PERSONAL: Male. Education: University of Denver, B.A., 1959, University of California, Berkeley, M.A., 1965, Ph.D., 1971.
ADDRESSES: Offıce—Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Baylor University, One Bear Place, Waco, TX 76798.
CAREER: Denver Post, Denver, CO, reporter, 1955-56; Oakland Tribune, Oakland, CA, reporter, 1959-61; University of California, Berkeley, research assistant to research sociologist at Survey Research Center, 1961-70, research sociologist at Center for the Study of Law and Society, 1968-71; University of Washington, Seattle, professor of sociology and comparative religion, 1971-2003; Baylor University, Waco, TX, university professor of the social sciences, 2004—. MicroCase Corp., Seattle and Bellevue, WA, cofounder and director, 1987-99. Military service: Served in U.S. Army, 1957-59, became specialist third class; promoted to sergeant in the active reserve, 1961.
MEMBER: Association for the Sociology of Religion (president, 1982-83), American Sociological Association (chair, section on the sociology of religion, 1996-97), Society for the Scientific Study of Religion (president, 2003-04), Sociological Research Association.
AWARDS, HONORS: Distinguished book award, Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, 1986, for The Future of Religion: Secularization, Revival, and Cult Formation, and 1993, for The Churching of America, 1776-1990: Winners and Losers in Our Religious Economy; award for distinguished scholarship, Pacific Sociological Association, 1993; D.H.L., Jamestown College, 1994; distinguished book award, American Sociological Association section on the sociology of religion, 2001, for Acts of Faith: Explaining the Human Side of Religion; award of merit, Christianity Today magazine, 2004, for For The Glory of God: How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witch-hunts, and the End of Slavery.
(With Charles Y. Glock) Religion and Society in Tension, Rand McNally (Chicago, IL), 1965.
(With Charles Y. Glock) Christian Beliefs and Anti-Semitism, Harper (New York, NY), 1966.
(With Charles Y. Glock) Patterns of Religious Commitment, Volume 1: American Piety: The Nature of Religious Commitment, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1968.
(With Charles Y. Glock, Bruce D. Foster, and Harold E. Quinley) Wayward Shepherds: Prejudice and the Protestant Clergy, Harper (New York, NY), 1971.
Police Riots: Collective Violence and Law Enforcement, Wadsworth (Belmont, CA), 1972.
(Editor and contributor) Society Today, 2nd edition, CRM Books (Del Mar, CA), 1973.
(With Ronald L. Akers and others) Social Problems, Random House (New York, NY), 1975.
Sociology, Wadsworth (Belmont, CA), 1985, 9th edition, 2003.
(Editor) Religious Movements: Genesis, Exodus, andNumbers, Paragon House (New York, NY), 1985.
(With William Sims Bainbridge) The Future ofReligion: Secularization, Revival, and Cult Formation, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1985.
Crime and Deviance in North America, MicroCase (Seattle, WA), 1986, 2nd edition, 1993.
(With William Sims Bainbridge) A Theory of Religion, Peter Lang (New York, NY), 1987, 2nd edition, Rutgers University Press (New Brunswick, NJ), 1996.
Criminology: An Introduction through MicroCase, MicroCase (Bellevue, WA), 1989, 4th edition, with Steven Messner, published as Criminology: An Introduction through MicroCase ExplorIt, 2002.
(With Roger Finke) The Churching of America, 1776-1990: Winners and Losers in Our Religious Economy, Rutgers University Press (New Brunswick, NJ), 1992, 2nd edition, 2005.
Doing Sociology: An Introduction through MicroCase, Wadsworth (Belmont, CA), 1992, 4th edition published as Doing Sociology: A Global Perspective Using MicroCase ExplorIt, 2002.
The Rise of Christianity: A Sociologist ReconsidersHistory, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 1996, published as The Rise of Christianity: How the Obscure, Marginal Jesus Movement became the Dominant Religious Force in the Western World in a Few Centuries, HarperSanFrancisco (San Francisco, CA), 1997.
(With William Sims Bainbridge) Religion, Deviance, and Social Control, Routledge (New York, NY), 1996.
