How Rodney Stark’s Relentless Pursuit of Intellectual Honesty Led Him to Faith

Why Rodney Stark Believes in God Because of His Honesty and Logic

It’s easy to assume that secular academics can’t have the “child-like faith” Jesus spoke of, or that if they came to accept Christ they’d have to give up their research. Rodney Stark’s story, like that of former liberal theologian Thomas Oden and former radical feminist English professor Rosaria Champagne Butterfield, implies otherwise. Dr. Stark’s decision to become a devout Christian was influenced by his studies and readings on the historical significance of Christianity.

In 1934, Stark entered this world in North Dakota. Interestingly, he played high school football with the famous Christian theologian, Alvin Plantinga. Upon leaving the military, he enrolled in journalism school, from which he would eventually graduate in 1959. During his early days as a journalist, he reported a meeting of the Oakland Spacecraft Club when a speaker claimed to have flown to Mars, Venus, and the Moon in a flying saucer. As a result of Stark’s honest reporting without snark or sarcastic remarks, he was given all the strange tales that came his way.

It was in large part due to Stark’s ability to take people’s views seriously and acknowledge that, at least for them, these beliefs are credible, that he made the transition from journalism to sociology. He earned his doctorate in sociology from Berkeley in 1972 and then went on to teach sociology and comparative religion at the University of Washington.

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Stark investigated the psychological underpinnings of religious belief. What did their religion mean to them, exactly?

Why did they bother? In what manner did they endure it? Based on these considerations, Stark constructed a theory of conversion that gave equal weight to factors including social connections, emotional needs, and free will. Essentially, Stark arrived to the conclusion that converting was a logical decision since it was expected that the individual would gain more from the religion than it would cost to convert.

He pioneered the idea that religious fervor might rise as a result of rivalry between denominations. In other words, when a religion has a monopoly, its members are less likely to go out of their way to help those in need and to spread their message. Stark also argued against the widely held belief in academic circles that secularization is an unavoidable byproduct of modernisation. Instead, he contended that this view was completely off base since religious revivals and innovations were overlooked by sociologists.

In 1996, he released his book, The Rise of Christianity. Stark stated in his book that Christianity developed so rapidly because it had more to offer people than other religions. To be more specific, Stark contended that the way Christians treated women was a major factor in the Church’s explosive expansion. More people converted as a result of this, and the Christian religion spread via networks of believers, particularly when contrasted to the pagan treatment of women. Prohibitions on abortion and infanticide helped the Church expand naturally, and Christians gained respect for their bravery in the face of persecution and the disease. The Rise of Christianity was considered for the Pulitzer Prize because of its innovative nature.

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After this, Stark decided to devote himself to studying the development of Christianity. Stark wrote what is possibly his greatest work, The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success, in 2005. This followed two books on the historical impact of monotheism, One True God in 2001 and For the Glory of God: How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witch Hunts, and the End of Slavery in 2003.

Before The Victory of Reason was released in 2005, Stark said, “I have difficulties with religion” in 2004. I feel ashamed about this. As far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t make me a smart person. If I could, I would believe, and maybe I will before this is all through. Chuck Colson first learned about Dr. Stark via his book The Victory of Reason, and he was amazed that an agnostic sociologist could be so forthright and honest as to point out Christianity’s influence in the world. Chuck included The Victory of Reason in the Centurions Program and discussed it on Breakpoint (now known as the Colson Fellows).

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Rodney Stark reached out to Chuck Colson after the commentary aired to express his appreciation for the kind remarks. In 2007, he openly declared his conversion to Christianity after discussing it with Colson.

As of 2004, Stark has held the positions of distinguished professor of social sciences, co-director of the Institute for the Study of Religion, and founding editor of the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion at Baylor University. Stark, who attended Baylor University, described to himself as a “independent Christian” and published influential and sometimes divisive works on Christian theology, American history, and culture despite the fact that Baylor is a Baptist institution.

In his own discipline of sociology, Stark was an outspoken opponent of the prevalence of political and religious prejudices among academics. His innovative works speak to his intellectual prowess, and his devotion to his faith—a subject he researched at length—attests to his intellectual honesty and integrity.

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My Passion for The Gospel bought about this great Platform.. I love to share the Good News. That's my PASSION. I don't believe the Gospel should be boring. Nobelie is so exclusive. You won't find what we offer any where else. You ask a friend.
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My Passion for The Gospel bought about this great Platform.. I love to share the Good News. That's my PASSION. I don't believe the Gospel should be boring. Nobelie is so exclusive. You won't find what we offer any where else. You ask a friend.

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