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The Churching of America, 1776-1990: Winners and Losers in Our Religious Economy
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The Churching of America, 1776-1990: Winners and Losers in Our Religious Economy

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  132 Ratings  ·  10 Reviews
Winner, "The Distinguished Book Award," Society for the Scientific Study of Religion "If Roger Finke and Rodney Stark are right, the current understanding of American religious history ought to be turned upside down . . . a pugnacious book." --Peter Steinfels, The New York Times "A major reevaluation of American religious history . . . essential reading." --Kirkus Reviews ...more
Paperback, 348 pages
Published August 1st 1993 by Rutgers University Press (first published October 1st 1992)
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Susie Meister
Jul 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This game-changing book sought to reconstruct what the authors see as glaring systematic biases in the field of general American religious history. They argue repeatedly that religious organizations can thrive only to the extent that they have a theology that can comfort souls and motivate sacrifice. Between the Revolution and the Civil War the churched rose from 17% to 37% and by 1906 it was over 50%. Their argument is based upon the idea of religious economies and that the primary market weakn ...more
Greg Coates
Jun 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
Here is a text guaranteed to offend the refined sensibilities of academic elites, which is precisely why I so enjoyed reading it. Bold, assertive, and hard-hitting in its claims, Finke and Stark demolish popular ways of telling the story of American religious history. Read why mainline churches are headed for the sidelines, why during Vatican II the Catholic Church shot itself in the foot, why conservative sects in tension with the culture grow, and why a professionalized, seminary-educated cler ...more
Stephen Cranney
May 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Stark and Finke overturn so much conventional wisdom in this book it's hard to know where to start. Suffice it to say, required reading for anybody with an interest in religious history in the US or just religion in general. I myself wasn't too interested in general US religious history (being something of a navel gazer, I was primarily interested in Mormon history specifically), but this book shows that "there's nothing new under the sun," and that all religions deal with many of the same issue ...more
Daniel Silliman
A grand theory of religious history, issued with more than a little bit of hubris, this is a book you have to wrestle with, if you're studying 20th c. American religion. My sense is that the theory is wrong. That it's wrong, however, is less interesting and less important than the conversation about how.

For me, I think one problem is the narrowness of the question the book is asking. The grand theory works, when it works and to the extent it works, when focused very specifically on an exact form
May 01, 2008 rated it really liked it
Very interesting social study about the explosion of different religions in America and the pull of fundementalism. The authors posit that the unique circumstances of America, with no state sponsored religion, provided an atmosphere where charismatic, pentecostal and fundamentalist religions thrived in freemarket economy of religion. Using an impressive amount of charts and data, they show how the old main line religions (lutheran, congregational and angelican) had trouble competing with newer r ...more
Jul 23, 2011 rated it really liked it

Well written depiction of religion in the nineteenth and twentieth century using the Methodist, Catholic, and Baptist as a case study to show the sect-church theory. Best quote, "religious economies...depend upon their polity, their clergy, their religious doctrines, and their evangelization techniques" (p. 17).
Jan 15, 2008 rated it really liked it
What part did religion play in the founding of our nation? This book is an in-depth look to the nation's religious history.

A very interesting read: the cycle and nature of religion from an economic perspective.
Sep 07, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religions, nonfiction
An interesting history of Christianity in America. I don't know that it's something you'd just casually pick up, though.
Oct 27, 2010 rated it really liked it
This was an interesting look at how the main religions in the US have grown, declined, and changed over the past 230+ years and the causes for those successes or failures.
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“In this book, the history of American religion is the history of human actions and human organizations, not the history of ideas (refined or otherwise). But this is not to say that we regard theology as unimportant. To the contrary, we shall argue repeatedly that religious organizations can thrive only to the extent that they have a theology that can comfort souls and motivate sacrifice. In a sense, then, we are urging an underlying model of religious history that is the exact opposite of one based on progress through theological refinement. We shall present compelling evidence that theological refinement is the kind of progress that results in organizational bankruptcy.” 0 likes
“That is, we will repeatedly suggest that as denominations have modernized their doctrines and embraced temporal values, they have gone into decline.” 0 likes
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