God And The Folly Of Faith by Victor J. Stenger (book review).

It is hardly surprising that with a title of ‘God And The Folly Of Faith’ that author Victor J. Stenger is showing why faith is not enough and not just with Christianity but also Catholic and Muslim and, I suspect, any other religion you want to include in your remit. He states that religions have been a stumbling block in preventing science from being the way of life for people and as we’ve read the statistics of how Americans preference for creationism is going, they are more god-fearing than science approving his side of the pond.


If you want to be really confused, over the centuries, many of these religions have enclosed scientific discovery into the belief system as a means to keep up than lose their followers. Reading behind the lines here, this has been used to reset creation to millions of years ago than the traditional seven days. Considering that it was only a couple centuries ago that many religions considered mankind started about 40,000 years ago, that’s a serious change. Makes you wonder whether religions are relating ‘the word of God’ or just trying to stay relevant to their followers who are being educated in science at school. Whatever, from reading this book, I’m wondering why they bothered as their followers didn’t even listen to that neither and making ground in keeping their control.

Even if you have a religious bent, there’s a lot in this book, you would have to agree with, especially as there’s enough gruesome activity in the Bible that would make horror book and film directors look like they are playing with the genre. A lot of this book made me think. I mean, considering so much of the various bibles, which is supposed to be history, why hasn’t it been chronicled up to modern times? Why just stop there? Surely a history chronicle would have been kept up?

This book is really more a history of science for the first hundred or so pages and even the likes of Darwin balanced his evolutionary discoveries with his faith, as indeed many other scientists did and not without any inquisition getting them to tow the line. It’s enough to make me think that there is something primeval about some aspects of Man that needs something ethereal to believe in or not truly understand that goes against the needs of science, which needs to understand everything. Even so, it is still a bit disconcerting that now only 14% of Americans believe in evolution and only Muslim Turkey scoring lower than the USA. I had a look around on the Net for the full results, so if you’re curious look at http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/724 . The UK is sixth and Iceland the top. The Easter Bunny must be doing a roaring trade right now.

I shouldn’t really add that Stenger reviews creationism and intelligent design is against evolution although I wish he’d explore why American teaching standards are failing to fight back against such religious dogma. Like Stenger, I have to wonder if God made perfection, why do we have so much going wrong with our bodies so that would make any deity’s image that we were created in, imperfect as well. That’s hardly a good decree from a perfect God, is it? If the he or she deity was making us in their image, then surely the target would be perfection not second best.

I’m not entirely sure if being taught more religion will turn people away from it. I mean, religion tends to catch children at an early age and the likes of Catholic and Islam use it as a tool of fear to maintain control in adulthood. If you get them young, many stay hooked. Those who don’t attend the likes of Sunday School and their like are less inclined to find religion. Saying that, I do agree that getting anyone to read the Bible from cover-to-cover, than the highlights might actually turn people away from it. I did that when young and a lot of it is tedium between begetting which had no relevance to religion which uses the highlights all the time.

The knowledge from having a recap of scientific history serves you in good stead for the last two thirds of the book because Stenger brings in the bigger question marks over if there was a God, why would he involve himself in just a tiny planet where there’s a whole expanding universal with a multitude of galaxies out there? The opening of Chapter 7, where ninth century Jinasena is quoted asking where was God before creation should be required reading for all those with religious persuasion.

Stenger covers near-death experience and points out that the tunnel of light many experience is largely caused by the lowering of blood pressure in the eye which stimulates the optic nerve that way. Considering that I didn’t get that at all when I had my one and only diabetic coma, I’d probably side with him on that. After all, we all know or should know that the brain doesn’t suddenly die but various parts close down or die at different rates.

Something else Stenger points out is that there is at least a billion people in the world today who don’t believe in God. From my perspective, it’s a shame that there aren’t more books for the agnostic or atheist but then that might seem to look like faith which would be counteractive. Maybe those who are religiously inclined, just prefer a good yarn. If you look at the number of religious books out there, it creates its own biasness. I agree with his sentiments about how political leaders kowtow to religion for votes which also re-enforces this bias.

Changing this attitude is always going to be an uphill struggle but it’s not helped by not voicing concerns and not questioning any faith. Probably, to my mind and a good question to ask is why were the various Bibles ended in 20 centuries ago? Considering how much we’ve changed so much in that time, doesn’t this cut-off point raise its own question marks? Likewise, as Stenger points out why do so many religions have wealth and exploit the poor which is certainly true of many of the evangelist states of America.

Science taught me to question everything and it looks like that is something that is missing in the USA. Not saying the UK is perfect but the statistics are not comforting. Stenger gives many valid arguments against all kinds of religious dogma but as with many books of this type, it’s a shame that the people who need to read this book probably won’t. However, if you do, you should come away with enough counter-arguments against the ‘faithful’ should you get approached.

You can probably get from my reaction to this book that I think Stenger’s message is important. Religion relies far too much on faith than questioning. Science does the opposite and so much of what we have in this technology world relies on this. Which would you rather have: a burning bush or a mobile phone. Read and explore.

GF Willmetts

March 2013

(pub: Prometheus Books. 405 page indexed enlarged paperback. Price: $20 (US). ISBN: 978-1-61614-599-6)

check out website: www.prometheusbooks.com


Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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