Item description for One True God: Historical Consequences of Monotheism by Rodney Stark...
Overview Western history would be unrecognizable had it not been for people who believed in One True God. There would have been wars, but no religious wars. There would have been moral codes, but no Commandments. The three great monotheisms changed everything. With his customary clarity and vigor, Rodney Stark explains how and why monotheism has such immense power both to unite and to divide. Why and how did Jews, Christians, and Muslims missionize, and when and why did their efforts falter? Why were the Jewish massacres by Christians concentrated in the cities along the Rhine River, and why did the pogroms by Muslims take place mainly in Granada? How could the Jews persist so long as a minority faith, able to withstand int4ense pressures to convert? Why did they sometimes assimilate? Stark also examines the American experience to show that it is possible for committed monotheists to sustain norms of civility toward one another. A sweeping social history of religion, this book shows how the great monotheisms shaped the past and created the modern world.
Western history would be unrecognizable had it not been for people who believed in One True God. There would have been wars, but no religious wars. There would have been moral codes, but no Commandments. Had the Jews been polytheists, they would today be only another barely remembered people, less important, but just as extinct as the Babylonians. Had Christians presented Jesus to the Greco-Roman world as ''another'' God, their faith would long since have gone the way of Mithraism. And surely Islam would never have made it out of the desert had Muhammad not removed Allah from the context of Arab paganism and proclaimed him as the only God.
The three great monotheisms changed everything. With his customary clarity and vigor, Rodney Stark explains how and why monotheism has such immense power both to unite and to divide. Why and how did Jews, Christians, and Muslims missionize, and when and why did their efforts falter? Why did both Christianity and Islam suddenly become less tolerant of Jews late in the eleventh century, prompting outbursts of mass murder? Why were the Jewish massacres by Christians concentrated in the cities along the Rhine River, and why did the pogroms by Muslims take place mainly in Granada? How could the Jews persist so long as a minority faith, able to withstand intense pressures to convert? Why did they sometimes assimilate? In the final chapter, Stark also examines the American experience to show that it is possible for committed monotheists to sustain norms of civility toward one another.
A sweeping social history of religion, "One True God" shows how the great monotheisms shaped the past and created the modern world.
Citations And Professional Reviews One True God: Historical Consequences of Monotheism by Rodney Stark has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
Wilson Public Library Catalog - 12/31/2008 page 87
Wilson Public Library Catalog - 01/01/2004 page 97
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Studio: Princeton University Press
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 9.16" Width: 6.16" Height: 0.85" Weight: 1.05 lbs.
Release Date Apr 13, 2003
Publisher Princeton University Press
ISBN 0691115001 ISBN13 9780691115009
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More About Rodney Stark
Rodney Stark is the distinguished professor of the social sciences and codirector of the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University and honorary professor of sociology at Peking University in Beijing. He is the author or coauthor of a number of books in 17 different languages, including the best-selling The Rise of Christianity. (HarperSanFrancisco, 1997)
Reviews - What do customers think about One True God: Historical Consequences of Monotheism?
Wow! Jul 11, 2007
This is Stark at his best! Very well researched and meticulously argued, this book is an intriguing exploration into the impact of monotheism on Western culture.
Great Book!!! Jul 27, 2006
Rodney Stark knows his material. He starts with a premise and builds upon it until you almost can't help but agree. He adds a lot of historical data to show that he did a lot of research to come to his conclusion. He was not only thoughtful but unbiased in his approach. The Christians who read this book will say "Wow, I never thought of it like that before." The non-Christians will be hard pressed to disagree. All in all, an excellent treatise on the subject
Ignorance and willfulness both grow the further he strays from his field Jan 29, 2006
Two comments of his, one about Hinduism and one about Buddhism's fate in India, will illustrate these two points.
Calling Hinduism monotheistic is pure bullheaded willfulness, shoehorning to fit a preconceived theory. THe further south/nonAryan one goes in India, the dichotomy between the normally feminine household/village deities and the "received Hindu hierarchy" alone shows just how wrong this is.
The idea that Buddhism died out in India because it was too intellectual and did not offer a satisfying deity ignores several facts.
First is the Mahayana/Theravada division of Buddhism, developing in and around India long before Buddhism lost its position at the top in India. The division arguably weakened Buddhism in the face of a resurgant Hinduism, not to mention showing the metaphysical diversity of Buddhism already arising..
Which leads to the fact that Stark ignores a resurgent, indeed reformed, Hinduism as the primary reason Buddhism did not remain in India. Given the amount of pages he has written on Christian history, he should have easily seen analogies to the Catholic Counter-Reformation, but either failed to or chose not to.
