The Evolution of Christianity

We have advanced the view that modern microeconomic theory provides insight into the development of Christianity. In the remainder of this chapter we seek to present anecdotal and empirical evidence that economic variables explain the evolution of forms of Christian religion their emergence, disappearance, fracture and cohesion, and policy posi-tions from the Protestant Reformation to the present. We further argue that these considerations, together with an infusion of modern neo-institutional...

Religious Form Change Melding Sociological and Economic Interpretations

Many modern sociologists assume, as do economists, that religion is rational behavior based on a weighing of costs and benefits and that a market analysis such as Adam Smith's helps explain the emergence and decline of particular churches and sects, that is, forms of religion. Finke and Stark argue, as we do, that religion is not on the wane, offering empirical evidence that stricter religions are on the rise in the United States. Distinguishing between sects and churches, they argue that more...

Protestantism on the Continent and in Scotland

The structure of government in the different Reformed Churches assumed different form depending on contrasting economic, political, and geographic circumstances. The Reformation was born in Europe and spread most rapidly on that continent. As it moved out from Germany, Luther's influence quickly infiltrated Switzerland, the Netherlands, Scotland, and Scandinavia. Luther (1483-1546) and Lutheranism In the sixteenth century, church and commonwealth frequently clashed in cities or towns that...

Economic Variables and Forms of Christian Belief Anecdotal Evidence

Nowhere, perhaps, has the evolution of Christian forms of religion been more pronounced than in the United States. Studies of the myriad varieties of Christian belief reveal an amazing evolution. They are, according to our view, evolving in response to full-price changes and a panoply of shifters that affect the stringency of doctrine demanded and the extent of ritual that will quell risk and anxiety (chaos relievers). First consider some estimates of the number of organized Christian sects...

Economic Interest Groups and Ancient Egyptian Religion

Temple societies with various forms of gods and priesthoods based on agrarian surpluses emerged in many geographic areas over the past ten thousand years and were inextricably involved with political structures (often with monopolies over violence).12 In most of these societies an aristocracy prevailed but only with some kind of theocratic overlay in which the leader was either the messenger of the gods or the deity itself. One point seems to be overlooked however. Highly skewed or wide dis...

Supply Side Elements Taxing Wealth

The conditions necessary for the medieval church to enjoy continual success in maintaining its market dominance were the following First, there had to be a large reserve of wealth to tap, which was the case in those societies where feudal institutions maintained a prosperous landed class, or other societal arrangements supported the concentration of wealth. Second, the prevailing wealth distribution had to be relatively stable in order to repay the Church's investment in information and to keep...

Qualified Statement of the Demand for Religion

Although it is circumscribed by the qualifications enumerated in the preceding section, our notion of the demand for particular forms of religion is sufficiently meaningful to inform many of the developments that have taken place in the evolution of Christianity. Central to our analysis is the characterization of religion as a Z-good. The Z-good is a device employed by Gary Becker in his seminal article on household production.30 In Becker's formulation, households are both producing units...

Secularization Politics and Science

In general, the conclusion of sociologists that secularization has not substituted for religion is completely correct in our view. In their book Acts of Faith Stark and Finke, for example, devote an entire chapter to Secularization RIP.''27 If we stick to a definition of religion as organization'' and measure it by attendance or membership, this may not be so. In the National Opinion Survey of religion, the fastest growth is no religion.'' Further, the category no religion'' is growing fastest...

Catholicism Protestantism and Economic Performance

Christianity is an idea, and as such is indestructible and immortal, like every idea. Heinrich Heine, History of Religion and Philosophy in Germany Economists are quite naturally interested in the effects of ideology on economic performance, and because religion is arguably the most powerful ideological force of human experience, it is understandable that economic analysis would extend to the role of religion in explaining economic growth and development. The most famous study linking economics...

The Economic Role of Cathedral Building

The conventional model of the decline in rent seeking occasioned by Protestant entry into the religion market is, however, understated (by, for example, the area ABPp in figure 8.2). In order to appreciate this we must note that medieval economic development in Europe usually occurred most dramatically in cities that contained major churches or cathedrals. The great era of cathedral building in Europe was between 1140 and 1280, but the tendency of cathedrals to promote local expenditures...

Sex Life Issues and Schism

The greatest disputes within mainline Protestant denominations and the Roman Catholic Church, as well as between Christians in both the advanced and third world, relate to that most fundamental of human activities matters related to sex and procreation. These developments have led and could possibly lead in a number of instances to schism, since belief in doctrinal interpretations of sex and life issues are undergoing fundamental changes in some mainline churches, including the Baptist,...

Huldrych Zwingli 14841531 Humanist Reformation at Zurich As

Luther anticipated, early Protestants were unable to maintain a single identity. The unity of the new movement was threatened by a major rift between Luther and Zwingli over the doctrine of the Eucharist. An effort at Augsberg to reunite the whole Church failed, but in the spirit of unification, the Protestants produced the Augsberg Confession, a document that established the theological foundation for a new branch of Christendom, which soon took on the name of Lutheranism. Over the next four...

Financing Protestantism

There is, unfortunately, a scarcity of exact information on how the evolving variants of Protestantism were financed. Conventional wisdom is that local churches depended mostly on biblical tithing by members. Where redistributive organizations such as synods did not exist, many congregational churches had to live by their own receipts. These churches, as Adam Smith suggested, most closely tended to the demands of members. Other organizational structures, such as the episcopal form, created...

Product Differentiation and Form Change under Protestantism

Because markets exist for the exchange of products, the nature of a product is central to market analysis. Compared to traditional economic theory, contemporary economics offers a sophisticated view of product in which the essence of any good is defined by the bundle of utility-creating characteristics that customers want and are willing to pay for.1 Hence, a loaf of bread purchased at a convenience store must be seen not merely as bread, but as bread plus convenience. In other words, the...

