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Sociology of the Gods

“The eternal gods do not lightly change their minds.”

—Homer, Odyssey

Rodney Stark is considered by many to be the greatest living sociologist of religion.  Generations of English-speaking students have used his textbook Sociology, now in its eighth edition.  Stark was one of the founders of the theory of religious economy, which replaced the earlier theory of secularization as the sociological model for interpreting the status of religion in the West; for several years, however, he has devoted his efforts to a sociological interpretation of the history of religions.

His essay on the origins of Christianity, “The Rise of Christianity: A Sociologist Reconsiders History” (1996), was translated into 12 languages and has been given a surprisingly favorable reception by experts in ancient Christianity, though he cast doubt on more than one of their interpretations.  With One True God: Historical Consequences of Monotheism (2001), Stark embarked upon a full investigation of monotheism, putting to the test the hypothesis that regards the general principles of religious economy as valid not only for the contemporary world but for the ancient and medieval periods.  This theory postulates, among other things, that the “demand” for religion tends to remain constant over...

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