Remember, or know, two simple facts about Stark before you read any of his books.
1. His academic training is as a sociologist; he is neither a trained historian nor a trained scholar of comparative religion.
2. When he leaves his academic speciality, he invariably makes some sort of right turn straight into evangelical Christian apologetics. (He now teaches at Baylor.) Every book he has written has at least some degree of that stamped on it.
A Study of Religious Intolerance Jul 31, 2005
Stark goes right to the heart of religious intolerance. If our God is the one true God, those who worship other Gods are sadly mistaken and must be corrected. We can correct by persuasion or coercion. Missionaries choose persuasion. Countries which make it a capital offense to proselytize a religion other than the state religion choose coercion.
Stark studies the history of religious conflict and the conditions under which religious tolerance can flourish. Two powerful religions sharing the same turf will come into conflict. E.g. Northern Ireland (Protestant versus Catholic), Bosnia (Christian versus Muslim). Multiple religions sharing the same turf can hammer out a modus vivendi of living together with respect for one another. E.g. The United States, where the vast number of creeds and sects, from Amish to Zen Buddhist, live together, not only without trying to kill each other, but for the most part quite courteously.
He observes that, although American creeds practice courtesy, secularists do not, speaking in the most scurrilous and derogatory fashion about those who believe in God in general and Fundamentalists in particular. I'd like to see him write a book on the causes of such religious intolerance from those who have little or no religion.
How faith made our world. May 17, 2004
The reviews of this book below are pretty varied: intelligent readers complain that Stark is trying to use sociology to undermine religion, and to prop it up; that he is a "self-styled agnostic," and that he doesn't back up his faith in God (if that's what you want, read my book, Jesus and the Religions of Man!); that he despises post-modernism but gives in to it, and even that he tries to prove a point that the reader agrees with!
You can't satisfy everyone.
Personally, I found this book enjoyable and thought-provoking, though I didn't agree with every point, either.
Stark thinks for himself. He presents the facts in fresh perspective, offers serious arguments, and lets the chips fall on both sides of the page. You must be doing something interesting when you get criticized as an unbeliever by believers, and as a believer by unbelievers.
Stark's thesis is that belief in "One True God" has sociological effects different from belief in many gods or no gods. Monotheism created the cultural solidarity of the Jews that allowed them to survive as a people. (As long as they retained that faith.) Christianity spread during the early centuries through the social networks of ordinary believers. Professional missionaries, Stark argues, are not much use. (This is a good book for missionaries, by the way.) After the Roman empire became officially Christian, the effort to convert Europeans stalled; Stark doubts if the mass of Europeans ever did become orthodox Christians. Given the nature of monotheism, he thinks conflict between Muslims and Christians was inevitable: "It is precisely God as a conscious, responsive, good supreme being of infinite scope -- who prompts awareness of idolatry, false Gods, and heretical religions." This argument seems somewhat in conflict with his claim that Medieval Europeans were not really that Christian. But it could be argued that even a vague theism lent Europe the solidarity by which to resist Islam, that India for example lacked.
Stark argues that persecution of Jews by Christians and Muslims came during times of stress from "significant (outside) threats." I found this one of his most interesting, and convincing, arguments. Given similar attacks on minorities in Asia, though, I think the phenomena might also be given a broader sociological explanation, such as Rene Girard's theory of scape-goating. It would be interesting to try to fit the two theories together, somehow. Also, to what degree might the three Western monotheisms resemble one another simply because they have interacted, rather than because of their common believe in God?
Stark also offers an intriguing explanation of the general tolerance of American society, which he thinks is stronger among believers than among secularists.
In effect, Stark dares to challenge the great religious dogma of our day, that all religions are basically the same, whether equally good, bad, or useful. (To paraphrase Gibbon.) Stark argues that, for better AND for worse, faiths are not equal. While at some points, he may overlook sociological or psychological similarities that creep into every community of like-minded persons, I think he is right that different world views do make different worlds. His argument may need to be both narrowed and expanded, at different points. Theisms do share some qualities, but in other regards, Confucianism (which can also be a form of theism, BTW) may seem more like Christianity, and Islam more like Marxism or Mormonism. Those characteristics, I might argue, have in part to do with the personalities and actions of their founders.
While I might be inclined to tweak some of his theories a bit, Stark's books constitute a thought-provoking, open-minded starting point for considering how Judeo-Christian faith helped form the peculiar world that we inhabit.