Secularization and Economic Models of Religious Behavior

Steve Bruce

in The Oxford Handbook of the Economics of Religion

Published in print January 2011 | ISBN: 9780195390049
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Secularization and Economic Models of Religious Behavior

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The economics of religion often creeps into the corner of the sociologist of religion's vision. Although their minds are generally on higher things, religious organizations have financial concerns. Since the early 1990s, a number of U.S. scholars have tried to radically reshape our understanding of religion by applying economic principles to such core problems as the explanation of belief, conversion, membership, and commitment. Inspired by Nobel Prize winner Gary Becker's grand vision of an economics of everything, Rodney Stark, Roger Finke, and Laurence Iannaccone have produced a large body of work that seeks to explain both large-scale social patterns (such as why some societies are more religious than others) and micro-decision making (such as shifting between denominations) by considerations of market structure and cost-benefit calculations. The supply-side explanation of religious vitality was promoted as an alternative to the secularization approach. Stark's interest in it stemmed from his earlier commitment to a theory of religion that makes the demand for religion high and stable. This article discusses secularization and economic models of religious behavior.

Keywords: economics; religion; secularization; economic models; religious behavior; religious vitality; Rodney Stark; demand; Roger Finke; Laurence Iannaccone

Article.  5307 words. 

Subjects: Economics ; Econometrics and Mathematical Economics ; Microeconomics

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