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Rodney Stark is an American sociologist of religion. He grew up in Jamestown, North Dakotamarker in a Lutheran family. He spent time in the U.S. Army and worked as a journalist before pursuing graduate studies at The University of California, Berkeleymarker. After teaching at the University of Washingtonmarker for 32 years, Stark moved to Baylor Universitymarker in 2004, where he is co-director of the Institute for Studies of Religion[598700]. He is an advocate of the application of the Rational choice theory in the sociology of religion, called the theory of religious economy.

Stark's views on the Growth of Christianity

Stark has proposed in The Rise of Christianity that Christianity grew through gradual individual conversions via social networks of family, friends and colleagues. His main contribution, by comparing documented evidence of Christianity's spread in the Roman Empire with the history of the LDS church in the 19th and 20th centuries, was to illustrate that a sustained and continuous growth could lead to huge growth within 200 years. This use of exponential growth as a driver to explain the growth of the church without the need for mass conversions (deemed necessary by historians until then) is now widely accepted.

Stark has suggested that Christianity grew because it treated women better than pagan religions. He also suggested that making Christianity the state religion of the Roman Empire weakened the faithfulness of the Christian community by bringing in people who did not really believe or had a weaker belief. This is consistent with Stark's published observations of contemporary religious movements, where once-successful faith movements gradually decline in fervor due to the free rider problem.

Personal views on religion and evolutionary theory education

Stark published an article in 2004 critical of the stifling of debate on Evolutionary Theory. In "Facts, Fable and Darwin", Stark criticized the "Darwinian Crusade" and their "tactic of claiming that the only choice is between Darwin and Bible literalism". Though not a Creationist himself, he believes that though "the theory of evolution is regarded as the invincible challenge to all religious claims, it is taken for granted among the leading biological scientists that the origin of species has yet to be explained". He suggests that governments "lift the requirement that high school texts enshrine Darwin's failed attempt as an eternal truth." While reticent to discuss his own religious views, he stated in an interview at the time that he was not a man of faith, but also not an atheist:

Interviewer: You once wrote that you’re “not religious as that term is conventionally understood.”

" Rodney Stark: That’s true, though I’ve never been an atheist. Atheism is an active faith; it says, “I believe there is no God.” But I don’t know what I believe. I was brought up a Lutheran in Jamestown, North Dakotamarker. I have trouble with faith. I’m not proud of this. I don’t think it makes me an intellectual. I would believe if I could, and I may be able to before it’s over. I would welcome that."


In a later interview, though, Stark indicated that his self-understanding had changed and that he could now be described as an "independent Christian."

Bibliography

Stark has published 28 books and 144 articles according to his Curriculum Vitae. The list below is incomplete; see his Curriculum Vitae for the full list.

Books

Sociology of Religion

  • Christian Beliefs and anti-Semitism (1966) with Charles Y. Glock
  • American Piety (1968) with Charles Y. Glock
  • The Future of Religion: Secularization, Revival, and Cult formation (1985), with William Sims Bainbridge
  • A Theory of Religion (1987), with William Sims Bainbridge
  • Religion, Deviance, and Social Control (1996), with William Sims Bainbridge
  • The Churching of America 1776-1992: Winners and Losers in Our Religious Economy (1992), with Roger Finke; 2nd edition under name The Churching of America 1776-2005: Winners and Losers in Our Religious Economy (2005)
  • The Rise of Christianity: A Sociologist Reconsiders History (1996)
  • Acts of Faith: Explaining the Human Side of Religion (2000), with Roger Finke
  • One True God: Historical Consequences of Monotheism ISBN 978-0-691-11500-9 (2001)
  • For the Glory of God: How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witch-Hunts, and the End of Slavery ISBN 978-0691114361 (2003)
  • Exploring the Religious Life ISBN 0-8018-7844-6 (2004)
  • The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success ISBN 0-8129-7233-3 (2005)
  • The Rise of Mormonism (2005) ISBN 023113634X
  • Cities of God: The Real Story of How Christianity Became an Urban Movement and Conquered Rome (2006)
  • Discovering God: A New Look at the Origins of the Great Religions ISBN 978-0-06-117389-9 (2007)
  • God’s Battalions: The Case for the Crusades (2009)


General Sociology

  • Sociology (1985) an introductory college sociology text that has been through ten editions as of 2007.


Articles

  • John Lofland and Rodney Stark Becoming a World-Saver: A Theory of Conversion to a Deviant Perspective American Sociological Review of 1965. (an early and influential conversion theory based on the observations of the thinly disguised then little known Unification Church)
  • Rodney Stark and Williams Sims Bainbridge (1979) Of Churches, Sects, and Cults: Preliminary Concepts for a Theory of Religious Movements Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 18, no 2: 117-33


  • Stark, R., “Fact, Fable and Darwin” in One America, September 2004; Part 1 in [598701]and Part 2[598702]


Additional biographical source: Rodney Stark. "On Theory-Driven Methods." Pp. 175-196 in The Craft of Religious Studies, edited by Jon R. Stone. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1998.

External links



Notes

  1. Fact, Fable, and Darwin.” The American Enterprise. 15 (Sept. 2004): 40-44 can be seen in [1]
  2. JKNIRP.com The National Institute for the Renewal of the Priesthood, 2004
  3. Cesnur.org Center for Studies on New Religions



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