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Milk Grenades

secularization.......religion naw'mean

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i've been drinking and have the nerd status on....cause my work is profound hahha




In the Rise of Christianity, Rodney Stark offers a materialistic approach to how a small Jesus movement of two thousand years ago managed to become the dominant religion in the Roman Empire within approximately 300 years. He provides ordinary theories, no reference to miracles, only historical facts of what could have happened.


Although, the growth rate listed on Table 1.1 (The Rise of Christianity, p. 7) would suggest that the progress of Christianity was fairly slow within the first century, Stark would argue that the rather sudden increase during the last part of the third century is explainable. To Stark there was nothing miraculous to this, although, believers have come to believe otherwise. Since, it would have appeared that Constantine played a major role in the increased numbers of Christian converts. "Constantine’s conversion would better be seen as a response to the massive exponential wave in progress, not as its cause." (p. 10) This increase, according to Stark was actually in response to what was already happening at the time. Through research and literature, Stark had discovered that it would be extremely plausible to attribute the increase to what the people were experiencing at that time. "Conversions to Christianity took place as crowds spontaneously responded to evangelists assumes that doctrinal appeal lies at the heart of the conversion process—that people hear the message, find it attractive, and embrace the faith." (p. 14) He also says that the major contributors to the rise of Christian converts were social networks, familial ties, and friendships. Of course this would be the case, especially during that time, since it is very rare for people to convert without some tie. When a person converted during that time, the entire family, servants included, would have to convert as well.


This same theme was apparent in a study conducted by Stark and Lofland of a group in the San Francisco area. Stark and Lofland monitored a new religious group with very few members and discovered that not only did almost every single person have a familiar tie to another member, but discovered that the first converts were neighbors of the groups leader, some of their husbands had joined, and even co-workers had also joined this new religion. They soon realized that "conversion is not about seeking or embracing an ideology; it is about bringing one’s religious behavior into alignment with that of one’s friends and family members." (p.17) For these reasons, techniques for conversion have used an emotional attachment by befriending new converts, rather than trying to appeal on a cognitive level. This technique results in conversion 50% of the time, as opposed to cold calling and other conversion methods. (p. 18)


In chapter two, Stark questions some of the beliefs of the followers and many scholars’ beliefs that Christianity was a religion of the working class. He believes it wasn’t. He describes a study written by W.M. Ramsey, in which he says Ramsey wrote that Christianity ‘spread first among the educated more rapidly than among the uneducated.’ (p. 32) He admits that he is not completely certain, but says that he can only rely on the research and historical information of that time. Still, he would argue that it is the upper class that are or do become attracted to NRMs. He said that "sociologists long assumed that the lower classes were more religious than the rich." (p. 34) But, according to his research, this was highly unlikely. The largest percentage of converts in cults are middle to upper class and educated, and Christianity, to Stark began as a cult due to the miraculous event of Jesus’ resurrection. He believes that if Christianity was a religion of the working class, that it would have been weeded out politically by those persons whom would have viewed this new religion as a threat to their establishments.


The assimilation between the Jews and the Christians allowed the Christians to maintain their cultural identity. Despite the claims within the New Testament and some scholars, Stark believed the idea of the ‘melting pot’ was not true and believes it was wrong. Just as in our culture today, Stark believes that many people were assimilating. Hence, came Paul that proved you can be a Jew and convert into Christianity, which at the time must have seemed like a major deal. Then came mixed marriages, and the three logical propositions. First being that, "New religious movements mainly draw their converts from the ranks of the religiously inactive and the disconnected, and those affiliated with the most accommodated (worldly) religious communities," second, "is that people are more willing to adopt a new religion to the extent that it retains cultural continuity with conventional religion(s) with which they already are familiar," and finally, "social movements grow much faster when they spread through preexisting social networks." (p. 53-5)


In conclusion, Stark says that there were far more than enough Jews in the diaspora to have provided the numbers needed to fulfill plausible growth curves well into the Christian era. (p. 69)


In chapters 4 and 5, Stark argues that many historians have ignored the effects of epidemics, but that they did have a major impact. He believes Christians had an advantage over Pagans, mainly because Christians were better able to cope. They took care of their sick, which lead to more lives being spared against the plagues, as opposed to the Pagans whom didn’t have such ritualistic duties. Christians also had explanations of why these plagues were occurring and Pagans couldn’t explain it. This might have been why Paganism was discredited, which lead many more converts to Christianity.


Woman also played a valuable role in the conversion to Christianity. According to Stark, Christian women would marry Pagan men and convert them. The men, therefore, became secondary conversions, and the woman served as gateways into Pagan families. (p. 111) Because of these reasons, converts vastly increased the spread of Christianity.


The impact of distance furthered the conversion rates. Stark argues that distance matters. There was much more influence of Christianity the closer you were to Jerusalem, and the closer you were to Rome, Christianity developed later.


There are many more historical claims Stark makes to explain why Christianity has become one of the leading religions of this century. He says, in conclusion, that "Christianity did not grow because of miracle working in the marketplace (although there may have been much of that going on), or because Constantine said it should, or even because the martyrs gave it such credibility. It grew because Christians constituted an intense community, able to generate the "invincible obstinacy" that so offended the younger Pliny but yielded immense religious rewards." (p. 208) He ends his theory by saying that the most pivotal aspect to the rise of Christianity stemmed from the interpersonal relationships amongst friends, relatives and neighbors.


Many of Stark’s ideas, however, are controversial. His research has been argued against and many of his claims have been questioned. He makes very strong arguments for his theory on the rise of Christianity, especially with his abundance of historical and extensive amount of researchable claims. However, it is fair to assume, that while his ideas are plausible, there are many other factors which may or may not have contributed to the rise of Christianity as well.




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