Rodney Stark on the Triumph of Christianity, Part II
Date: March 12th, 2012

What path did Christianity take following Emperor Constantine’s Edict of Milan in 313?  We address this question with Prof. Rodney Stark, co-founder and co-director of Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion.  This interview is the second in our three part series examining Prof. Stark’s book, The Triumph of Christianity.  We begin by looking at what effects the Edict of Milan had on Christianity, including both the benefits and drawbacks.  A discussion of the downside of becoming an official state religion brings us to a discussion about the Church of Power, where clerical offices were often held for personal gain, and the Church of Piety (e.g., monasticism) that pushed back against institutional corruption.  We also note how the level of religious practice among the European peasantry has been exaggerated during this period and what implications that holds for secularization theory. Both elements were in play during the medieval era.  We then examing whether or not the “Dark Ages” were really that “unenlightened” or merely a caricature imposed upon that time by thinkers such as Voltaire.  Rod argues that Europe actually flourished after the collapse of the Roman Empire and Christianity was a big part of economic and moral progress during the millenium stretching from the 5th century to the 15th century.  We discuss the Church’s role in ending slavery as well as its support for scientific inquiry.  Galileo becomes a topic for our discussion as Prof. Stark demonstrates why this renowned scientist was actually censured by the Church … and it wasn’t because of his scientific theories, but rather how he presented them.  We finish off by looking at religious dissent, touching briefly on witchcraft and the Protestant Reformation, which brings us to the topic of the Spanish Inquisition, which Prof. Stark also notes has been badly misrepresented in some academic circles.  Recorded: March 2, 2012.

RELATED LINKS

Rodney Stark’s biography at Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion.

The Triumph of Christianity: How the Jesus Movement Became the World’s Largest Religion, by Rodney Stark.

The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism and Western Success, by Rodney Stark.

One True God: The Historical Consequences of Monotheism, by Rodney Stark.

Discovering God: The Origins of the Great Religions and the Evolution of Belief, by Rodney Stark.

RELATED PODCASTS

Rodney Stark on The Triumph of Christianity, Part I.

Rodney Stark on The Crusades.

Steven Pfaff on the Protestant Reformation.

Jim Papandrea on the Church Fathers and Patristic Exegesis.


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