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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. He is 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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Baylor ISR - Rodney Stark- End of Religion? (May 5, 2015)

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Baylor ISR: Doing History a Second Time Around -- Rodney Stark Lecture - (Nov. 30, 2011)

"The Triumph of Christianity" - In 1996 Rodney Stark published "The Rise of Christianity: A Sociologist Reconsiders History." It was successful far beyond his ...

Baylor ISR - Rodney Stark - CESNUR Conference (June 4-7, 2014)

Christianity and the Future of Religion in China Rodney STARK (Distinguished Professor of Social Sciences, Baylor University, Waco)

Baylor ISR: Templeton Research Lectures Vanderbilt University, Rodney Stark, Part 1 of 4 (2006)

Neglect and Dedication: The Dynamics of Ancient Religious Markets Par 1 of 4 - The Market Approach to Understanding Religion.

Fr. George reflects on 'The Victory of Reason' by Rodney Stark

Rev. Dr. George Madathiparampil served as the Vicar General of the Syro Malabar Catholic Diocese of Chicago till 2011 for 10 years. Visit: www.

God's Battalions: The Case for the Crusades

In God's Battalions, award-winning author Rodney Stark takes on the long-held view that the Crusades were the first round of European colonialism, conducted ...

David Ramsay Steele on religion. 4. Rodney Stark and the rejection of secularization theory

Why influential scholars like Peter Berger and Rodney Stark rejected the Secularization Thesis. Stark's theory: the United States is so religious because it has ...

Baylor ISR: Templeton Research Lectures Vanderbilt University, Rodney Stark, Part 4 of 4 (2006)

Neglect and Dedication: The Dynamics of Ancient Religious Markets, Part 4 of 4 Christian Establishments and the Neglect of Faith.

Baylor ISR: Templeton Research Lectures Vanderbilt University, Rodney Stark, Part 2 of 4 (2006)

Neglect and Dedication: The Dynamics of Ancient Religious Markets, Part 2 of 4 - Subsidized Religions: 6000 Years of Negligence and Laxity.

A Gloria di Dio - Rodney Stark: dal cristianesimo alla scienza

Esposizione della seconda parte del testo di Rodney Stark, "A gloria di Dio". Presentazione dell'autore; introduzione; come la fede cristiana ha reso possibile lo ...

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1076 news items

OUPblog (blog)
Thu, 24 Sep 2015 00:41:15 -0700

For the conservative evangelicals Anna worked with, a rationalist approach to faith is pervasive. The rector of one congregation she conducted fieldwork with recommended on their first meeting that she read Rodney Stark and Roger Finke's Acts of Faith, ...

Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies

Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies
Mon, 21 Sep 2015 23:56:15 -0700

In the 1965 pages of American Sociological Review, John Lofland and Rodney Stark offered a model of recruitment to deviant cults: “Becoming a World-Saver: A Theory of Conversion to a Deviant Perspective.” It actually can be applied to recruitment to ...


Fri, 25 Sep 2015 12:58:00 -0700

All this has been explained by historian Rodney Stark in a series of books, such as The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom and Capitalism, and Western Success. Silverberg is not the only sex educator to spread glaring falsehoods about ...

Patheos (blog)

Patheos (blog)
Wed, 16 Sep 2015 04:10:35 -0700

Some people yawn at the statistics. “Young people have always been less likely to attend [church] than are older people,” writes sociologist Rodney Stark . When they grow up and have a few kids, they'll come back. They always do. No need to fret or ...
Crosswalk.com (blog)
Sat, 05 Sep 2015 16:03:45 -0700

Sociologists Roger Finke and Rodney Stark have written that at the time of the American Revolution, only about one-fifth of Americans could be considered “churched.” By the time of the Civil War, that number had increased to one-third. Today it is more ...

Wall Street Journal

Wall Street Journal
Sun, 30 Mar 2014 14:24:51 -0700

In "How the West Won," Rodney Stark details how and why the vital aspects of modernity—defined here as a combination of sensible economic arrangements, political freedoms and scientific knowledge—developed in the West rather than elsewhere. In the ...

World Magazine

World Magazine
Sat, 10 May 2014 08:28:46 -0700

Last month we ran an excerpt from Baylor Professor Rodney Stark's new book, How the West Won: The Neglected Story of the Triumph of Modernity, and today we run one more, with permission of ISI Books. Our excerpt last month contended that the declineof ...
National Review Online (blog)
Thu, 17 Apr 2014 01:06:35 -0700

RODNEY STARK: The fundamental advantage was belief in the Judeo-Christian God: a conscious, rational being who created a rational universe that runs according to rational principles that can be discovered and comprehended by human beings. From this ...

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