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Rodney Stark
Born (1934-07-08) July 8, 1934 (age 81)
Jamestown, North Dakota,
United States
Nationality American
Education BA, journalism, University of Denver, 1959
MA, sociology, University of California, Berkeley, 1965
PhD, sociology, University of California, Berkeley, 1971[1]
Occupation Professor of Social Sciences
Employer Baylor University
Website Homepage, Baylor University

Rodney William Stark (born July 8, 1934) is an American sociologist of religion who was a long time professor of sociology and of comparative religion at the University of Washington. He is presently the Distinguished Professor of the Social Sciences at Baylor University, co-director of the university's Institute for Studies of Religion, and founding editor of the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion.[1]

Stark has written over 30 books, including The Rise of Christianity (1996), and more than 140 scholarly articles on subjects as diverse as prejudice, crime, suicide, and city life in ancient Rome.[2] He has twice won the Distinguished Book Award from the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, for The Future of Religion: Secularization, Revival, and Cult Formation (1985, with William Sims Bainbridge), and for The Churching of America 1776–1990 (1992, with Roger Finke).[3]

Early life and education[edit]

Stark was born in 1934[3][4] and grew up in Jamestown, North Dakota, in a Lutheran family. He spent time in the United States Army, before graduating in journalism from the University of Denver in 1959. He worked as a journalist for the Oakland Tribune from 1959 until 1961, then pursued graduate work, obtaining his MA in sociology from the University of California, Berkeley in 1965 and his PhD, also from Berkeley, in 1971.[1]

Career and research[edit]

Positions held[edit]

After completing his PhD, Stark held appointments as a research sociologist at the Survey Research Center and at the Center for the Study of Law and Society. After teaching as Professor of Sociology and of Comparative Religion at the University of Washington for 32 years, Stark moved to Baylor University in 2004, where he is co-director of the Institute for Studies of Religion.[2] He is an advocate of the application of the rational choice theory in the sociology of religion, which he calls the theory of religious economy.[3]

Stark–Bainbridge theory of religion[edit]

During the late 1970s and 1980s, Stark worked with William Sims Bainbridge on the Stark–Bainbridge theory of religion,[3] and co-wrote the books The Future of Religion (1985) and A Theory of Religion (1987) with Bainbridge. Nowadays their theory, which aims to explain religious involvement in terms of rewards and compensators, is seen as a precursor of the more explicit recourse to economic principles in the study of religion as later developed by Laurence Iannaccone and others.[5][6]

On the growth of Christianity[edit]

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.

On the theory of evolution[edit]

In 2004 The American Enterprise, an online publication of the American Enterprise Institute, published an article by Stark, "Facts, Fable and Darwin," critical of the stifling of debate on evolution. 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."[7]

Personal religious faith[edit]

In their 1987 book A Theory of Religion, Stark and Bainbridge describe themselves as "personally incapable of religious faith".[8] While reluctant to discuss his own religious views, he stated in a 2004 interview that he was not a man of faith, but also not an atheist.[9] In a 2007 interview, after accepting an appointment at Baylor University, Stark indicated that his self-understanding had changed and that he could now be described as an "independent Christian." In this interview Stark recollects that he has "always been a “cultural” Christian" understood by him as having "been strongly committed to Western Civilization." Of his previous positions he wrote: "I was never an atheist, but I probably could have been best described as an agnostic."[10]

Selected works[edit]



See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Curriculum vitae, Baylor University.
  2. ^ a b "Rodney Stark". Baylor University. 15 March 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c d André Nauta, "Stark, Rodney", Encyclopedia of Religion and Society, 1998.
  4. ^ http://www.encyclopedia.com/article-1G2-2507100129/stark-rodney-1934-rodney.html
  5. ^ Alan E. Aldridge (2000). Religion in the contemporary world: A sociological introduction. Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 95–97. 
  6. ^ David Lehmann, "Rational Choice and the Sociology of Religion", in Bryan S. Turner (ed.), The New Blackwell Companion to the Sociology of Religion, Wiley-Blackwell, 2010, pp. 181–200.
  7. ^ Rodney Stark, "Fact, Fable, and Darwin", The American Enterprise, September 2004.
  8. ^ Lehmann, p. 183.
  9. ^ JKNIRP.com The National Institute for the Renewal of the Priesthood, 2004
  10. ^ Cesnur.org Center for Studies on New Religions
  11. ^ James T. Richardson (1998). "New Religious Movements". Encyclopedia of Religion and Society. 

Further reading[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rodney_Stark — Please support Wikipedia.
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1229 news items

American Thinker (blog)

American Thinker (blog)
Mon, 23 Nov 2015 23:18:45 -0800

(God's Battalions by Rodney Stark lays out the history.) Historian Thomas Madden puts it this way: It is often assumed that the central goal of the Crusades was forced conversion of the Muslim world. Nothing could be further from the truth. From the ...


Thu, 19 Nov 2015 13:53:24 -0800

To come up with the new definition, researchers sought input from a diverse group of sociologists, theologians, and evangelical leaders, including: Richard Mouw, Paul Nyquist, Mark Noll, Rodney Stark, Christian Smith, Penny Marler, Nancy Ammerman, Mark ...
Virtue Online
Mon, 23 Nov 2015 12:26:15 -0800

To come up with the new definition, researchers sought input from a diverse group of sociologists, theologians, and evangelical leaders, including: Richard Mouw, Paul Nyquist, Mark Noll, Rodney Stark, Christian Smith, Penny Marler, Nancy Ammerman, Mark ...

The Guardian

The Guardian
Tue, 17 Nov 2015 03:41:28 -0800

Rodney Stark, author of A Star in the East: the Rise of Christianity in China, has suggested that the number of adherents exceeds 100 million and is increasing by 7% a year – growth that is largely fuelled by social media. The respected Pew Research ...

Christian Post

Christian Post
Wed, 11 Nov 2015 05:04:10 -0800

... church membership has more than quadrupled," Melton wrote in his powerpoint presentation. "It is still in an upward trajectory." Johnson read remarks provided by Rodney Stark, another Baylor social sciences professor, who was unable to attend the ...
Baylor University
Mon, 02 Nov 2015 13:10:33 -0800

Signs of a Global Religious Revival” — Rodney Stark, Ph.D. co-director of ISR. “The world is far more religious than it has ever been. Around the globe, four of every five people claim to belong to an organized faith and many of the rest say they ...

Breitbart News

Breitbart News
Fri, 30 Oct 2015 09:58:36 -0700

As the sociologist Rodney Stark has so convincingly shown, science was “still-born” in the great civilizations of the ancient world, except in Christian civilization. Why is it, Stark ponders, that empirical science and the scientific method did not ...

Mission Network News

Mission Network News
Thu, 29 Oct 2015 20:56:15 -0700

Officially, the People's Republic of China is an atheist country, but in 1980, as the country emerged from the Cultural Revolution, the best estimates were that there were 10 million Christians. By 2007, says Baylor University sociologist Rodney Stark ...

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