Item description for The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success by Rodney Stark...
Overview A critical analysis of the important role of Christianity in the history of the West argues that the Christian faith's emphasis on reason, progress, moral equality, and freedom led to technological innovation, the rise of science, open political institutions, democracy, and capitalism, paving the way to Western success. Reprint. 25,000 first printing.
Publishers Description Many books have been written about the success of the West, analyzing why Europe was able to pull ahead of the rest of the world by the end of the Middle Ages. The most common explanations cite the West's superior geography, commerce, and technology. Completely overlooked is the fact that faith in reason, rooted in Christianity's commitment to rational theology, made all these developments possible. Simply put, the conventional wisdom that Western success depended upon overcoming religious barriers to progress is utter nonsense. In The Victory of Reason, Rodney Stark advances a revolutionary, controversial, and long overdue idea: that Christianity and its related institutions are, in fact, directly responsible for the most significant intellectual, political, scientific, and economic breakthroughs of the past millennium. In Stark's view, what has propelled the West is not the tension between secular and nonsecular society, nor the pitting of science and the humanities against religious belief. Christian theology, Stark asserts, is the very font of reason: While the world's other great belief systems emphasized mystery, obedience, or introspection, Christianity alone embraced logic and reason as the path toward enlightenment, freedom, and progress. That is what made all the difference. In explaining the West's dominance, Stark convincingly debunks long-accepted "truths." For instance, by contending that capitalism thrived centuries before there was a Protestant work ethic-or even Protestants-he counters the notion that the Protestant work ethic was responsible for kicking capitalism into overdrive. In the fifth century, Stark notes, Saint Augustine celebrated theological and material progress and the institution of "exuberant invention." By contrast, long before Augustine, Aristotle had condemned commercial trade as "inconsistent with human virtue"-which helps further underscore that Augustine's times were not the Dark Ages but the incubator for the West's future glories. This is a sweeping, multifaceted survey that takes readers from the Old World to the New, from the past to the present, overturning along the way not only centuries of prejudiced scholarship but the antireligious bias of our own time. The Victory of Reason proves that what we most admire about our world-scientific progress, democratic rule, free commerce-is largely due to Christianity, through which we are all inheritors of this grand tradition.
"From the Hardcover edition."
Citations And Professional Reviews The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success by Rodney Stark has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
New York Times - 10/22/2006 page 28
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Studio: Random House Trade Paperbacks
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 7.96" Width: 5.4" Height: 0.66" Weight: 0.5 lbs.
Release Date Oct 1, 2006
Publisher Random House Trade Paperbacks
ISBN 0812972333 ISBN13 9780812972337
Availability 0 units.
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 The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success?
While not necessarily convincing, Stark holds his own in argument. Mar 8, 2007
These days, most Westerners believe that it was Catholicism and Christianity that were the repressive forces that enslaved and held back what are now considered natural freedoms. Stark argues that in fact, it was the Catholic Church and Christianity in general that brought us capitalism and freedom.
Stark, as always, marshalls impressive resources in favor of his argument. Did you know, for example, that neither the Romans nor other classical civilizations knew how to harness horses effectively? Stark explains that Dark Age Europeans - supposedly mired in ignorance - developed not only a well padded collar that allowed horses to pull heavier loads, but they also developed iron shoes for horses' hooves. This invention allowed horses to pull even heavier loads which had obviously implications for agriculture and trade. These innovations led to heavier and than wheeled plows. Stark's scholarship is indeed impressive.
Ultimately Stark concludes that Christianity was a liberating influence, but that the rulers of the age - kings, nobles, clergy - were the real cause of political repression.
When you look back from a position intellectually inferior to Stark's and see the inquisition, the burnings, the slaughters, you have to wonder if Stark's arguments are persuasive enough.
Every history professor and teacher should read this book! Mar 7, 2007
Presents a well researched and reasoned explanation of how Christian thought and practice lead to intellectual freedom and as a consequence to economic and scientific advances. This files in the face of the revisionist, politically correct view of Western Civilization and history that has dominated college and even secondary school curriculum for a generation. It is very readable and you do not need a strong background in history to understand and appreciate this book. While I highly recommend this book for everyone, I would strongly encourage every history professor and teacher should set their pre-conceived notions aside and read this book with an open mind. This should be on the recommended reading list of every college Western History course of instruction!
Heaven Help Us Feb 17, 2007
If Tom Buchanan from Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby were real and alive today in East Egg, he would adore Rodney Stark's hooray-for-our-side, jaw-droppingly biased account of Western history. I am still at a loss to understand the argument that Christianity is marvelous because it lies at the root of capitalism. I'm pretty much a fan of both "C" words, but to laud Christianity for making the Western world rich seems to be missing the whole point of the religion, which I had naively thought had to do with the rejection of worldly temptations in favor of the greater, unseen riches of Faith, Hope, and Charity. Indeed, it would seem to me that, to the extent that Christianity has led to the unbridled acquisition (and grossly unequal distribution) of money, it has precisely failed to accomplish its mission among men. I suspect that, if Christ were informed that he was the father of Rockefeller, Carnegie, and Vanderbilt, he would demand a blood test. To measure the efficacy of a religion according to the wealth of the nations that followed it seems wrong, wrong, wrong. Doubtless, this book will find favor among McMansion dwellers who regard their bloated 401-Ks as a sure sign of God's grace. They are welcome to it.
Christianity and Civilization Feb 12, 2007
Book delivery delayed. Too many prom offers. Book excelent, surprising, Eye opener. Demostrate error and bias of most of the media and liteerature.
A Challenge to Think Jan 31, 2007
"The Victory of Reason" challenged me to think, and I like that in a book. Stark's premise that Christianity led to capitalism and Western success flies in the face of political correctness in the U.S. today. I knew that it led to freedom, but he goes beyond that. His analysis of history and comparisons of Western culture with Chinese, Greek, and Roman cultures are carefully and convincingly done.