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I use the term modernity to identify that fundamental store of scientific knowledge and procedures, powerful technologies, artistic achievements, political freedoms, economic arrangements, moral sensibilities, and improved standards of living that characterize Western nations and are now revolutionizing life in the rest of the world. For there is another truth: to the extent that other cultures have failed to adopt at least major aspects of Western ways, they remain backward and impoverished.
Rodney Stark, Introduction to How the West Won

My apologies, I'm forgetting for the moment who coined the concept, but one way of looking at the Roman Republic/Empire is as an earlier version of the Internet--as a communications network that served to distribute ideas. And what were those ideas? Well, the most important ones were actually not Roman but Greek--philosophical/political--and Judeo-Christian. (Although Mr. Stark does also give them credit for transmitting the recipe for concrete). Obviously, a Roman adaptation of Greek politics was the Republic, the idea of which lives on in America in particular. So it's not as if Rome itself was superfluous in the realm of ideas. But, considered this way, it's hard to share Edward Gibbon's regret for the passing of the Empire. It is much easier to credit Mr. Stark's thesis, that the modern dominance of the West is a function of the spread and development of Christianity and of the free will and theological reasoning that are uniquely a trait of Judeo-Christianity.

As he makes this case, the author overturns a series of cliches that plague our historical thinking. Besides rejecting the idea that the Fall of Rome was a tragedy, he dispels the notion of a Dark Ages, charting the spread of Christianity, capitalism and the like throughout this period. And he takes on numerous other "received wisdoms." The effect of all this is that much of what we have long thought of as revolutionary--from the Renaissance to the Scientific Revolution to the birth of Capitalism and so forth--becomes far more evolutionary and natural.

Ultimately, we are forced to consider the possibility that we should think of Rome as the capital city of Western Civilization (essentially an Empire of Ideas rather than a political territory) and that what has really happened over the centuries is that the capital city has shifted North and West, eventually arriving in England and thence in America. From these capitals, subsequent improvements in communications have made Western ideas ever more universally dominant, to the point where the Internet can penetrate nearly every nation and society in the world. This has had the effect of making nearly all of them Westernize--what after all is "globalization" but the acceptance of the Western ideas, procedures, arrangements and sensibilities that Mr. Stark calls Modernity?


Grade: (A+)


See also:

Rodney Stark Links:

    -WIKIPEDIA: Rodney Stark
    -CONSERVAPEDIA: Rodney Stark
    -FACULTY PAGE: Rodney Stark (Baylor University)
    -AUTHOR PAGE: Rodney Stark (Harper Collins)
    -BOOK SITE: How the West Won (ISI Books)
    -OBIT: Died: Rodney Stark, Sociologist Who Said Religion Is a Rational Choice: His theories of conversion and competition shaped widely held views of church growth and decline. (DANIEL SILLIMAN, AUGUST 30, 2022, Christianity Today)
    -TRIBUTE: Celebrating Rodney Stark, Distinguished Professor of the Social Sciences (Baylor University: Institute for Studies of Religion)
-EXCERPT: from How the West Won : Chapter 2: Jerusalem's Rational God (Rodney Stark)
    -EXCERPT: Slaughtering conventional history’s sacred cows: An excerpt from Rodney Stark’s How the West Won: The Neglected Story of the Triumph of Modernity (World)
    -INTERVIEW: Is the West Really Best? An Interview with Rodney Stark (Rodney Stark, June 22, 2014, Intercollegiate Review)
Why did science arise only in the West?

Because of the Judeo-Christian conception of God as a rational creator. The scientific enterprise is absurd unless one believes that the universe functions on the basis of rational rules and that these rules can be discovered and understood by the human mind. The other great world religions dismiss the idea of a rational universe as absurd. Rather, they conceive of the universe as a supreme mystery, far too complex for human comprehension, an appropriate object for meditation but not for reason. In contrast, the Judeo-Christian God is regarded as a rational creator who therefore created a lawful universe, and it is possible to discover these laws. Lacking this conception of God, the non-Western world had no basis for science. It should be noted, too, that the great stars of early science, such as Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, and Blaise Pascal, were deeply religious men—Newton wrote far more theology than he did physics.

