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eBook Acts of Faith: Explaining the Human Side of Religion download

by Rodney Stark

eBook Acts of Faith: Explaining the Human Side of Religion download ISBN: 0520222016
Author: Rodney Stark
Publisher: University of California Press; 1st edition (August 7, 2000)
Language: English
Pages: 350
ePub: 1100 kb
Fb2: 1250 kb
Rating: 4.7
Other formats: mobi lrf mbr lrf
Category: Religious
Subcategory: Religious Studies

11 people found this helpful.

While no single theory, even a good one, can explain religion adequately, Acts of Faith represents the single best attempt I've yet seen. Like any good theory, it has power to explain a wide range of phenomenon. 11 people found this helpful.

Rodney Stark is Professor of Sociology and Comparative Religion at the University of Washington

Rodney Stark is Professor of Sociology and Comparative Religion at the University of Washington. Among his many books are The Rise of Christianity (1996), The Future of Religion: Secularization, Revival, and Cult Formation (California, 1985), and, with Roger Finke, The Churching of America, 1776-1990: Winners and Losers in Our Religious Economy (1992). Roger Finke is Professor of Sociology at Pennsylvania State University.

Acts of Faith is the single 'big book' in the sociology of religion in the past decade, a monumental effort that both . Change in participation comes when the SUPPLY SIDE responds to existing demand

Acts of Faith is the single 'big book' in the sociology of religion in the past decade, a monumental effort that both demolishes old theories and creates brilliant new ones. Stark and Finke have mastered the literature in the field, gathered ingenious data analysis to sustain their positions, and presented their work with flair, imagination, and brilliance. Change in participation comes when the SUPPLY SIDE responds to existing demand. The US has had a 65% rate of church membership for decades, irrespective of economic conditions. When people change religions or churches, it is not because their beliefs (preferences) have changed.

Rodney Stark Introduction: Atheism, Faith, and the Social Scientific Study of Religion.

Acknowledging that science cannot assess the supernatural side of religion (and therefore should not claim to do so), Stark and Finke analyze the observable, human side of faith. Introduction: Atheism, Faith, and the Social Scientific Study of Religion.

Home Browse Books Book details, Acts of Faith: Explaining the Human . An earlier version of this chapter appeared as Rodney Stark, Atheism, Faith, and the Social Scientific Study of Religion

Home Browse Books Book details, Acts of Faith: Explaining the Human Side o. .Acts of Faith: Explaining the Human Side of Religion. By Rodney Stark, Roger Finke. Acknowledging that science cannot assess the supernatural side of religion (and therefore should not claim to do so), Stark and Finke analyze the observable, human side of faith. An earlier version of this chapter appeared as Rodney Stark, Atheism, Faith, and the Social Scientific Study of Religion. Journal of Contemporary Religion, (1999) 14:41–62.

Acts of Faith offers the core principles of a "rational choice" approach to the sociology of religion along with topical chapters that show the methodology in action. One could not hope for a clearer presentation of method. Also, many of the conclusions reached are quite surprising, and all the topics are significant.

Rodney Stark’s rational choice theory of religion has energized the social scientific study of religion by being big and wrong. In the 1970s Stark argued for a model of religious behavior based on rewards and compensators. Where others have set themselves the humbler task of trying to explain this or that aspect of religious belief or behavior, Stark stands out by emulating Marx, Durkheim, and Freud in proposing a grand theory of religion, which he and his colleague Roger Finke set forth clearly and succinctly in their summa, Acts of Faith. People seek rewards but usually cannot get them and.

Acknowledging that science cannot assess the supernatural side of religion (and therefore should not claim to do so), Stark and Finke analyze the observable, human side of faith

Read unlimited books and audiobooks on the web, iPad, iPhone and Android. In clear and engaging prose, the authors combine explicit theorizing with animated discussions as they move from considering the religiousness of individuals to the dynamics of religious groups and then to the religious workings of entire societies as religious groups contend for support.

