Rodney Stark was born in 1934. He grew up in Jamestown, North Dakota, in a Lutheran family. He spent time in the United States Army before graduating in journalism from the University of Denver in 1959. He worked as a journalist for the Oakland Tribune from 1959 until 1961, then pursued graduate work, obtaining his MA in sociology from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1965 and his PhD, also from Berkeley, in 1971. After completing his PhD, Dr. Stark held appointments as a research sociologist at the Survey Research Center and at the Center for the Study of Law and Society. After teaching as professor of sociology and of comparative religion at the University of Washington for thirty-two years, Dr. Stark moved to Baylor University in 2004, where he is co-director of the Institute for Studies of Religion. He is an advocate of the application of the rational choice theory in the sociology of religion, which he calls "the theory of religious economy."