    -ESSAY: Why Modernity Happened In The West: Giving credit where credit is due (Rodney Stark, 3/31/14, The Federalist)
    -ESSAY: Fact, Fable, and Darwin (Rodney Stark, September 2004, American Enterprise)
    -ESSAY: How Christianity (and Capitalism) Led to Science (RODNEY STARK, 12/02/05, The Chronicle Review)
    -ESSAY: How the West Won—but “Western Civ” Lost: Americans are becoming increas­ingly ignorant of how the modern world was made (Rodney Stark, 2/14/14, The Federalist)
    -ESSAY: Why Religious Movements Succeed or Fail: A Revised General Model (RODNEY STARK, Journal of Contemporary Religion, Volume 11, Issue 2 May 1996)
    -ESSAY: Religion and the Bad News Bearers: The widely reported decline in women's church attendance is implausible. (RODNEY STARK AND BYRON JOHNSON, 8/26/11, WSJ)
    -ESSAY: The Myth of Unreligious America: Most of those who say they have 'no religion' on surveys also pray. Half believe in angels. (RODNEY STARK, 7/04/13, WSJ)
    -ESSAY: The Truth About the Catholic Church and Slavery: The problem wasn't that the leadership was silent. It was that almost nobody listened. (Rodney Stark, JULY 1, 2003, Christianity Today)
    -ESSAY: The Rise of a New World Faith (Rodney Stark, Latter-day Saint Social Life: Social Research on the LDS Church and its Members)
    -ESSAY: The Rise of Christianity: A Sociologist Reconsiders History: Sociologist Rodney Stark looks at the appeal of the Christian message itself, for example, how it brought a new conception of humanity to a world saturated with cruelty. (Rodney Stark, PBS : From Jesus to Christ)
    -INTERVIEW: Interview with Rodney Stark (Donald A. Yerxa, March/April 2006, Historically Speaking)
-PODCAST INTERVIEW: Rodney Stark on the Triumph of Religion, Part I (February 6th, 2012, Research on Religion)
    -PODCAST INTERVIEW: Rodney Stark on the Triumph of Christianity, Part II (March 12th, 2012, Research on Religion)
    -PODCAST INTERVIEW: Rodney Stark on How Religion Benefits Everyone (Research on Religion, May 5th, 2013)
    -PODCAST INTERVIEW: Rodney Stark on the Crusades (This podcast is based upon Prof. Stark’s bestselling book, God’s Battalions: The Case for the Crusades, Recorded: June 17, 2010, , Research on Religion)
    -INTERVIEW: How Religion Benefits Everyone: An Interview with Rodney Stark (Brandon Vogt, Strange Notions)
    -PROFILE: Big Ideas (Baylor Magazine, March/April 2004)
    -PROFILE: Rodney Stark: The Berkeley Years (Armand L. Mauss, September 1990, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion)
    -INTERVIEW: A Double Take on Early Christianity: An Interview with Rodney Stark (J Knirp, 7/22/04)
    -INTERVIEW: Interview with Rodney Stark (MEDIEVALISTS.NET – SEPTEMBER 3, 2009)
    -INTERVIEW: Crusades for Christ: Rodney Stark is a slayer of historical myths. His book on the Crusades takes on one of the biggest stories of all. (Timothy Dalrymple, May 13, 2010, Patheos)
    -INTERVIEW: Are Evangelicals the New Mainline?: One of America's preeminent scholars of religion examines the decline of mainline churches -- and whether evangelicalism faces the same fate. (Timothy Dalrymple, August 06, 2010, Patheos)
    -INTERVIEW: Conversations: Rodney Stark (Mark L. Movsesian, 8/05/13, Center for Law and REligion Forum)
    -INTERVIEW: A Christmas Conversation with Rodney Stark (Massimo Introvigne, December 25, 2007, CESNUR)
    -AUDIO: Interview: Dr. Rodney Stark — How The West Won: The Truth About Western Civilization (Eagle Forum, 5/24/14)
    -INTERVIEW: A Double Take on Early Christianity: An Interview with Rodney Stark (Touchstone, Jan/Feb 2000)
    -ESSAY: Christian Reason and the Spirit of Capitalism (Jordan J. Ballor, 12/12/05, Acton)
    -REVIEW: of The Rise of Christianity through the Eyes of Gibbon, Harnack, and Rodney Stark by Bremmer, Jan N. (Brent Nongbri, Review of Biblical Literature)
    -ARCHIVES: rodney stark (Crisis)
    -ARCHIVES: "rodney stark" (First Things)
    -ARCHIVES: "rodney stark" (Christianity Today)
    -ARCHIVES: "rodney stark" (Patheos)
