This "fresh, blunt, and highly persuasive account of how the West was wonfor Jesus" (Newsweek) is now available in paperback. Stark's provocative report challenges conventional wisdom and finds that Christianity's astounding dominance of the Western world arose from its offer of a better, more secure way of life.
"Compelling reading" (Library Journal) that is sure to "generate spirited argument" (Publishers Weekly), this account of Christianity's remarkable growth within the Roman Empire is the subject of much fanfare. "Anyone who has puzzled over Christianity's rise to dominance...must read it." says Yale University's Wayne A. Meeks, for The Rise of Christianity makes a compelling case for startling conclusions. Combining his expertise in social science with historical evidence, and his insight into contemporary religion's appeal, Stark finds that early Christianity attracted the privileged rather than the poor, that most early converts were women or marginalized Jewsand ultimately "that Christianity was a success because it proved those who joined it with a more appealing, more assuring, happier, and perhaps longer life" (Andrew M. Greeley, University of Chicago).
The rise of Christianity from the death of Jesus to the establishment of the first Christian church is often portrayed as a rapid, almost seamless, movement in history. Sociologist Stark (Theory of Religion) here ponders why Christianity succeeded as it did in the early years of the first century. Stark uses contemporary social-scientific data, about why people join new religious movements and how religions recruit members, to investigate the formative history of Christianity. Among his findings is that the key factors in Christianity's success included the desire on the part of its members to assimilate into the dominant culture, the conversion of pagan men through intermarriage with Christian women and the commitment to voluntary martyrdom. Stark's conclusion that the rapid rise of early Christianity was due mainly to high fertility rates and social policies rather than to faith in the messianic message of Jesus is likely to generate spirited argument. (July)