Kevin Bensema's Reviews > The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success

The Victory of Reason by Rodney Stark
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Kevin Bensema I've read a few of Stark's other books, and I think this one is his capstone piece. He demonstrates how the philosophy of order, progress, and moral equality which is necessarily entailed by the Christian faith lead to the ability to develop capitalism, limited government, and belief that science may be possible. It's an excellent answer to those who talk about the "Dark Ages" and the "hole left by Christianity." Here is the answer to Russell's puzzlement over China.

It is worth clarifying some things on the subject of slavery: Stark makes the claim that the Popes of the Middle Ages opposed it, which is half true. Some pontiffs opposed it in the strongest terms possible - the papal bull - and thus the Magisterium of the Church was certainly set against slavery. However, several popes did apparently give their permission to enslave peoples in the New World. Furthermore, while some Catholic theologians did apparently see slavery as permissible, a closer inspection of their reasoning reveals this to be a very limited servitude imposed as punishment for crimes.

Another section I particularly enjoyed, as a Catholic and believer in free enterprise, was the debunking of capitalism as a product of the so-called "Protestant work ethic." There is nothing magical about being Protestant, and Stark's explanation of economic success brought about by secure property rights, low taxes, and minimal state interference holds up under both economic and historical scrutiny. The history of Italian capitalism is used particularly well here.


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