Victor Stenger, 1935 – 2014

The man who coined the famous phrase “Science flies you to the moon. Religion flies you into buildings” died Aug. 25. Longtime FFRF member and prominent atheist Victor J. Stenger died at age 79 of an aneurysm near the heart at Queen’s Medical Center in Honolulu while vacationing with his wife Phylliss in Hawaii. He was also an FFRF honorary director.

He was born Jan. 29, 1935, in Bayonne, N.J., and earned a degree in electrical engineering and advanced degrees in physics. In his last major research project, before retiring in Colorado in 2000, Stenger collaborated on a project in Japan that demonstrated for the first time that the neutrino has mass. The project’s head researcher won the Nobel Prize in physics in 2002.

In addition to numerous and influential peer-reviewed articles, he wrote 12 books, including the 2007 New York Times best-seller God: The Failed Hypothesis and the new God and the Multiverse.

That book and subsequent ones placed Stenger in the ranks of Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett and Christopher Hitchens, the so-called “four horsemen” of New Atheism. The Salt Lake Tribune dubbed him “the fifth horseman” in its obituary.

He was a member of the Department of Physics at the University of Hawaii from 1963 to 2000 and after retiring was adjunct professor of philosophy at the University of Colorado.

“We were headed out for a pleasant dinner when he lost his balance on some steps outside our vacation rental and fell against me,” Phylliss wrote. “I unfortunately fell against a beam, suffered a skull fracture and concussion and was taken to the emergency room by ambulance. While there, Vic complained about not feeling well and in spite of having a team of neurologists and trauma surgeons, he died within 20 minutes.”

The Stengers were married in 1962 and have two children. He was cremated, followed by a memorial Aug. 31 in Honolulu.

“We will miss this great freethinker,” said Dan Barker, FFRF co-president. “He gave us so much to ponder and wonder about.”

“Our sincerest condolences go to Phylliss and the family,” added Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “Vic gave a lot of himself to so many worthy causes and was such a preeminent scientist and skeptic. He will be missed greatly.”

To hear a clip from one of his three interviews with Freethought Radio, go to and click on the Sept. 6, 2014, podcast.

Freedom From Religion Foundation