However, rather than evaluating them it tries to use the three books as a starting point for thinking of the discipline itself.

As Stark and Finke (2000) explain, people are more likely to devote time and energy to a single and dependable God, rather than several less dependable Gods who may be more indifferent to their requests. However, rather than evaluating them it tries to use the three books as a starting point for thinking of the discipline itself.

Acknowledging that science cannot assess the supernatural side of. oceedings{Sherkat2000ActsOF, title {Acts of Faith: Explaining the Human Side of Religion}, author {Darren E. Sherkat and Rodney Stark and Roger Finke}, year {2000} }. Darren E. Sherkat, Rodney Stark, Roger Finke.

Finally, social scientists have begun to attempt to understand religious behavior rather than to discredit it as irrational, ignorant, or foolish—and Rodney Stark and Roger Finke have played a major role in this new approach. Acknowledging that science cannot assess the supernatural side of religion (and therefore should not claim to do so), Stark and Finke analyze the observable, human side of faith. In clear and engaging prose, the authors combine explicit theorizing with animated discussions as they move from considering the religiousness of individuals to the dynamics of religious groups and then to the religious workings of entire societies as religious groups contend for support. The result is a comprehensive new paradigm for the social-scientific study of religion.
Comments: (7)
Jugami
The main point of this book is that religious behavior conforms to the classic supply and demand economic model. Religions sell "products" and exact "costs." Cost/benefit determines why people join or leave religious groups.

Here is a partial summary of themes.

1) Religious belief is rational because believers evaluate the costs and benefits of their religious participation. They conclude that the benefits outweigh the costs. Therefore they are rational actors.

This is really silly. It confuses participation with belief. Yes, the perceived cost/benefit ratio may justify participation from a narrow economic point of view, but this says nothing about whether the actual beliefs are rational. Under S&F's analysis, participation in suicide cults, the Flat Earth Society, and spaceship cults is rational because the believer thought about participating and then concluded that benefits outweigh costs.

The authors also fail to recognize the equivocal nature of the term "rational." They use it in a narrow economic sense. But those who think religious belief is "irrational" do not disagree with this. They say, rather, that religious belief goes beyond the evidence, requires unwarranted, blind, assumptions, etc. and is therefore irrational. S&F do not address this conception of rationality. Accordingly, skip the first chapter. It's a waste of time.

2) Religious participation is subject to market principles of supply and demand. Religions exact "costs" for their "products" and religious participants are rational actors who perform cost/benefit analysis prior to engaging in religious activity. (Costs are such things as $$$, donations of time, willingness to undergo tension with surrounding culture, celibacy, separation from society, etc. Benefits are not usually material, but involve emotional satisfaction and often expectations of rewards after bodily death.) "High tension" groups exact more costs from their participants. "Low tension" groups exact less. A bell curve shows that the MAJORITY of people want to be in medium tension groups, those in which they feel that they are making some sacrifices, (but not too many) and that they are different from the society around them (but not too different.) When Vatican II allowed nuns to dress in civies and live in apartments, recruitment dropped because nunhood was no longer so special. Women WANTED to pay the higher cost for a distinct and visible role in society. Post Vatican II they were just social workers and teachers who had to give up sex. People WANT to pay for a good religious product. If the product is watered down, they'll go somewhere else. Likewise if the product is too expensive, as in groups that require celibacy, separation from society, large financial donations, or that advocate doctrines that subject adherents to ridicule, members will leave. Thus, medium tension churches are the most successful.

When groups change from moderate tension to low or high tension, they tend to lose members. Liberal churches in the US are shrinking. When the Unitarian Universalists recently brought back some traditional elements of the liturgy, their numbers began to grow.

I would like to have been given more information on WHY folks are attracted to medium tension groups.

