Rodney Stark delivers first of four Templeton/Vanderbilt lectures

An economic model is the best way to understand the rise and fall of religions, said sociologist Rodney Stark in the first of four lectures at Vanderbilt University as the first Templeton Research Fellow.

More than 250 people attended the lecture in the Student Life Center on the Vanderbilt campus Feb. 14.

“The natural state of a religious economy is pluralism,” Stark said. “Typically, pluralism has been repressed in favor of religious monopolies.”

Traditionally, researchers look to understand variations in the popularity of religion through analyzing changing demand, Stark said. But Stark insisted that demand for religion is remarkably stable over time, and the effectiveness of the religion providers was the key element that caused success or failure.

“If you don’t repress religion, you get religions,” he said.

Stark’s visit is financed by The Templeton Research Lecture Grant, which will bring at least $270,000 to Vanderbilt over three years to fund a research group, speakers, publications and a major conference. The grant was awarded by The Metanexus Institute, which advances research, education and outreach on the constructive engagement of science and religion. It runs some 300 projects in 30 nations, including the Templeton Research Lectures funded by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation.

Stark’s lectures at Vanderbilt are hosted by its Center for the Study of Religion and Culture, a trans-institutional center at Vanderbilt that brings together scholars across academic disciplines to consider issues of religion and culture.

Read more about Stark’s lecture series.

Media contact: Jim Patterson, (615) 322-NEWS

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