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For the Glory of God: How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witch-Hunts, and the End of Slavery Paperback – 29 Aug 2004

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Product details

  • Paperback: 504 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (29 Aug. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691119503
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691119502
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 3 x 22.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 765,231 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

Amazon Review

For the Glory of God challenges numerous assumptions about how religion affected the course of history. As a professor of Sociology and Comparative Religions at the University of Washington, Rodney Stark (The Rise of Christianity) has a unique ability to write like a chatty social scientist while delving into complicated theories on religion and history. Here he shows how beliefs in God--whether it was through the filter of Christianity, Judaism, or Islam--provoked and fuelled human history. Of course most readers won't argue with his evidence that religious fervour influenced the witch hunts. But readers may be surprised by Stark's assertion that the persecution of witches actually had more to do with the conflicts between the world's major religions than the oppressive beliefs of fanatical clergy or sexist men.

Stark also asserts that the same religious leaders who were the first to persecute witches were also the first to take a stand against slavery. And, contrary to many historical theories, Stark claims that religion may have been the driving force behind the emergence of modern science. Stark's fascinating conclusions may rile conventional historians. Indeed, Stark was dismayed to discover how many historians "dismiss the role of religion in producing 'good' things such as the rise of science or the end of slavery, and the corresponding efforts to blame religion for practically everything 'bad'." While certainly biased in defence of religious beliefs, especially Christianity, Stark offers a respectable and intelligent argument for church leaders, theologians and maybe a few history buffs to ponder. --Gail Hudson, Amazon.com --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

ÝA¨ provocative volume--lucid and tightly reasoned.

ÝStark¨ writes with a clarity and concision that make him a pleasure to read. . . . A number of fondly held myths get demolished in this book. -- David Klinghoffer "National Review"


[A] provocative volume--lucid and tightly reasoned. -- Booklist



"For the Glory of God" . . . is an important book. It is immensely learned, consistently contentious, and filled with brilliant, if sometimes eccentric, insights. . . [F]or those who are open to a very different interpretation of the development of Western Civilization ... "For the Glory of God" is strongly recommended. -- First Things


"For the Glory of God" . . . is an important book. It is immensely learned, consistently contentious, and filled with brilliant, if sometimes eccentric, insights. . . [F]or those who are open to a very different interpretation of the development of Western Civilization ... "For the Glory of God" is strongly recommended. -- "First Things

[A] provocative volume--lucid and tightly reasoned. -- "Booklist

[Stark] writes with a clarity and concision that make him a pleasure to read. . . . A number of fondly held myths get demolished in this book.--David Klinghoffer "National Review "

This is a sociology of religion that takes seriously what people believe. Stark knows that beliefs have consequences. They can even change the course of history.--David Neff "Christianity Today "


[Stark] writes with a clarity and concision that make him a pleasure to read. . . . A number of fondly held myths get demolished in this book.
--David Klinghoffer "National Review "


This is a sociology of religion that takes seriously what people believe. Stark knows that beliefs have consequences. They can even change the course of history.
--David Neff "Christianity Today "


Winner of the History/Biography Award of Merit, "Christianity Today Magazine"

Winner of the 2004 Distinguished Book Award, Society for the Scientific Study of Religion


"[Stark] writes with a clarity and concision that make him a pleasure to read. . . . A number of fondly held myths get demolished in this book."--David Klinghoffer, "National Review"

"This is a sociology of religion that takes seriously what people believe. Stark knows that beliefs have consequences. They can even change the course of history."--David Neff, "Christianity Today"

"[A] provocative volume--lucid and tightly reasoned."--"Booklist"

""For the Glory of God" . . . is an important book. It is immensely learned, consistently contentious, and filled with brilliant, if sometimes eccentric, insights. . . [F]or those who are open to a very different interpretation of the development of Western Civilization ... "For the Glory of God" is strongly recommended."--"First Things"

Winner of the History/Biography Award of Merit, "Christianity Today Magazine"
Winner of the 2004 Distinguished Book Award, Society for the Scientific Study of Religion