3) Free religious markets result in greater levels of religious participation. The United States is "the first fully unregulated religious economy." It has the highest level of religious participation. Countries with state monopolies on religion (most of Europe, including the Western democracies) have extremely low levels of participation. Pews are empty on Sunday in Sweden. Even though these countries are democracies, they restrict the abilities of unofficial groups to operate. This book contains some shocking information about the Western "democracies" and their repression and harassment of small, unofficial churches, like Jehovah's Witnesses and Pentecostals.

Competition breeds increased religious participation because churches adjust their products to what the market wants. Also, the more supply, the greater likelihood that individuals will find a "vendor" that matches their preferences.

4) Religious preferences don't change much. Change in participation comes when the SUPPLY SIDE responds to existing demand. The US has had a 65% rate of church membership for decades, irrespective of economic conditions. When people change religions or churches, it is not because their beliefs (preferences) have changed. Rather it is because the new group better appeals to their existing preferences. (This is probably a controversial point. Do they REALLY mean that religious values don't change much?)

5) Secularization theory is all wrong. Those who say religion will die as society becomes more educated have been proven wrong. The industrialized world shows that this is not happening. Even in societies with low participation, "believing without belonging" is very high. (Western Europe has high rates of religious belief, but low levels of participation.) This section could be better. Perhaps secularization IS happening, it just doesn't manifest itself in more atheism. Perhaps god is becoming less anthropomorphic, less active, and therefore less real. This could still count as evidence of secularization in a given society. The authors don't do a good job addressing this subtle point.

Overall, this book offers a believable and coherent theory as to why religions succeed or fail, and religious believers will be disturbed to find that their purportedly sacred activities are government by crass economic forces of the Adam Smith variety. Ironically, the authors come across as very pro-religion, and pro-conservative religion to boot, even appearing subtly to offer advice to the Catholic Church on how to get its act together (though they say they don't.) Their clear preference for traditional religion is annoying and inappropriate. No need to call the Jesus Seminar an exercise in "preening silliness" or make repeated to references for the alleged vapidness of liberal theology. Their scholarship does not quite cross over into advocacy, but their sympathies are tastlessly and unprofessionally evident.

Worth reading, but you may not need to now that you've read this review.
Funny duck
This book is packed with arguments, facts, theories, and ideas that anyone in the sociology of religion will be interested in. Stark and Finke are leaders in their discipline, and their work demands attention.

There is a lot that is good here. For example, their illustration of the ways in which social networks determine religious identity is key. I also appreciate the whole "religious economy" metaphor; indeed, religions do compete for customers these days and definitely "market" themselves, which I agree does cause more people to actually get involved. In short, advertising works -- and religions have figured that out.

I had problems with a lot of their assertions. For one: secularization. They claim that secularization theory is dumb, dillusional, and dead. Are they serious? C'mon. Just look at the data. The evidence is strong and clear: belief in God and church attendance are CLEARLy declining in places like great Britain, France, Holland, Germany (especially east germany), Czech Republic, and religion is at an all-time low in Scandinavia (!!) -- and also Japan. Secularization may not be happening in the U.S. or much of the world, but to deny its reality in most of Europe is simply blind. Look also at Jews -- most are now non-believers, even in Israel. Compare that to Jews 200 years ago -- yet another major example of secularization that S and F avoid dealing with. And also see the rates in Canada, where belief is also down (see Reginald Bibby)....for the evidence of secularization in selected countries, see the work of Steve Bruce, Grace Davie, and even the recent World Values Surveys from Inglehart, et al.

Another problem with this book is the wacky "rational choice" silliness. Please -- and these guys claim to have degrees in sociology? Rational choice theory is so pithy, so lame, so weak it is hard to believe ANYONE takes it seriously. The bottom line is that "costs" and "rewards" are subjective. And to say that people "choose" their religion is obviously true on some basic level, but it obfuscates broader cultural, historical, and social forces that make up the heart of the sociological imagination - see Phil Zuckerman's solid critique in his latest book on soc. of religion.

Finally, their clear argument in the Introduction that only persons of faith can be "truly scientific" when studying religion is laughable.