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Discovering God: The Origins of the Great Religions and the Evolution of Belief Hardcover – Bargain Price, October 2, 2007
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“[A] wide-ranging investigation...serious students of religion will recognize this as an essential sourcebook.” (Booklist )
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Top Customer Reviews
Stark, a professor of Social Sciences at Baylor University, is a prolific author and renowned scholar in the field of sociology of religion. This his new book is a history of the origins of religions covering prehistoric primal beliefs, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Taoism and Confucianism, as well as the religions of Sumer, Egypt, Greece, early Rome and Mesoamerica. And, of course, Christianity and Islam.
Pursuant to him, God does exist and the evolution of religion is the story of how humans perceive God's revelations; over time, "human images of God will tend to progress from those having smaller to those having greater scope" and "humans will prefer an image of God[s] as rational and loving."
Defending that religious belief can be defended along more-or-less rational and ethical lines, and scolding monopoly religious organizations and temple religions which existed only to serve a small elite, not the common people, he argues for a free-market theory of religion (in a nutshell, religious competition increases the overall religiousness of the population) and that under unimpeded conditions, the most authentic religions will survive.Read more ›
Rodney Stark has been one of America's leading sociologists of religion for a long time. (Cited by skeptics as well as religious believers.) His marketplace model of religions, which he has been developing for decades (it goes back at least to his Theory of Religion) is a powerful tool of understanding: it may revolutionize the way you see the world, as it did for me. In Theory of Religion, and then his series on the rise of Christianity, Stark developed and tested a series of general postulates about the social nature of religion, seldom however writing too boldly about its ontological basis.
This book pulls many of the threads of Stark's storied career together,introduces interesting new topics -- especially "temple religion," and a thoughtful take on Lang's "High Gods" -- and poses a few questions about the truth or falsehood of religion as well.
Over the past 24 years, I have researched many of the topics Stark covers in this book. What impresses me about this book is that Stark so often gets it right where the "conventional wisdom" gets it wrong. I begin with specific claims, then will comment on Stark's story of religion:
"Where religious monopolies prevail. the overall level of public religious involvement will be low."
"Why did none of these three 'major' religions, nor even all of them together, actually become the religion of most Chinese?" (As a China scholar, and author of True Son of Heaven, I see that as a great question -- though by my count, China has traditionally had some eight "major" religions.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Great start but lost so much ground in merely describing Christianity and Islam that when the conclusion attempted to tie everything up, it lost a lot of its potential force.Published 1 month ago by JC Taiwan
This book is a worthwhile read for anyone who has a desire to explore the possibility and probability that God exists and has revealed himself.
Dr. Read more
This was a pretty good book but nothing out of the ordinary for Christian apologists. As a history of religion it is definitely slanted, and heavily, toward the Christian view of... Read morePublished 21 months ago by David S. Wellhauser
This impeccably researched work will challenge your beliefs, whatever they are. Stark does a fine job of laying out the tenants of the major religions in an objective and thorough... Read morePublished on December 13, 2013 by R.C. Kuhlman
I greatly enjoyed this book. Stark gives a very readable and interesting review of the origins of the great religions. Read morePublished on September 17, 2013 by D. Krupp
Oh...I found him. At first glance you may think this is a Where's Waldo? about God book. It's not, sorry; spoiler.Published on May 29, 2013 by Melodramatic
Nice overview on religious history told in a fair manner, though there was nothing really new for this skeptical reviewer/reader. Read morePublished on March 8, 2013 by Hans Castorp
If you like text books this is for you. Not an easy read. Very mundane and dry. Oh yeah, and I don't believe in god.Published on February 6, 2013 by 512
Rodney Stark's dual trademarks of thoroughgoing feistiness and incisive historical analysis are on full display in "Discovering God. Read morePublished on January 1, 2012 by R. Kern