Religious market theory

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  • Religious market theory
    • Stark and Bainbridge
      • See the secularisation theory as Eurocentric - which focuses on the decline of religion in Europe.
      • Argue there was no golden age for religion in the past nor is it realistic to predict a future end-point of relgion.
      • They base the religious market theory on two assumptions:
        • People are naturally religious and religion meets human needs.
        • People make rational choices based on the costs and benefits of the available religious options.
      • Religion is attractive as it provides compensators.
        • When real rewards are sacred, religion provides supernatural ones e.g. immortality, which only religion can only provide.
      • Cycle of religious decline, revival and renewal
        • Some religions are declining, others are growing attracting new members
      • See churches as operating like companies, as the competition of religions leads to improvements in the quality of religius 'goods' on offer.
      • America vs Europe
        • Demand for religion increases when there is choice, but decreases when there is religious monoply.
        • Religion thrives in the USA as there has not been a religious monoploy, and a healthy market exists.
        • But Eruope is dominated by on official state church, whcih leads to decline due to lack of choice.
    • Hadden and Shupe
      • The growth of televangelism in America shows level of religious participation is supply-led.
      • When the funding began for religious broadcasts it opened up a competition where evangelical churchs thrived
      • Finke - Asian immigration in America led to religions such as Hare Krishna to set up permanently, providing more choice.
    • Criticisms
      • Bruce - rejects the view that diversity and competition increase the demand for religion as statistics show diversity has been accompanied by religious decline in Europe and America.
      • Norris and Inglehart - found high levels of participation in catholic countries and low in countries of religious pluralism.
      • Beckford - sees this theory as unsociological as it assumes people are 'naturally' religous and fails to explain the reasons why they make such choices.


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