(With Lynne Roberts) Contemporary Social ResearchMethods, MicroCase (Bellevue, WA), 1996, 3rd edition, Wadsworth (Belmont, CA), 2002.
(With Roger Finke) Acts of Faith: Explaining the Human Side of Religion, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 2000.
One True God: Historical Consequences of Monotheism, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 2001.
For the Glory of God: How Monotheism Led toReformations, Science, Witch-hunts, and the End of Slavery, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 2003.
(With Massimo Introvigne) Dio e tornato: indagine sulla rivincita delle religioni in occidente (title means "God Is Back: An Enquiry into the Revival of Religions in the West"), Piemme (Casale Monferrato, Italy), 2003.
Exploring the Religious Life, Johns Hopkins University Press (Baltimore, MD), 2004.
The Rise of a New World Faith: Rodney Stark onMormonism, edited by Reid L. Neilson, University of Illinois Press (Champaign, IL), in press.
Victories of Reason: How Christianity, Freedom, andCapitalism Led to Western Success, Random House (New York, NY), in press.
Contributor to books, including The Politics of Protest, edited by Jerome Skolnick, 1969; The Social Impact of New Religious Movements, edited by Bryan Wilson, 1981; and Contemporary Mormonism: Social Science Perspectives, edited by Marie Cornwall, Tim B. Heaton, and Lawrence Young, 1994. Contributor of articles to journals, including Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Journal of Contemporary Religion, Review of Religious Research, Sociological Analysis, and American Sociological Review.
Author's work has been translated into thirteen foreign languages, including Chinese, Romanian, and Turkish.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Christianizing the Urban Empire: A New Approach to Early Church History.
SIDELIGHTS: Rodney Stark has a reputation for offering unconventional ideas and lively prose in his scholarly works on religion. Some observers see him as his era's "most provocative thinker in the sociology of religion," noted a First Things contributor. He is also "a wonderful storyteller," remarked Nancy T. Ammerman in Sociology of Religion, the critic maintaining that Stark's writing "never lacks for dramatic flourish" and "he often manages to scavenge wonderful accounts from other fields that enliven and re-direct the received versions of history that often mislead our theorizing."
The prize-winning work The Churching of America, 1776-1990: Winners and Losers in Our Religious Economy, on which Stark collaborated with Rodney Finke, seeks to "'challenge the received wisdom' about why churches grow and why they decline," reported James R. Kelly in Commonweal. This book uses census data and other statistics to indicate that Americans, far from becoming completely secular, have become increasingly church-affiliated since the nation's founding. At the time of the American Revolution, fewer than twenty percent of Americans claimed church membership; by the 1980s, more than sixty percent did, the authors report. Also, they say, fundamentalist and evangelical Christian denominations have gained adherents while mainstream ones have stagnated or declined because a strong message and a demand for commitment are what attract worshippers. Applying a theory of "rational choice" to religion, they say stricter churches may ask a great deal of their members but also promise more benefits than do more moderate congregations. As Richard Brookhiser wrote in National Review, "When a church blunts the tension between it and the world, it loses its own intensity. Thus 'mainline bodies are always headed for the sideline.'"
"Finke and Stark's historical conclusions will alternately tickle the fancy and arouse the ire of serious scholars of American religion," commented James A. Mathiesen in Christianity Today. Mathiesen thought their rational-choice theory applied better to some churches than others; similarly, Brookhiser believed the authors pay insufficient attention to differences among successful churches. Some critics disliked their emphasis on numbers; Christian Century's Martin E. Marty called the approach "reductionism," allowing for "no God or religion or spirituality . . . only winning and losing in the churching game." Likewise, Mathiesen asked, "Must winning be measured only in numerical terms if 'only a few' find the small gate and the narrow way?" He still found the book valuable, "even if one disagrees with its theoretical interpretation, because it supplies such a wealth of historical and sociological analysis in a fashion that is stimulating and thought provoking." Other reviewers praised the work highly. Review of Social Economy contributor John Murray remarked, "Finke and Stark successfully demolish much of the conventional wisdom of American religious history and offer in its place a powerful model." America's M. D. Litonjua concluded that the book, marked by "the painstaking work of reconstructing empirical data and an innovative rational choice theory," is "a major work that calls into question traditional assumptions of American religious history."