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Rodney Stark has written a book that every history and sociology student should read. It's also a great resource for Christians wishing to research the triumphs and some of the mistakes that have been carried out in God's name. I would also recommend it to aficionados of Religion like Dan Brown fans and people who love a conspiracy!
The book deals with three topics over which there is much controversy and confusion. With tons of research and great sensitivity Stark separates truth from error and presents his own reasoned arguments. The careful reader is left with a much clearer picture of why the God of Christianity in particular has been such catalyst for change and shaped history so dramatically.
The book is easy to read, although it contains some dense documentary in places, and is very rewarding. It is an excellent addition to any thoughtful person’s library.
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Format: Paperback
There is a great deal of food for thought in this interesting, informative and well-researched book. It gives an account of the role Christianity has played in the rise of the modern world, in both its social and scientific aspects. The chapter on the rise of science is particularly good, detailing the role played by belief in a rational deity, which had established a universe of rational, consistent and immutable natural laws. The book also debunks some long-standing myths about the Catholic church.
Nonetheless there are some claims which I think are questionable. Stark suggests that the reason why science in its modern form did not arise in Ancient Greece, or eastern cultures, is that in these civilisations the Supreme Being/First Cause was seen as impersonal, and hence as not really rational. I am not wholly convinced of this. The Chinese have always seen reason as a property of the Tao, and the concept of dharma, which encompasses both the natural and the moral order, is deeply rooted in Indian thought. It's also of interest that neo-Platonism and Hermeticism, which both have their roots in Greek thought, were major influences on most of the people who created the scientific revolution. I felt that this aspect of the rise of science was not really dealt with. However, on the whole, this is a book to be recommended, if only because it gives the lie to so many myths.
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interesting view of how Christianity has shaped the development of science
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars 35 reviews
118 of 126 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An essential book. 22 Sept. 2005
By David Marshall - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
If I were going to pick ten "must read" books out of the two hundred or so I have reviewed for Amazon or in print, this brilliant work would be near the top. One of the others was Stanley Jaki's Savior of Science; Stark treats Christianity and science in far more detail and more convincingly than Jaki, and three related aspects of religious history just as well. Your education is not complete, and may be defective, until you have come to terms with Stark's arguments.

Stark makes four main arguments. First, faith in God leads to quarrelsomeness (what someone referred to as the "joy of sects") and to reformations. (Brilliantly contrasting the "Church of Power" and the "Church of Piety.") Stark has some very interesting insights deriving from Adam Smith about what happens when a religion has a monopoly, and what happens when (as in the US) there is a free market of spiritual ideas in effect. But he somehow manages to spin his sociological theories without impinging on individual human choice.

Second, Stark argues that faith in God encouraged Christians to invent science. Having read other books making the same claim, I think Stark's approach to this question is one of the best. Not only does he go over the development of technology in the so-called "Dark Ages," and show how the "Enlightenment" picture of Copernican era science is a myth, he studies 52 key early scientists, and shows that more than 60 % were "devout," while only 2 were skeptics. The critic below who asks why Christianity did not produce science in Russia did not read attentively: Stark argues that faith in God was a necessary, but not sufficient, cause of the rise of science. Other factors were also involved. True, he does goes on quite a tangent (10-15 pages; but in a 400 + page book) on evolution. But even there, he finds some interesting things to say -- I didn't know the story of the debate between Huxley and Wilberforce was untrue, for example.

The third section of the book gives a detailed, and I think true, explanation of the witchhunts. "Anti-Semitic violence, persecution of heretics, and witch hunts were collateral results of conflicts between major religious forces" (ie, Islam and Christianity). I do not think this "denigrates" or "trivializes" the idea that witchhunting was an act of "social solidarity," as is claimed below; in fact Stark looks in detail at such community-level causes as well as the "big picture." (See the works of Rene Girard for fascinating insight on "scapegoating" in general, a concept that may help bridge Stark's approach and the "social solidarity" approach.) Stark also points out that the witch hunts claimed less than one in a hundred as many victims as often alleged, that it was not enlightenment figures, but inquisitors and a Jesuit, who first spoke against persecution of "witches," and that early Christians like Augustine thought belief in witches was pure superstition.

Finally, Stark shows how Christians put an end to slavery, beginning in the "Dark Ages." His discussion of this subject is more complete and detailed than any I have read. As with his treatment of science, he draws from a wide array of sources, and gives facts and figures when possible. (How much England paid to free the slaves, the percent of abolitionists who were pastors, and so on.) Along the way, Stark takes his favorite hobby-horses in the sociology of science out for a handsome trot across the landscape.

