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The Churching of America, 1776-2005: Winners and Losers in Our Religious Economy Paperback – March 3, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Roger Finke is a professor of sociology and religious studies at the Pennsylvania State University and serves as the director of the American Religion Data Archive. Rodney Stark was for many years professor of sociology and comparative religion at the University of Washington. In 2004 he became University Professor of the Social Sciences at Baylor University.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Rutgers University Press; Revised edition (March 3, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813535530
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813535531
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.2 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #178,849 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By César González Rouco on June 18, 2005
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If someone thinks that religion, in order to attract new believers, should be in harmony with this world, woe betides him, he seems to be wrong. The authors explain that for more than two centuries, in America, the religious denominations with better scores in rates of growth were those which were organized sect-like, i.e., maintained distance with the world by imposing heavy demands upon his flock (but also granting them great rewards). On the other side, those which tried and compromised, in order to relieve tensions and differences with their society (i.e., those church-like) have been steadily declining. Difference pays, assimilation and ecumenism leads to bankruptcy.

Why? Read the book and you will find out, and although perhaps you will be somewhat shocked to see religion explained by often using economic terminology, do not worry, the book is not irreverent. Besides, it is not a difficult read (only 300 pages) though it is not a light read either (content: 5 starts; pleasure: 4 to 3).

P.S. For more information, I would also suggest reading the reviews of the first edition of this work ("The Churching of America, 1776-1990").
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Gerard Reed on April 3, 2009
Format: Paperback
Critics of American Evangelicalism too often ignore the historical data detailed in The Churching of America 1776-1990: Winners and Losers in Our Religious Economy (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, c. 1992) by Roger Finke and Rodney Stark. In America, at least, intellectuals have contributed little to church growth or to the preservation of orthodox doctrine. Instead, they have generally contributed to their demise. Rather than a Christian nation losing its complexion of faith, this nation has been successfully christianized during the past 200 years.
This success story, "The churching of America was accomplished by aggressive churches committed to vivid otherworldliness" (p. 1). These churches have not generally enjoyed a friendly press. For example, historians have generally described folks "involved in the Holiness Movement" or backward Bible-belt Fundamentalists as "unsophisticated souls, sadly out of joint with modern times" (p. 5). They were, scholars declaim, "losers," incapable of meaningful dialogue with their world.
Finke and Stark, however, insist they were winners, not losers. They may have lacked the intellectual acumen favored by scholars. But enthusiastic sects, not the more refined denominations from which they came, christianized the nation. As H. Richard Niebuhr understood, "'In Protestant history the sect has ever been the child of an outcast minor¬ity, taking its rise in the religious revolts of the poor'" (p. 43). So America's poor joined sectarian movements and the nation now testifies to their success. When George Whitefield preached, the people flocked to hear him, while established clergy (sounding much like David Wells today) denounced him. The faculty of Harvard published a Testimony against the Reverend Mr.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Ima Pseudonym on March 1, 2008
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For years, Americans have been fed the story that religious belief in America is diminishing, as more citizens "drift away" from various churches toward secularism. The authors of this book, who examined thousands of church records and other documents from a more critical viewpoint, show this belief is false.

The statistics, when evaluated objectively rather than through the typical "falling away from God" paranoia, show religious activity in the US has actually been rising since Colonial times. Data doesn't lie. While church membership was higher on paper during the Colonial period, this is only because Colonies and individual towns were managed directly through local churches. These churches collected taxes from all citizens. Therefore churches showed high "membership" rates since nearly all citizens were listed on their rolls. Anyone who paid taxes or fees for residency were counted as "members." Other, less objective researchers have missed this point, and claimed high membership meant a high level of religious fervor during the early Colonial period. This really wasn't the case. Remember, only 35 of the 105 Mayflower colonists were Puritans. The others were merchants, fishermen, trappers, and others who were simply traveling to America. Most histories don't note this.

Why are Americans constantly bombarded by the idea that the US is becoming "less Christian" than it was before? Primarily it's because certain sects have lost members while others gained them. Some sects that were dominant in early America barely exist today.

Another force is also at work here. Religious leaders love to portray the church as "oppressed" by evil secular forces. They'd rather appeal to followers' emotions and fears than admit that American churches are doing rather well.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By AusNacht on November 3, 2006
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I have studied church history for some time now and I found this to be a great book, easy to read, and very interesting. I also recomment Rodney Stark's other work, I cannot comment on Roger Finke since this is the first contact I've had with his writing but I was very pleased.

If you want to know more about American church history, you will enjoy this book.
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