The Rise of Christianity: A Sociologist Reconsiders History brought Stark a Pulitzer Prize nomination. He seeks to explain how an initially small sect came to spread throughout the Western world. He offers some new theories, such as that one-on-one evangelization won more converts than missionaries preaching to large audiences. He contends that many early Christians were financially prosperous, whereas some other scholars have characterized Christianity as a religion of the impoverished. He also says the faith especially attracted women, some of whom married pagans and converted them. "This book raises, simply and brilliantly, just the kinds of questions anyone concerned with early Christianity should ask," observed Robert M. Grant in Christian Century. Carl L. Bankston III reported in Commonweal that "Stark uses numbers judiciously, and the methodology is readily comprehensible," adding, "While some readers may feel that parts of Stark's book are highly speculative . . . it provides a welcome new perspective and compelling arguments." Kenneth L. Woodward of Newsweek summed it up as "a fresh, blunt and highly persuasive account of how the West was won—for Jesus."
In One True God: Historical Consequences of Monotheism Stark applies the rational-choice theory to explain the attraction of monotheistic religions over multi-deity ones, claiming that people believe they will receive better care and greater rewards from one deity than from many. He also contends that violent acts by one monotheistic religion's followers against another's are less likely to occur when there is tolerance of many faiths and no one faith has governmental power. Ammerman differed with him somewhat, noting that people sometimes follow a religion not for rewards but out of "tradition or patterned habit" or wanting to do the right thing. Still, she thought One True God "very interesting," with "wonderful sections . . . that illustrate exactly the sort of thick cultural description in which any explanation of religion must be lodged." Commonweal's Paul J. Griffiths questioned Stark's assertion that religious tolerance prevents sectarian violence, noting that the Muslim fundamentalists who attacked the United States on September 11, 2001, may have been motivated by "the perceived threat" to their faith by American religious diversity. He added, though, that One True God provides "much to be grateful for. . . . Stark writes with clarity and wit, and offers a theory of considerable plausibility and interest." Leo D. Lefebure, reviewing the book for Christian Century, deemed the work "lively, pointed and frequently illuminating," and said that while Stark's rational choice approach could be "reductionistic if taken as a total explanation" for religious faith, the book remains "informative, provocative and timely."
For the Glory of God: How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witch-hunts, and the End of Slavery further explores monotheism, particularly Christianity. Stark says Christians' belief in an orderly universe nurtured scientific progress, while the Christian sense of morality helped end witch-hunting and slavery. Reviewers predicted the book would anger those who consider religion incompatible with science. "It is immensely learned, consistently contentious, and filled with brilliant, if sometimes eccentric, insights," observed a First Things contributor. "Its publication should create a furor." David Klinghoffer, critiquing the book for the National Review, added that Stark's work, written with "clarity and concision," will probably "drive the 'liberals' (his word) nuts." Christianity Today's David Neff, meanwhile, was pleased that Stark "takes seriously what people believe, because he knows that beliefs can change the course of history."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
America, May 13, 1995, M. D. Litonjua, review of The Churching of America, 1776-1990: Winners and Losers in Our Religious Economy, p. 29.
American Journal of Sociology, May, 2001, Rhys H. Williams, review of Acts of Faith: Explaining the Human Side of Religion, p. 1840; July, 2002, William A. Mirola, review of One True God: Historical Consequences of Monotheism, p. 249.
Booklist, October 15, 2001, Steven Schroeder, review of One True God, p. 359; June 1, 2003, Bryce Christensen, review of For the Glory of God: How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witch-hunts, and the End of Slavery, p. 1715; October 1, 2003, Ray Olson, "Top 20 Books in Religion," p. 285.
Canadian Journal of Sociology, summer, 2003, Benton Johnson, review of One True God, p. 439.
