A review of Discovering God by Rodney Stark
HarperOne, New York, 2007
Rodney Stark is professor of Social Sciences at Baylor University, and is a prolific author and renowned scholar in the field of sociology of religion. This new book is a massive tome (414 pages plus notes, bibliography and index) in which the author attempts to provide a religious history of mankind, from the Stone Age to the present. It is a history of the origins of religions covering prehistoric primal beliefs, the major Asian religions including Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Taoism and Confucianism, and the religions of Sumer, Egypt, Greece, early Rome and Mesoamerica, as well as, of course, Christianity and Islam.
Stark points out that most recent investigations into the philosophical, sociological and cultural aspects of religion are “dominated by biologists and evolutionary psychologists” whose work is inferior because the investigators were unable to “restrain their militant atheism” (p. 1). He adds that
“ … contempt is not a scholarly virtue, and most of these scholars openly presumed that Gods exist only in the human imagination, that religion arises mainly from fear, and that faith is sustained only by ignorance and credulity” (p. 1).
The title of Richard Dawkins’ recent book The God Delusion is an example of this mindset.
The author acknowledges that comparisons between religions can be confronting because they tend to highlight, given the competing truth claims, that “not all religions can be entirely true” (p. 1). Nevertheless, the question of why there is substantial similarity between religions must be asked. Stark points out that most modern investigators never consider the possibility that the common source is the spiritual dimension. Nor do they consider the obvious possibility that similarities testify that authentic revelations underlie many of the major faiths—or, even more likely—that many revelations came from fallen angels (satanic beings) in order to seduce mankind away from the One True God, Yahweh. Yet, dominant scholarly perspective is that “revelations” are mere psychological events….
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