(The Victory of Reason, continued from page one)
...determined to assert the cultural superiority of their own time and who boosted their claim by denigrating
previous centuries – as in the words of Voltaire – a time when ‘barbarism, superstition, (and) ignorance
covered the face of the world’…Instead, during the so-called Dark Ages, European technology and science
overtook and surpassed the rest of the world!”
Since Jesus was nailed to a cross, his followers have wrestled their consciences, and argued with each other,
trying to uncover the true meaning of his life and teachings, if only because unlike Mohammed (Islam) and
Moses (Judaism), he left behind no explicit instructions. Church intellectuals have always been forced to use
their powers of reason and deduction, commonly called Theology, to formulate creeds and dogmas.
“As Quintus Tertullian instructed in the second century: ‘Reason is a thing of God, inasmuch as there is nothing
which God the Maker of all has not provided, disposed, ordained by reason – nothing which He has not willed
should be handled and understood by reason.’”
The value in The Victory of Reason lies in the methodical and scholarly presentation of evidence to support
the book’s premise. Stark’s Ph.D. comes from the University of California at Berkeley and currently he is a
University Professor of the Social Sciences at Baylor University. With 14 pages of footnotes and an 18-page
bibliography, his academic foundation is in evidence. Yet the book is not a difficult read because there are
surprising revelations in every chapter. Its subtitle could be: “The History You Never Learned in School.” For
example, the medieval university, which was invented by the Christian church, was uniquely formed for the
pursuit of new knowledge, not the recycling of Ancient Greek knowledge. Capitalism, defined as the use of
wealth to provide income in a manner so that the initial wealth is not reduced, thereby creating security, was
invented by Catholic monks who, owning no worldly goods, were trying to sustain their monasteries. As they
grew in size, they created the concept of credit by loaning money to the nobility. As these new ideas trickled
down to the masses, progress in the Middle Ages affected every aspect of daily life.
By 1250, the Riccardi Bank of Lucca had 11 branches, including one in Dublin, Ireland. Indeed, during the
14th century, there were a reported 173 major banks in Italy, not counting their branches. Since these banks
were deeply involved in trade, the trading industry exploded. But innovation touched the lives of the middle class
and the poor as well. Farmers learned to grow surplus by using the three-field system, which involved leaving
one field fallow for grazing. Europeans invented machines that made cloth much less expensive to produce.
Chimneys allowed even poor people to heat their homes. Eyeglasses let adult craftsmen work long after their
eyesight began to weaken. And during the 13th century, clocks made Europeans the only people on the planet
who knew what time it really was, which made it possible to schedule and coordinate industrial affairs.
Stark ends The Victory of Reason with a section entitled ‘Feudalism and Capitalism in the New World.' It is an
intriguing look at the roles of church and state in the Americas, confronting the slavery issue, pluralism, freedom
of worship and secularism. His conclusion, found in ‘Globalization and Modernity’ not only clarifies his original
thesis, but glances ahead with stunning clarity.