Monday, 20 April 2009

Stark Ideology

Rodney Stark, well known for his The Rise of Christianity, has produced a large (nearly 500 pages) treatment of "the origins of the great religions and the evolution of belief": Discovering God. It's a fascinating but crotchety treatment, with Stark swatting at scholars left and right (well, mainly left) while laying out his own distinctive account.

Durkheim? whack!
Freud: slash!
Philip Davies - take note. "Some militant extremists from several minor universities even claim none of it [OT history] ever happened."

How about this: "Strange ideological commitments have driven some contemporary scholars, especially Rosemary Ruether, Jules Isaac, and John Gager, to claim that Christians originated anti-Semitism." (143) Ouch! But should the pot call the kettle names?

Or how about: "At least Crossan stopped short of reporting that Jesus had a hooked nose, a hairy chest, and calloused hands... Crossan's entire undertaking is an immense irrelevancy." (287)

Also boxed on the ears is Jonathan Kirsch, Burton Mack, and Q scholarship. Stark wears his own ideology on his sleeve with little effort at subtlety, combining the "qualities" of Rush Limbaugh and Major Bloodnok (from the highly esteemed 1950s Goon Show). I'm not sure whether I enjoyed the rhetoric or was appalled by it: maybe a bit of both. Good fun to read, and a fresh perspective, but the only real balance may come from the writer having a chip on both shoulders. A curate's egg: two stars.

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