Christian Century, January 27, 1993, Martin E. Marty, review of The Churching of America, p. 88; November 26, 1996, Robert M. Grant, review of The Rise of Christianity: A Sociologist Reconsiders History, p. 1081; November 21, 2001, Leo D. Lefebure, review of One True God, p. 40; November 15, 2003, John Dart, "Baylor Snares Noted Sociologist," p. 13; November 15, 2003, Daniel E. Pals, review of For the Glory of God, p. 36.
Christianity Today, August 16, 1993, James A. Mathiesen, review of The Churching of America, p. 62; August, 2003, David Neff, "Getting Western Civ Right: Christian Theology Is the Catalyst, Not the Brake, for Progress," p. 53.
Commonweal, April 23, 1993, James R. Kelly, review of The Churching of America, p. 27; March 28, 1997, Carl L. Bankston III, review of The Rise of Christianity, p. 27; November 9, 2001, Paul J. Griffiths, "God Is a Sociologist," p. 26.
First Things, November, 2001, review of One TrueGod, p. 55; August-September, 2003, review of For the Glory of God, p. 56; August-September, 2004, review of Exploring the Religious Life, p. 83.
Free Inquiry, summer, 1993, Paul Kurtz, review of The Churching of America, p. 67.
Historian, fall, 1998, Demetrios J. Constantelos, review of The Rise of Christianity, p. 222.
Insight on the News, July 11, 1994, C. Kirk Hadaway, "Empty Pews Belie Gallup's Good News," p. 18.
Journal of Church and State, spring, 2004, Rodney L. Petersen, review of One True God, p. 410.
Journal of Ecclesiastical History, July, 1997, W. H. C. Frend, review of The Rise of Christianity, p. 515.
Journal of Religion, October, 1998, J. Patout Burns, review of The Rise of Christianity, p. 616; April, 2003, Stephen Hunt, review of Acts of Faith, p. 341.
Journal of Theological Studies, April, 1998, Harry O. Maier, review of The Rise of Christianity, p. 328.
Library Journal, October 15, 2001, Steve Young, review of One True God, p. 81; April 15, 2004, James A. Overbeck, review of Exploring the Religious Life, p. 92.
National Catholic Reporter, February 5, 1993, E. Leo McMannus, review of The Churching of America, p. 36.
National Review, September 6, 1993, Richard Brookhiser, review of The Churching of America, p. 67; July 28, 2003, David Klinghoffer, "The Civilizing God."
New Statesman, December 17, 2001, Peter Watson, "These Books Could Change the World," p. 29.
Newsweek, August 19, 1996, Kenneth L. Woodward, review of The Rise of Christianity, p. 62.
Publishers Weekly, May 27, 1996, review of The Rise of Christianity, p. 71; August 27, 2001, review of One True God, p. 77; May 12, 2003, review of For the Glory of God, p. 64.
Review of Social Economy, summer, 1995, John Murray, review of The Churching of America, p. 297.
Skeptic, fall, 2002, Tim Callahan, "Monotheism's Legacy," p. 94.
Skeptical Inquirer, July-August, 1999, Mark W. Durm, review of The Rise of Christianity, p. 69.
Social Forces, December 1993, Wade Clark Roof, review of The Churching of America, p. 597; June, 1997, Anthony J. Blasi, review of The Rise of Christianity, p. 1499; September, 2001, John P. Bartkowski, review of Acts of Faith, p. 377.
Sociology of Religion, summer, 1997, Joseph M. Bryant, review of The Rise of Christianity, p. 191; summer, 1998, John H. Simpson, review of Religion, Deviance, and Social Control, p. 185; summer, 2001, Steve Bruce, "Christianity in Britain, R.I.P.," p. 191; summer, 2002, William H. Swatos Jr., review of Acts of Faith, p. 262; winter, 2002, Nancy T. Ammerman, review of One True God, p. 548.
Spectator, August 16, 2003, Raymond Carr, "The Dark Side of the Enlightenment," p. 52.
Theological Studies, June, 1997, Dolores Lee Greeley, review of The Rise of Christianity, p. 354.
Baylor University Home Page,http://www.baylor.edu/ (December 10, 2004), "Rodney Stark."*