Stark and Bainbridge: Religious market theory

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  • Stark and Bainbridge: Religious market theory
    • Also known as "rational choice theory."
    • Criticise secularisation theory for its "distorted view," of the past and future.
      • There was no past, 'golden age,' of religion, nor that everyone will be an atheist in the future.
    • They base religious market theory on two assumptions.
      • 1. People are naturally religious and religion meets human needs.
      • 2. People make rational choices based on the costs and choices of the available religious options.
    • Religion is attractive because it provides us with "supernatural compensators," when real awards cannot be obtained.
      • For example: Immortality is obtainable and only religion can promise life after death.
    • Evaluation
      • Religion market theory is a critique of secularisation theory, which they see as Eurocentric and failing to explain religion's continuing vitality in America and elsewhere.
      • Norris and Inglehart: There are high levels of religious participation in Catholic countries where the church has a near monopoly.
        • Example: Venezula
    • Historical cycle: A historical cycle of religious decline, revival and renewable.
      • As established churches decline, they leave a gap in the market for sects and cults.
    • Competition
      • Religious market theorists argue that competition leads to improvements in the quality of religious "goods," on offer.
        • Churches that make their product more attractive will succeed in gaining more customers.
    • USA
      • Religion is strong because a healthy market exists where religions grow or decline in accordance with consumers' demand.
    • UK
      • European countries that have a monopoly of religion have a lack of choice that has led to a decline in religion.


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