Posted by: aboutalbion | March 2, 2013

The mimetic basis of religious risk analysis (5)

Rodney Stark brings his examination of the mimetic basis on which individuals make rational choices regarding religion to a close with a final proposition.

In a crowded religious market-place where credibility is at a premium, his ‘martyrdom proposition’ points to the testimony with the highest credibility value.

Martyrs are the most credible exponents of the value of a religion, and this is especially true if there is a voluntary aspect to their martyrdom.” (p174)

When an individual chooses not to renounce membership of their religion, and then accepts torture and death, “a person sets the highest imaginable value upon [their] religion and communicates that value to others” [members and non-members alike]. (p174)

Stark believes that this proposition has a contribution to make in explaining the rise of Christianity.

Interestingly, yesterday (in the UK) saw the publication of a new book [details below] in which a Christian writer takes a critical look at the legends about large numbers of martyrs in the early days of Christianity.  I hope to read it before too long.

[Stark, Rodney (1997) The Rise of Christianity. New York: HarperOne.
Moss, Candida (2013) The Myth of Persecution.  HarperOne.]

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