Rodney Stark comes out swinging right from the bell in "The Victory of Reason," his fiercely polemical account of the rise of capitalism. Stark, the author of "The Rise of Christianity" and "One True God: Historical Consequences of Monotheism," is sick and tired of reading that religion impeded scientific progress and stunted human freedom. To those who say that capitalism and democracy developed only after secular-minded thinkers turned the light of reason on the obscurantism of the Dark Ages, he has a one-word answer: nonsense.
"The success of the West, including the rise of science, rested entirely on religious foundations, and the people who brought it about were devout Christians," he argues in this provocative, exasperating and occasionally baffling exercise in revisionism. Capitalism, and the scientific revolution that powered it, did not emerge in spite of religion but because of it.