Finally, let me offer a rebuttal to recent critism. The previous reviewer complains of Stark's many errors. Unfortunately, the only example he gives (calling the Dao Dejing by the name of its author, Lao Zi) is not a mistake. I have a copy of the book on my shelf in Chinese with just that title; both titles are now used. Calling a philosophy book by the name of its author was standard in ancient China: the Zhuang Zi, Xun Zi, or Mencius.

Another critic (who may or may not have read the rest of the book) rants angrily against Stark's attempt to set the relationship between Christianity and persecution of witches in a more context. She calls it "the dumbest thing I ever heard." But contrary to what she seems to think, Stark does NOT say witches worship the devil, rather: "the concept of satanism was deduced by leading Church intellectuals." The critic also suggests we ask a modern witch. Good idea. Neo-pagan historian Jenny Gibbons has written an on-line article that admits, with embarrassment at such sensationalism in the New Age community, many of the very points Stark makes.

The "militant skeptic" below gives a fairer review, and may have caught Stark out in a minor error or two on a periferal subject. (I haven't read Libanios.) But I can find such micro-flubs in most books, even my own. In a book of this scope and detail, that is hardly reason to grade such a sweeping, and empirically tested, argument down. Stark often gets big facts I am aware of right where many or most writers get them wrong.

Contrary to what some seem to assume, this is not a text of apologetics. I recently saw Stark quoted by a skeptic, assuming he was one of their own. An honest arbitaire, like the Jesuits of Paraguay whose remarkable story Stark tells, may get it from both sides. Don't let niggling criticism dissuade you from reading this brilliant, essential, and deeply enlightening work.

author, Jesus and the Religions of Man
88 of 96 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars well organized, thoughtful, interesting, systematic approach 7 Feb. 2004
By R. M. Williams - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I got the book for the contents of chapter 4: "God's Justice: The Sin of Slavery", as a deliberate part of my directed self-study on the issue of the hermeneutics of slavery. After finishing the chapter i completed the rest of the book because of the author's persuasive and compelling writing and knowledge. Two important motifs stand out from the general arguments of the book. The first is the distinction of the "Church of Power" and the "Church of Piety", brought about by the unfortunate Constantinian synthesis that brought power, wealth, control and lots of conniving people into what had been a lowly, poor, unpowerful movement of aimed at righteous living, thus deforming everything it touched. This is the introduction, "Dimensions of the Supernatural". He has a well thought out, and interesting presentation of several related ideas: the level of commitment as indicative of not just what people are willing to put into an institution but what they expect to obtain from it, level of commitment as the psychological motor of reformation and sect-formation. This is the second great idea of the author's: The one true God of monotheism leads naturally to the idea of the one true faith as expressive of belief in this God, along with the level of commitment of individual's as determinative of where they lie on a continuum of interest/commitment. The more people demand of an institution that controls a monopoly on the belief system the more it either splits externally or reforms internally, depending on how the institution treats the rising commitment levels. This is chapter 1: "God's Truth: Inevitable Sects and Reformations", and apparently the author's first book, <u> the One True God</u>, which i ordered on the grounds of reading this one.
His research and argumentation is top-notch, for instance, in the section on comparing Islamic and Western slavery(in the Americas) he notes that roughly equal numbers of Africans where taken to both areas(7 million, pg 304). But where there are millions of the descendents of these slaves throughout the Americas, there exists few to none in the Islamic crescent from the Sudan through the old Ottoman empire, to India and ending with Indonesia. Such a simple yet compelling observation, indicative of much of the reasoning in the book, straightforward, interesting, and very persuasive.
I did not get what i came to read, that is an analysis of the arguments for and against slavery, but i got more than i expected, and interesting and awareness increasing book. If you are interested in getting a taste of the book before commiting to read it, i would start with the first dozen or so pages of chapter 2: "God's Handiwork: The Relgious Origins of Science." A very readable revisionist, debunking account of the rise of Western science and the relationship it had to Christian theology.
62 of 67 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Debunking of Popular Myths 22 Nov. 2003
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Stark, an influential sociologist of religion, might have chosen the title The Book of Debunkings III. Volumes one and two are his earlier The Rise of Christianity and One True God. The relentlessly contrarian, vigorously argued, and impressively documented argument is that scholars of the modern era have routinely discounted and distorted the role of religion, and of monotheism in particular, in world history. The present volume continues the argument under four headings: God's truth, God's handiwork, God's enemies, and God's justice. Belief in the unity of God's truth explains the reformations (plural) and formation of sects in Christian history. These things did not happen in classical polytheism or the "godless" spiritualities of the East for the same reason that science did not develop in those worlds. Belief in the truth that the creation is God's handiwork generated the scientific progress that began not in the eighteenth century but in medieval scholasticism. Stark's discussion of science includes a succinct and convincing critique of the dogmatic materialism propounded by prominent evolutionists. The third part, "God's enemies," treats the outbreak of witch-hunting, concentrated in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, which, contra conventional wisdom, resulted in thousands, not millions, of deaths of both men and women, and in which the Inquisition was typically a moderating influence. The belief in evil forces such as witchcraft, Stark contends, was the flip side of the unity of truth and commitment to reason, and was supported by Newton and many others revered by the Enlightenment. Witch-hunting was ended not by Enlightenment skepticism but by Christians protesting torture and other injustices entailed in the practice. Finally, "God's justice" explains why the near-universal institution of slavery was abolished under the influence of Christian morality, having been condemned by Christian thinkers and popes-sometimes with little effect upon temporal powers and slaveholders-for many centuries. (A major reason for slavery's survival in Islam, Stark says, is that Muhammad bought, sold, captured, and owned slaves.) On these and other questions, Stark's findings are sometimes so sympathetic to Catholicism that he early on makes a point of his not being a Roman Catholic. In a postscript titled "Gods, Rituals, and Social Science," Stark takes on a sociological tradition that, beginning with Durkheim, assumes that ritual rather than belief explains the influence of religion in society. Along the way, he also challenges Marxist and postmodern theorists with their sundry revisionisms that deny or relegate to epiphenomenal status the power of religion, notably of monotheism, in historical change. For the Glory of God, like the two earlier volumes, is an important book. It is immensely learned, consistently contentious, and filled with brilliant, if sometimes eccentric, insights. Its publication should create a furor, but that probably will not happen since the secularist prejudices it exposes are so deeply entrenched in the intellectual habits of modernity. Yet for those who are open to a very different interpretation of the development of Western Civilization-and the difference between the West and "the rest"-For the Glory of God is strongly recommended. This is from a First Things review.
43 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Iconoclastic Reinterpretation of the Influence of Religion on Western History 27 July 2005
By George R Dekle - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
In "Aristotle's Children" by Richard Rubenstein, we learned how the rediscovery of ancient wisdom, especially the writings of Aristotle, illuminated the Dark Ages despite the opposition of the Christian Church.

