The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success

The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success

Many books have been written about the success of the West, analyzing why Europe was able to pull ahead of the rest of the world by the end of the Middle Ages. The most common explanations cite the West’s superior geography, commerce, and technology. Completely overlooked is the fact that faith in reason, rooted in Christianity’s commitment to rational theology, made all these developments possible. Simply put, the conventional wisdom that Western success depended upon overcoming religious barriers to progress is utter nonsense.

In The Victory of Reason, Rodney Stark advances a revolutionary, controversial, and long overdue idea: that Christianity and its related institutions are, in fact, directly responsible for the most significant intellectual, political, scientific, and economic breakthroughs of the past millennium.

In Stark’s view, what has propelled the West is not the tension between secular and nonsecular society, nor the pitting of science and the humanities against religious belief. Christian theology, Stark asserts, is the very font of reason: While the world’s other great belief systems emphasized mystery, obedience, or introspection, Christianity alone embraced logic and reason as the path toward enlightenment, freedom, and progress. That is what made all the difference.

In explaining the West’s dominance, Stark convincingly debunks long-accepted “truths.” For instance, by contending that capitalism thrived centuries before there was a Protestant work ethic–or even Protestants–he counters the notion that the Protestant work ethic was responsible for kicking capitalism into overdrive. In the fifth century, Stark notes, Saint Augustine celebrated theological and material progress and the institution of “exuberant invention.” By contrast, long before Augustine, Aristotle had condemned commercial trade as “inconsistent with human virtue”–which helps further underscore that Augustine’s times were not the Dark Ages but the incubator for the West’s future glories.

This is a sweeping, multifaceted survey that takes readers from the Old World to the New, from the past to the present, overturning along the way not only centuries of prejudiced scholarship but the antireligious bias of our own time. The Victory of Reason proves that what we most admire about our world–scientific progress, democratic rule, free commerce–is largely due to Christianity, through which we are all inheritors of this grand tradition.

Title:The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success
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  • This is one of the most satisfying books I have read in a long time. It is one thing to reject, as I have for many years, the idea of the "Dark Ages," but Stark demonstrates just how "undark" they wer...

  • Given the title of this book, I expected an expert but narrowly-focused argument. Rodney Stark delivers far more than that. He may be the best researcher writing nonfiction today, and his prose is nev...

  • Professor Stark, a Baylor University social sciences professor, has written a book that should complement recent works by men like Jared Diamond or Victor Davis Hanson, in explaining why the West, and...

  • Rodney Stark argues here, as he has in other places, that it was Christian faith that motivated the West to pursue capitalism. From this pursuit came western success. Stark argues that those who disso...

  • When Stark can make broad-sweeping, but not very accurate statements such as "Capitalism was developed by the great monastic estates," you know to buckle your seat belts, you're in for a historically ...

  • About 15% of the way in, it became clear that this book would be controversial in a public way. Without being an apologist for Stark, and certainly not so only this far in, he is making me consider so...

  • It is commonplace to think of Christianity and rationalism as opposite historical and philosophical forces. In this study, Stark demonstrates that elements within Christianity actually gave rise not o...

  • I learned more about world history and the rise of the West by reading this book than in all of my history classes through high-school and college. The Victory of Reason opened my eyes to the developm...

  • The clarity an honesty of this book are refreshing. The author cuts through the platitudes of politically correct verbage and notes that Christianity is a powerful conceptual force that brought about ...

  • Stark sets out to challenge anthropologists like Jared Diamond who contend that Europeans rose to prominence mainly out of geographic factors in their favor. Stark's hypothesis is that Christian think...

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