loren Eric Swanson: The Rise of Christianity by Rodney Stark

Thursday, February 01, 2007

The Rise of Christianity by Rodney Stark

Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity: How the Obscure, Marginal, Jesus Movement Became the Dominant Religious Force in the Western World in a Few Centuries (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1997),

“Christian values of love and charity had, from the beginning, been translated into norms of social service and community solidarity. When disasters struck, the Christians were better able to cope, and this resulted in substantially higher rates of survival. This meant that in the aftermath of each epidemic, Christians made up a larger percentage of the population even without new converts. Moreover, their noticeably better survival rate would have seemed a “miracle” to Christians and pagans alike, and this ought to have influenced conversion. P. 75

I am most persuaded by McNeill’s (1976) estimate that from a quarter to a third of the population perished during this epidemic. Such high mortality is consistant with modern knowledge of epidemiology. P. 76

Almost a century later a second terrible epidemic struck the Roman world. At its height, five thousand people a day were reported to have died in the city of Rome alone (McNeill 1976). P. 77

Calculations based on Dionysius’s account suggest that two-thirds of Alexandria’s population may have perished (Boak 1947). P.77

Pagan and Christian writers are unanimous not only that Christian Scripture stressed love and charity as the central duties of faith, but that these were sustained in everyday behavior. P.86

McNeill pointed out: ‘When all normal services break down, quite elementary nursing will greatly reduce mortality. Simple provision of food and water, for instance, will allow persons who are temporarily too weak to cope for themselves to recover instead of perishing miserably” (1976:108). P. 88

Modern medical experts believe that conscientious nursing without any medications could cut the mortality rate by two-thirds or even more. P. 89


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