In "For the Glory of God" Stark posits that science was born in Christian Europe because of the Christian Religion, not in spite of it. He further asserts that the rediscovery of Classical wisdom impeded rather than enhanced the growth of Science.

"Aristotle's Children" argues that Islam's rejection of Aristotle led to scientific stagnation whereas the West's embracing Aristotle spurred scientific discovery. "For the Glory of God" stands for the proposition that, had the West rediscovered Aristotle too soon, Science might never have come to be. Science did not conquer Christianity, the Christian concept of God gave birth to Science. Read the book to see how this could be.

Stark says a number of other things which don't square with the conventional wisdom on religion. And he supports his assertions with sound evidence and sound argumentation.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another Fine Work by Stark 2 Jun. 2006
By K.H. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Rodney Stark's book sets to establish the idea that Christianity led to religious as well as political reformations, increase in science, and the "end of slavery." I deliberately put the end of slavery in parenthesis because of the review below mine. The traditional notion of slavery has been essentially demolished (kidnapping someone from their homeland) and the below review axe to grind statements misses that important context that is axiomatic in the book and in Stark's writing. Stark reminds readers that Christian beliefs and practices logically and practically led to the end of slavery, while other belief systems did not (for example, it was not until 1965 that Saudi Arabia terminated slavery within its country).

Further, the rise of science really was sparked by many factors, but a leading this charge were Christian ideas and principles both from a Reformed idea and Catholic Natural Law. It is one of the reasons why Western Christian nations generally developed much faster in science, technology, and politics than the rest of the world. Further, science without a Christian moral vision as been dastardly (abortion, Nazi experiments, communist Russia, etc). Stark's appendix 2.1 shows the record of the most important Western scientists who built the foundation for our day and the list, not disputed by even historians over whelming shows that these men were themselves religious.

The book is well researched and written, and Stark is a first class academic (he used to be an agnostic if I remember correctly, but since he now teaches at Baylor, I assume he is at least a Christian in some form or another). His book reads well as a primer or intermediate text on the subject and a lay person can easily "get into the book" as well.
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