Dr. Victor Stenger is professor emeritus of physics and astronomy with University of
Hawaii and adjunct professor of philosophy at the University of Colorado.
Q. When did you first realize that you were an atheist? Was it a sort of a Eureka moment or a gradual realization?
In high school I started reading a lot of popular science, especially astronomy, nuclear physics, and evolution. I began to see Catholicism as irrational but I did not become an atheist immediately. When I was a graduate student at UCLA I attended a Methodist church and sang in the choir. When I lived in Hawaii, my wife and I sent our kids to church-related schools, although we did not go to church. Finally, in the 1980s I began to get involved with the skeptical movement and learned about Humanism. The more I gained from experience, the more I read, the more I realized that the God concept had no merit.
Q. Church attendance and belief in God have remained relatively steady in US, while there has been a precipitous decline in Western Europe. What do you think is behind this?
Big money is given by extremely conservative, wealthy sources in the US to churches and other organizations such as so-called think tanks to brainwash Americans. Europe is less vulnerable to what Chris Hedges, in his best-seller, called "American Fascists". Incidentally, he is not an atheist.
Q. On occasion when I chance upon religious programming on TV – it seems half gimmickry and half psychological therapy. In fact, mass religions from fairly early on took on the job of providing 'guidance' to people. What do you make of this sort of role of religion?
While it is mostly good-intentioned, much in the religious right — the American
Fascist movement — is motivated by the desire for political power and the helping people aspect is a phony con game that is part of the scheme.
Q. This question is somewhat related to the previous one. Say if we were to find out that belief in God is psychologically helpful, can we argue for an evolutionary reason behind existence of religion? This question was famously asked by Time in its article – The God Gene – does our DNA compel us to seek a higher power? What do you make of these kinds of assertions?