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

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Editorial Reviews 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 fueled human history. Of course many readers won’t dicker with his evidence that religious fervor 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. He 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 weighed in defense 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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

In One True God: Historical Consequences of Monotheism, sociologist of religion Stark examined the nature of God, the wrath of God, the kingdom of God, the grace of God and the "chosen" of God. In this follow-up volume to his ambitious magnum opus, Stark investigates the role of monotheistic religions in reformations, witch-hunts, slavery and science. Such efforts represent an attempt by monotheistic religions to preserve the idea of the One True God against corrupting influences inside and outside the religions themselves. Stark asserts that, contrary to traditional notions, no single religious reformation can be isolated in any monotheistic religion. Thus, Christianity has experienced not simply the Reformation of Luther but many and various reformations that resulted in a diversity of sectarian movements that practice the worship of the One True God in their own ways. Stark also argues that science could have evolved only out of a monotheistic culture that viewed the world as God's handiwork, and that the witch-hunts of Europe could have taken place only in a culture marred by religious conflict and motivated by the desire to displace heretical religious sects. Despite its purported general focus on monotheistic religions, however, the book devotes very little attention to Islam or Judaism, a serious omission in a study that claims to cover so much ground. In addition, Stark's turgid prose and social-scientific style mar what otherwise could have been an engaging study.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 504 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (August 29, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691119503
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691119502
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.2 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #484,305 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

112 of 120 people found the following review helpful By David Marshall on September 22, 2005
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.
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87 of 95 people found the following review helpful By R. M. Williams on February 7, 2004
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.Read more ›
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61 of 66 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 22, 2003
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.Read more ›
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