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The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success Paperback – September 26, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
It is a commonplace to think of Christianity and rationalism as opposite historical and philosophical forces. In this stimulating and provocative study, Stark (The Rise of Christianity) demonstrates that elements within Christianity actually gave rise not only to visions of reason and progress but also to the evolution of capitalism. Stark contends that Christianity is a forward-looking religion, evincing faith in progress and in its followers' abilities to understand God over time. Such a future-based rational theology has encouraged the development of technical and organizational advances, such as the monastic estates and universities of the Middle Ages. Stark contends that these developments transformed medieval political philosophy so that democracy developed and thrived in those states, such as northern Italy, that lacked despots and encouraged moral equality. Stark concludes by maintaining that Christianity continues to spread in places like Africa, China and Latin America because of its faith in progress, its rational theology and its emphasis on moral equality. While some historians are likely to question Stark's conclusions, his deftly researched study will force them to imagine a new explanation for the rise of capitalism in Western society. (Dec.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
*Starred Review* At first glance, this book appears to be a retort to geographic theories of societal evolution, of the sort advanced by Jared Diamond's popular Guns, Germs, and Steel. Rather than patterns of weather and agriculture, Stark argues, Europe's primacy in economic, political, and social progress was due to its embrace of Christianity, which opened a space for reason and hence science-driven technology. Emphasizing the connection between medieval scholasticism, with its notion of theological progress--the logical science of thinking one's way closer to God--and Renaissance capitalism, Stark maintains that Christianity alone embraced reason and logic, and this gave Christian regions a tactical advantage in developing commerce. An argument made with unavoidably broad strokes, its actual targets are Max Weber's notion of the Protestant work ethic and the conventional story that religion was a barrier to be overcome en route to progress. At times approaching the invective, its defiant tone will invigorate readers who feel religion's place in the trajectory of world history is under attack. But the theological side of Stark's argument--that Christianity is fraternally bound to reason--will challenge the very same readers to reexamine their own relationship with reason. Brendan Driscoll
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Did you ever know something was “not right” but you couldn't put your finger finger on what it was?
This book fill in those blanks! With information.
Without gong into details: The “Dark Ages”, fall of the Roman Empire, Catholicism/Christianity, Capitalism are filled with the light of knowledge. Maybe for the first time.
Facts you can argue with. Powerful ammunition.
Aim small, miss small.
Stark argues that the Christian faith uniquely set the conditions for many of the breakthroughs and advances that have shaped the modern capitalist world - from banking to freedom to property rights. These advances were not possible under the Islamic faith or Eastern beliefs.
Stark's history is revisionist at times. He repudiates the modern perception that Greek science and thought or Roman technological innovations were better than the "Dark Ages," and he denies the banking accomplishments of the early Islamic world or the technological advances of the Asian world. And while he isn't the first to link the success of the West to Christianity, he does so in a unique and convincing manner.
This is a very intriguing book, if a bit dry at times. Stark's arguments are wide-ranging and persuasive, although he does leave the reader wanting a fuller explanation of some of his revisionist arguments. Anyone with any interest in history or theology should read this book.