Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Notes from Rodney Stark's "For the Glory of God"

The sub-title for Rodney Stark’s For the Glory of God (Princeton University Press, 2004) is How Monotheism led to Reformations, Science, Witch-Hunts, and the end of slavery.

This book is a refutation of Emil Durkheim’s social scientific theory that religion has merely to do with "rites and rituals" and not with what those religions actually believe about who God is. Stark corrects Durkheim by arguing that there are moral implications directly related to what one believe about who God is.

He draws two conclusions: "First, the effects of religiousness on individual morality are contingent on image of Gods as conscious, morally concerned beings; religiousness based on impersonal or amoral Gods will not influence moral choices. Second, participation in religious rites and rituals will have little or no independent effect on morality" (p. 374).

Contrary to the views of many secularists, Stark argues that it was the monotheism of Christianity that gave rise to science, limited the abuses of witch-hunts, and ended slavery (in the West). He concludes:

"Moreover, it was not the ‘wisdom of the East’ that gave rise to science, nor did Zen meditation turn people’s hearts against slavery. By the same token, science was not the work of Western secularists or even deists; it was entirely the work of devout believers in an active, conscious, creator God. And it was faith in the goodness of this same God and in the mission of Jesus that led other devout Christians to end slavery, first in medieval Europe and then again in the new world" (p. 376).

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