A friend from the Chicago Boyz has informed me of The Rise of Christianity by Rodney Stark. The general theme of the book parallels my series, Jesusism-Paulism, in viewing Christianity as a liberating movement that offered love and worth to all humans (a radical new concept at the time). I unknowingly paralleled his work in the earlier posts of my series (parts I, II, and III) and I will put Rodney on my reading list. While he is relatively silent on the Christian conquest of Rome and the early Islamic wars, we seemed to share a very similar view of the rise of Christianity. Touchstone’s interview and Father McCloskey’s review are particularly good sources of information on the question.
A quick review of Dr. Stark’s academic writings show a lot of wisdom. He argues that religiosity is a consequence of city life (painfully obvious in the increasingly radicalized and urbanized Arab world, but denied for centuries by an intellectual elite) and that Europe’s “secularization” is a consequence of its regulated state (and not the future of all soceities, as parroted for decades by an intellectual elite). Despite being a sociologist, Dr. Stark is a great fan of rational choice theory, and he has applied it in interesting and new ways to the study of Christianity.
Likewise, his (and Alan Miller’s) work on sex and religiosity is worth reading. After attacking gendered/socialization theories of why women are more “religious” than men, the authors write:
One possibility we did not explore is the degree to which risk preference, and by extension the relationship between gender and religiousness, might be physiologically based. While it is still possible that gender differences in risk preference are due to differential socialization, a growing literature suggests otherwise. Furthermore, our results strongly suggest this is not the case. Since general measures of differential socialization are unrelated to religiosity, one would have to propose that risk preference is somehow different: that it alone influences gender differences in religiousness and not other forms of differential socialization, and that it is taught uniformly to all females. Such a proposal, to say the least, is unlikely.
So the more I read of Rodney Stark (including articles such as Hellfire and Delinquency and Becoming a World-saver: A Theory of Conversion to a Deviant Perspective) the more excited about The Rise of Christianity I became.
Thanks for the tip!
Related Post: Economic Man vs. Primary Loyalties by Zenpundit at Chicago Boyz.