Rodney StarkAn Interview with Rodney Stark
By Timothy Dalrymple

Rodney Stark is one of America's preeminent scholars of religion, and his numerous books in the sociology and history of religion have reshaped the way in which scholars as well as ordinary Americans have thought of the history of the Christian church globally and in America. Often controversial, a slayer of historical myths, Stark used to describe himself as neither atheistic nor religious; later he identified himself as an "independent Christian."

Patheos recently discussed Professor Stark's book on the Crusades, in an interview entitled "Crusades for Christ." Other noteworthy recent books include The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success; Cities of God: The Real Story of How Christianity Became an Urban Movement and Conquered Rome; and What Americans Really Believe.

He spoke by phone with Timothy Dalrymple for Patheos' discussion of The Future of Evangelicalism. Other portions of the interview will be featured in Patheos' final week on the Future of Religion.

We are reflecting on the future of Christianity (within a broader series on the Future of Religion) while you are working on a book entitled How Denominations Die: The Continuing Self-Destruction of the Protestant "Mainline." Why did you choose this topic?

When I was very young, there was a Protestant mainline and they were the Congregationalists, the Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists, American Baptists, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and more recently the media would include the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Once in a while they would even stretch things far enough to include the Unitarians and Quakers. These were the high prestige denominations, and when people became prominent and successful they would shed their old denomination and join one of these.