    -ARCHIVES: "rodney stark" (The Christians)
    -ARCHIVES: "rodney stark" (MercatorNet)
    -REVIEW: of How the West Won by Rodney Stark (Henrik Bering, WSJ)
    -REVIEW: of How the West Won (Bill Muehlenberg, Culture Watch)
    -REVIEW: of How the West Won (Samuel Gregg, Crisis)
    -REVIEW: of How the West Won (Father John Flynn, AD 2000)
    -REVIEW: of How the West Won (Michael Parker, Cairo Journal of Theology)
    -REVIEW: of How the West Won (Gregory J. Sullivan, Catholic World Report)
    -REVIEW: of How the West Won (Jeff Minick, Smoky Mountain News)
    -REVIEW: of America’s Blessings: How Religion Benefits Everyone, Including Atheists by Rodney Stark (Mark L. Movsesian, Center for Law and Religion Forum)
    -REVIEW: of Triumph of Christianity by Rodney Stark (Bill Muehlenberg, Culture Watch)
    -REVIEW: of Triumph of Christianity (Peter J. Leithart, First Things)
    -REVIEW: of Triumph of Christianity (Kirkus Review)
    -REVIEW: of God’s Battalions: The Case for the Crusades by Rodney Stark (Scriptorium)
    -REVIEW: of God's Battalions (Bill Muehlenberg, Culture Watch)
    -REVIEW: of God's Battalions (Hunter Baker, First Things)
    -REVIEW: of God's Battalions (Relevant)
    -REVIEW: of God's Battalions (Steve Weatherbe, The Christians)
    -REVIEW: of
-REVIEW: of The Rise of Christianity: How the Obscure, Marginal Jesus Movement Became the Dominant Religious Force in the Western World in a Few Centuries by Rodney Stark (Tim Chester)
    -REVIEW: of Rise of Christianity (God Project)
    -REVIEW: of The Victory of Reason by Rodney Stark (2006) Algis Valiunas(, First Things)
    -REVIEW: of The Victory of Reason (William Grimes, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of Victory of Reason (Jon Meacham, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Victory of Reason (Kasey Summerer, Hendricks Center)
    -REVIEW: of Victory of Reason (Alan Wolfe, New Republic)
    -REVIEW: of Victory of Reason (Kirkus Reviews)
    -REVIEW: of Victory of Reason (Thomas E. Woods, Jr., The Independent Review)
    -REVIEW: of Victory of Reason (Mark C. Henrie, Commentary)
    -REVIEW: of Victory of Reason (Andrew Bernstein, Objective Standard)
    -REVIEW: of Victory of Reason (Jean E. Barker, SF Gate)
    -REVIEW: of Victory of Reason (Thomas Mounkhall, SUNY New Paltz, World History Connected)
    -REVIEW: of Discovering God by Rodney Stark (2007) (Andrew S. Kulikovsky,
    -REVIEW: of For The Glory of God: How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witch-hunts and the End of Slavery by Rodney Stark (Alex Williams,
    -REVIEW: of One True God by Rodney Stark (2001) (Kirkus Reviews)
    -REVIEW: of The Rise of Christianity: A Sociologist Reconsiders History (1996) (Robert M. Price)
    -REVIEW: of Rise of Christianity (Father John McCloskey, Catholicity)
    -REVIEW: of Christian Beliefs and Anti-Semitism by Charles Y. Glock and Rodney Stark (1966) (Sidney Monas, Commentary)
    -ESSAY: Why Gods Should Matter in Social Science (RODNEY STARK, Chronicle of Higher Education)
    -ESSAY: The Truth About the Catholic Church and Slavery: The problem wasn't that the leadership was silent. It was that almost nobody listened. (Rodney Stark, 07/18/2003, Christianity Today)
    -ESSAY: Live Longer, Healthier, & Better: The untold benefits of becoming a Christian in the ancient world. (Rodney Stark, Winter 1998, Christian History)
    -INTERVIEW: Progress Through Theology: An interview with Rodney Stark, author of For the Glory of God: How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witch-hunts, and the End of Slavery. (David Neff, 07/18/2003, Christianity Today)
    -INTERVIEW: A Double Take on Early Christianity (Michael Aquilina, Jan/Feb 2000, Touchstone)
    -REVIEW: of For the Glory of God: How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witch-Hunts, and the End of Slavery by Rodney Stark (David Neff, Christianity Today)
    -REVIEW: of For the Glory of God (Michael Aquilina, Touchstone)

Book-related and General Links: