In How The West Was Won, Rodney Stark argues that Christianity was the driving force behind capitalism, reports Henrik Bering in The Wall Street Journal (3/31/14). In fact, Rodney, a Baylor University professor of social sciences, "details how and why the vital aspects of modernity — defined here as a combination of sensible economic arrangements, political freedoms and scientific knowledge — developed in the West rather than elsewhere."
Other great empires, he asserts, were dominated by greedy leaders, "who thwarted their subjects’ motivation to produce with confiscatory taxes and lawless seizure." Their courts banned inventions like the printing press and mechanical clocks as threats, for instance. By comparison, medieval Europe readily adopted "new technologies such as gunpowder, the blast furnace, watermills and windmills." Rodney attributes the difference to cultural values, specifically Christianity’s "emphasis on reason and free will."
"The most fundamental key to the rise of the western civilization, has been the dedication of its most brilliant minds to the pursuit of knowledge," Rodney writes. He cites "the teachings of St. Benedict, who branded idleness bad for the soul" as helping "nudge monastic estates toward an early form of capitalism." He sees Britain’s and America’s leadership in the Industrial Revolution as a function of "the right mix of freedom, property and an educated population … originating in religious belief and practice."