHURCH and STATE; call it RELIGION WITHIN STATE, as this is now more to the norm, unfortunately.

        Seems those claiming Spiritual Advocate on Truth have forgotten this:

        And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. Roman 12.2

        Peace AND Love

    • The threat of nuclear destruction is out there from the world’s governments, but thankfully God will never allow that to occur to our home, earth, nor to the human family. God even promises to bring to ruin those ruining the earth, which includes man’s corrupt political systems (Revelation 11:17,18; Daniel 2:44).

      • @Fran,

        Your lack of knowledge about science is a blazing.
        It is so immoral to dismiss what you are promoting.

        CONSEQUENCES OF RELIGIOUS NUCLEAR WAR:

        A nuclear war will end all life on earth
        Perhaps even bacteria and viruses. It would not happen as in the movies with a big drama – but in the blink of an eye.

        You would hear on the news that some rockets had been launched
        and that would be the end of everybody in about 5 minutes.

        Not just the bad guys. There will be nothing else alive – evolution of life ends.

        The seas would be dead and rotting, filling the atmosphere
        with methane and unbreathable toxins for millions of years.

        Land would be large swaths of toxic sandy windblown deserts. No plants.
        Even the sky would look different for millions of years.
        The oxygen would be depleted from the nuclear fires.

        The air would be unbreathable for millions of years.
        Plutonium is the most dangerous element in science and it would be thrown into every corner of the world in a nuclear exchange – a world coated in plutonium would be dead for billions of years.

        Earth is halfway through its lifespan.
        It has about 6 billion years left before the sun explodes.

        But after an all-out nuclear exchange
        There would probably not be enough time left for earth to evolve intelligent life again – and no record of our civilization would exist for those creatures (they would not be people) to understand what lived before or how we destroyed it all.

        The nuclear fallout would render every place on earth radioactive for millions of years – nothing could survive the radioactivity.
        The food chain would be broken forever.

        Except for a few footsteps on the moon, there would be no record of humanity and nobody to care.

        That is something to think about.

        *
        Isn’t it at least reasonable – given all the thousands of religions in the world – to consider that any ABSOLUTE FAITH is too dangerous to pursue?

        If a god exists
        do you really think he would require
        such devastation such as this which would happen
        in the blink of an eye?

        For one human species to ‘worship’ him in death?
        These primitive notions make no sense.

        *

        “I died for you” – JESUS
        And now we will all die for JESUS? or Allah? or Yahweh? or Ganesha?

        Come to your senses.

  5. Okay, I wasn’t going to write anything initially, but I just had to. To the above comments, by what appear to be from “religious” people: making comments about Dr. Stenger’s death and what happens to him in the afterlife is Not Appropriate Here. I am a Christian and I think it is best to let people reminisce over him if they want to, even you disagree. Nobody’s mind and heart will be convinced of the death & Resurrection of Jesus Christ in the comments section of a “tribute”. Please back off for now and show love and respect.

  6. Dear Atheist Max, you are certainly the most consistent blogger on any of the hundreds of Christian websites, on many different continents … don’t you have a job? Don’t you have a private life or friends? It seems to me that you have absolutely nothing to do, other than your incessant display of total ignorance of the Christian faith. Are you perhaps searching for something? I ask this, because you spend your entire life behind a PC screen.
    Just like Dawkins and all of his other ‘lapdogs’, you have not said a single original thing here either!

    • @Marius Potgieter,

      “Are you perhaps searching for something?”

      Yes. Many things:

      1. A damper on religion’s influence on politics.
      2. Promotion of Atheism.
      3. An increase in Secularism.
      4. News about the decline in religious orders.
      5. Better arguments to help the faithful abandon religion.
      6. Opportunities to defend Atheism.
      7. Opportunities to challenge claims about Jesus, Yahweh and Allah in particular.
      8. Opportunities to challenge death cults like Christianity.
      9. News about efforts to find justice for victims of pedophile priests.
      10. News about efforts to increase the Separation of Church and State.
      11. Opportunities to defend the Establishment Clause.
      12. Promotion of positive Atheism.

      How much more do you need?

      Religion: A set of immoral, divisive beliefs
      which cannot be treated as 100% true
      or the result would be mass murder:

      “Slay Them” (Surah) Q’uran
      “Execute them in front of me” – Jesus (Luke 19:27, Parable of the Minas)
      “Kill unbelievers” – Yahweh (Torah)

      If we already know any religion cannot be 100% true
      we should agree to abandon it more quickly.

  7. Atheist Max – you state “Only when religion is abandoned for the folly it is will the armies fold.” perhaps you need a history lesson – KArl Marx – probably one of the patron saints of atheistic came up with a system called communism which was devoid of God – that really put an end of armed conflict didn’t it. And that atheist Stalin – he is a real atheist hero as well. Or what about Saint Mao – he sure was a kind man who also put an end to any sort of armed hostility didn’t he. And what about that guy in North Korea – he is an up and coming Atheist saint. So before you get your panties in a wad about atrocities committed in the name of religion – perhaps you might want to look at some done in the name of the atheist state to – if you want to be objective – but God (or someone) forbid that you be objective and think.

    • The fact that you could call Marx, Kim and Mao “Saints of Communism” shows they had more in common with religious belief and methods than atheism. They rejected organized religion to create their own versions of it. Same irrational nonsense, different flavor.

      It takes a certain level of ignorance (and dishonesty) to keep trotting out Communists as examples of atheism. It doesn’t matter how many times you guys get corrected on this, it gets repeated ad nauseum. Religious belief avoids honest discussion whenever possible in favor of repeating nonsense to a new audience who may not have heard it the first time.

  8. Something about being a Christian which gives people the idea that one has a duty to say vile, dishonest, malicious things about the beliefs of a dead person because his ideas differed from your own.

    The comments from some of the usual posters here lack any sense of propriety or respect which would be accorded to the deceased. But that is consistent with the attitude that many Christians have that any ideas but their own must be degraded, insulted and attacked.

  9. This may be a shock to many Christians…but here is a terrific sermon (by a Christian pastor) who says he believes that he cannot believe:

    http://theoldadam.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/i-believe-that-i-cannot-believe.mp3

    Give it 3 min. to get past some religious language.

  10. So anyone who in the NAME of Christianity (or perhaps falsely claiming to be Christian) does evil and vile things is vilified – but anyone claiming to be atheist who does vile and terrible things in the name of atheism gets a pass – wow – how convenient.

    • Nice try, but what makes you the arbiter of what is “truly Christian” and what isn’t? It appears the vast majority of Christians ignore such distinctions except when they want to weasel away from their own history and actions.

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    […] Victor Stenger Dies The atheist community is mourning the death of Victor Stenger, a prominent physicist who championed rooting out religion from the public sphere and was best-known for quipping: “Science flies you to the moon. Religion flies you into buildings.” Stenger, who also graced a very short list of authors who hit The New York Times best-seller list writing about atheism, died August 25 in Hawaii. He was 79. (Kimberly Winston, Religion News Service) […]

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