Co-director of Baylor's Institute for Studies of Religion Earns 2012 Book of the Year Award from WORLD Magazine

July 9, 2012
Rodney StarkRodney Stark, co-director of the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor, wins an award for his latest book. Courtesy photo

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WACO, Texas (June 9, 2012) -- Dr. Rodney Stark, co-director of Baylor University's Institute for Studies of Religion (ISR), has received WORLD Magazine's 2012 Book of the Year Award for The Triumph of Christianity: How the Jesus Movement Became the World's Largest Religion.

In its 2012 books issue, WORLD praised Stark's long-term perspective during a time when some evangelicals are displaying a pessimistic sense of decline.

"This is yet another terrific and well-deserved award for one of America's most respected social scientists," said Dr. Byron Johnson, Distinguished Professor of the Social Sciences at Baylor and director of ISR. "For more than four decades, he has published one classic book after another, but The Triumph of Christianity is perhaps the most important book of Rod's brilliant and unparalleled career."

The honor "came as a very pleasant surprise,'' Stark said.

One reason Stark was selected is that he "writes well: He was a reporter for the Oakland Tribune and the Denver Post before gaining a Ph.D.," the magazine article noted. "A second reason for honoring Stark is his lifetime of achievement: In 28 books -- one from 15 years ago, The Rise of Christianity, prefigures his new work -- Stark has employed both statistics and historical testimony to shoot down stereotypes."

In his book, "Stark compares American religious liberty to the state churches of Europe and sees denominationalism as a strength, not a weakness," the article said. "He looks at Christian growth around the world in recent decades as one more assault on the conventional wisdom that modernity trumps religion. He avoids triumphalism in writing about Christianity's long-term triumph--we do not know what tomorrow will bring--and he teaches us to avoid pessimism in considering our temporary problems."

Besides being co-director of ISR, Stark, a native of North Dakota, is a Distinguished Professor of the Social Sciences at Baylor. He joined Baylor's faculty in 2004.

A former newspaper reporter, he also did a tour of duty in the U.S. Army. Afterward, he received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, where he held appointments as a research sociologist at the Survey Research Center and at the Center for the Study of Law and Society.

He left Berkeley to become Professor of Sociology and of Comparative Religion at the University of Washington. He has published 32 books, with another coming out in November, and more than 150 scholarly articles on subjects as diverse as prejudice, crime, suicide and city life in ancient Rome. However, the greater part of his work has been on religion. He is past president of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion and of the Association for the Sociology of Religion. He also has won a number of national and international awards for distinguished scholarship. Many of his books and articles have been translated and published in foreign languages, including Chinese, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish, and Turkish.

ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY

Baylor University is a private Christian university and a nationally ranked research institution, classified as such with "high research activity" by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The university provides a vibrant campus community for approximately 15,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating university in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 11 nationally recognized academic divisions.

ABOUT THE BAYLOR INSTITUTE FOR STUDIES OF RELIGION

Launched in August 2004, the Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion (ISR) exists to initiate, support and conduct research on religion, involving scholars and projects spanning the intellectual spectrum: history, psychology, sociology, economics, anthropology, political science, epidemiology, theology and religious studies. The institute's mandate extends to all religions, everywhere, and throughout history, and embraces the study of religious effects on prosocial behavior, family life, population health, economic development and social conflict. While always striving for appropriate scientific objectivity, ISR scholars treat religion with the respect that sacred matters require and deserve.

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