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One True God: Historical Consequences of Monotheism Paperback – April 13, 2003

4.1 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Long established as a leading sociologist of American religion, Stark has in recent years extended his methodology into increasingly speculative territory. Here he follows up his inquiry into the origins of Christianity with an even more ambitious project: a grand theory of the social and political effects of monotheism in every corner of the globe since the time of the Pharaoh Akhenaten. None of Stark's claims is particularly novel or subtle, and many of them seem just plain wrong. People, he asserts, are more satisfied with rational, dependable, authoritative gods than with pantheons of mercurial deities; therefore, Buddhism died out in India because it was too intellectual and did not offer a satisfying divinity (unlike Hinduism, which Stark declares is really monotheistic, despite much evidence to the contrary). Moreover, members of monotheistic faiths send out missionaries because they think their God is true, and all others false, a presumption that has on occasion led to violence; Jews have resisted conversion over the millennia because they have found solidarity in their common oppression and strength in their monotheism; and pluralism results when members of competing monotheistic faiths decide to set aside their differences to maintain public civility. As an armchair historian, Stark is unconvincing, given to sweeping generalizations and glib overstatements. As an armchair ethnographer, he is often startlingly na‹ve. His claim, for example, that rituals are infrequent in polytheistic cultures is based on a poor understanding of ritual. As grand theories go, this is shallow stuff.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

There are observable social consequences of monotheism, argues Stark (sociology, Univ. of Washington; The Rise of Christianity). Monotheistic faith can unite people in great or terrible undertakings: to convert others to faith and to struggle for justice or to unite them for crusades and bloody persecutions. It can foster group solidarity, enabling a community to endure centuries as a despised minority amid a hostile society. Is monotheism compatible with civil society? Stark argues that it can be, given plenty of options in a religious marketplace wherein no single religion gains a monopoly. In a book that is a joy to read, Stark firmly sides with the monotheists and the invisible hand of a religious free market. History plays a supporting role, enlisted only to support insights drawn from sociological analysis. Stark is heavy-handed at times, arguing that liberal ministers (who believe in a divine "essence" rather than a personal God) and secularists are the bad guys foes of "authentic" faith. Still, this is a thought-provoking and heartening book; recommended for all collections. Steve Young, McHenry County Coll., Crystal Lake, IL
Copyright 2001 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: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (April 13, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691115001
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691115009
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,350,567 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Gerald J. Nora on January 20, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Rodney Stark has done much to dispel my natural-science prejudices against sociology with this very well-written book about something that many, if not most, Americans take for granted: monotheism.
Stark goes over all the basics: why people choose a faith, the nature of monotheism as opposed to polytheism, and the history of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The historical perspectives are particularly handy in these troubled times, as Stark is particularly interested in why religious violence breaks out. Accounts of interfaith violence have been particularly in the foreground of our consciousness with several books on Catholicism (especially the papacy) and anti-Semitism, and above all, the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Much ink has been spent deciphering the relationship with Islam proper and fundamentalism, and this book should give people some much-needed perspective on this haunting, vital question. Moreover, Stark devotes an entire chapter to contemporary trends in monotheistic faiths and their relationships not only with each other but also with the secular elite in America--Stark's honesty and humor in treating this touchy subject was a real treat to read.
My main beef with Stark is his portrayal of religious conversion as a rational, economic decision. He lays it out in Chapter 1: people worship a God because they think that deity will bring good things to them. Now, I'm all for intercessory prayer and getting divine help, but when I've seen genuine converts, they convert because they decide that a faith is true and that they love God and want to know him better. I don't think any religion worth its salt would look well on someone who just wanted to buy off God with some worship in order to get some help in return.
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Format: Paperback
The reviews of this book below are pretty varied: intelligent readers complain that Stark is trying to use sociology to undermine religion, and to prop it up; that he is a "self-styled agnostic," and that he doesn't back up his faith in God (if that's what you want, read my book, Jesus and the Religions of Man!); that he despises post-modernism but gives in to it, and even that he tries to prove a point that the reader agrees with!

You can't satisfy everyone.

Personally, I found this book enjoyable and thought-provoking, though I didn't agree with every point, either.
Stark thinks for himself. He presents the facts in fresh perspective, offers serious arguments, and lets the chips fall on both sides of the page. You must be doing something interesting when you get criticized as an unbeliever by believers, and as a believer by unbelievers.

Stark's thesis is that belief in "One True God" has sociological effects different from belief in many gods or no gods. Monotheism created the cultural solidarity of the Jews that allowed them to survive as a people. (As long as they retained that faith.) Christianity spread during the early centuries through the social networks of ordinary believers. Professional missionaries, Stark argues, are not much use. (This is a good book for missionaries, by the way.) After the Roman empire became officially Christian, the effort to convert Europeans stalled; Stark doubts if the mass of Europeans ever did become orthodox Christians. Given the nature of monotheism, he thinks conflict between Muslims and Christians was inevitable: "It is precisely God as a conscious, responsive, good supreme being of infinite scope -- who prompts awareness of idolatry, false Gods, and heretical religions.
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Format: Paperback
One True God: Historical consequences of Monotheism
Rodney Stark
Oftentimes i find myself very directed in my reading, the last few years have been such a time. I found what is vol 2 of this set For the Glory of God first, as a result of recommendations to read simply one chapter out of it. This book is vol 1 of the set, and now i found that i bought yet another book by Stark The Rise of Christianity, thus moving into the other systematic way of reading, not by topic but by author. And this author has earned such a task, he is witty, interesting and more important presents these big important ideas and defends them with flair.
His big idea is the exchange relationship as a sociological way of looking at religions. The book assumes this and moves on to showing the results of such thinking. The first is that some types of Gods work better as exchange partners, powerful, larger scope(not a local deity, bound to a particular piece of land), a personal Being not an intellectual essence. This is essentially chapter 1- "God's Nature". The subtopic is the inevitable dualism that most answers to the question of theodicy requires, that is blaming the presence of evil in the universe on another less powerful god, devil, satan etc.
Chapter 2- "God's Chosen: Monotheism and Mission" is an analysis of inclusivity vs exclusivity, or universalism vs particularism and the missionary impulse. Aptly summed up in the phrase: "indeed the duty, to spread knowledge of the One True god: the duty to missionize in inherent in dualistic monotheism" pg 35 The analysis of the Church of Power and the Church of Piety and the Constantinian synthesis is worth the reading of the entire book, pg 59-77.
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