City Size as a Proxy for Economic Prosperity

DeLong and Shleifer use city size as a measure of economic prosperity in their test of the relationship between political institutions and economic growth in the pre-industrial era.53 They find that slow economic growth in the eight hundred years prior to the Industrial Revolution was associated with absolutist governments, whereas republican governments were more conducive to growth. The affinity of such correlation to the connection between religion and growth is strong, because the medieval...

Rent Seeking by the Upstream Church after the Council of Trent

The evolution of the medieval Catholic Church from a quasi-conciliar body in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries to a Roman-centered, Italian-dominated, papal monopoly was virtually complete by the time the Council of Trent was invoked. Thus, economic as well as spiritual power was concentrated in the hands of a tightly organized, geopoliti-cally homogeneous circle of prelates in Rome. Despite the fact that the financial abuses of this body constituted the proximate cause of Luther's and...

Primogeniture and Protestant Entry

As a preliminary test of this proposition, we gathered data on the principal entry points of Protestantism and compared the acceptance of the new religion with the conditions most likely to encourage its success or failure. Our stylized theory predicts that societies enforcing primogeniture would be most likely to remain Catholic, whereas those societies with more fluid property laws and hence more opportunities for wealth enhancement by a larger strata of society would find Protestantism more...

Urban Growth and Protestant Entry

In the previous section we argued that primogeniture is a reasonable proxy for income distribution in a medieval society. The predominant historical view, that the Protestant Reformation was basically an urban phenomenon,''57 offers another opportunity to test our theory. Inasmuch as city size and growth reflect exchange volume, and exchange volume reflects wider income distribution, a demonstrable link should exist between urban growth and the practice of primogeniture a proxy for income...

Religion Public Good or Private Good

When we turn our attention to the question of religion as a public or a private good, we encounter different sets of issues. A private good is one that is easily divisible into parts that can be sold in a market so that it becomes the unique possession of the purchaser. By virtue of this unique possession enforced by private property rights the owner of the good can exclude others from the benefits that the good conveys. Hence, private goods are subject to the exclusion principle. An apple, for...

Joint Products Penance and the Price of Leather

Consider tables 4.3 and 4.4 even more closely. They show that meat and fish production both account for a relatively large part of GNP in Peru, Denmark, Taiwan, South Africa, the Netherlands, Canada, Spain, and Chile. Spain is a special case, for reasons we discuss later in this Twenty major meat-producing countries as percent of GNP , 1958 number of new and replacement cardinals in 1966 by country appointed, 1958-1966 Twenty major meat-producing countries as percent of GNP , 1958 number of new...

Measures by the Incumbent Firm to Raise Rivals Costs

In certain respects, the medieval Catholic Church's reaction to Protestant entry was analogous to the reaction of business firms to regulated competition or to the tendency of special interests to seek protective trade legislation. In such cases, incumbent firms seek to protect their market power by raising rivals' costs. In the sixteenth century the rivals were, on the one hand, the new Protestant sects Lutherans, Anglicans, Calvinists, etc. , and on the other, the new heretics from the...

Interest Groups and Doctrinal Change Eating Meat on Friday

Doctrinal change is often believed to be out of the purview of economic interests and, admittedly, there are many factors to consider. In some instances, however, economic interests and groups representing them help explain doctrinal change and changing religious proscriptions. For example, real reform in Roman Catholic Church doctrine was afoot dur ing the late 1950s and 1960s during the reigns of Popes John XXIII and Paul VI. These institutional changes were promulgated first through the...

Price Discrimination in the Medieval Religion Market

The first prerequisite for a firm to practice price discrimination is the existence of monopoly power, which the Church had acquired by the Middle Ages. The medieval church took on the posture of a vertically integrated, dominant firm, capable of engaging in product innovation, differentiation, and development.10 From the twelfth century on, it introduced doctrinal innovations that encouraged and facilitated the practice of price discrimination. Through these innovations, church managers were...

Anecdotal Evidence of Market Forces at Work

We believe that the broad contours of history provide evidence for the view that people exhibit a demand for religion and that churches respond by supplying religious services. History tells us that when survival was most uncertain as in primitive societies with low levels of science, education, and resources the forms of religion demanded involved time-consuming rituals, cult-like behavior, and, eventually, club-like organizations e.g., Freemasons or the Knights of Columbus . Existential dread...

Preface

Economic markets tell us about the production and distribution of material goods. But humankind's spiritual needs, as manifested through the ages by the practices of magic and religion, are as pressing and durable as its material needs. The existential dilemma posed by life on planet earth was as real for the ancient hunter as it is for the modern computer programmer. For eons, religion in its myriad forms has been a binding force of human populations and a contributing factor to human...

What Is the Core Product of Religion

The core product that is supplied by organized religion is information, but it is information of a peculiar sort. It is typical of any religion that the information supplied cannot be verified by experimental, empirical, or other scientific means. Hence, as we noted earlier, religion is a credence good. Moreover, the information provided may be used to satisfy wants on many different margins. For example, moral codes provide unity, social order, and stability. Hence, religion is a public good....

Advantages of the Economic Approach

The events in the United States of September 11, 2001, and their aftermath, have stirred, more than ever, awareness among social scientists of the importance of studying religion. This book seeks to contribute to our understanding of religion by demonstrating the usefulness of economic analysis for the study of Christianity, both past and present. The level of historical and theological analysis presented here is not as deep as some scholars would prefer, but such depth is neither the intent...

Is There an Economics of Religion

No urge, primal or modern, is more fundamental than the desire to explain existence. Human curiosity concerning mankind's ultimate origins and destinations has motivated multiple belief systems and organized religions, all seeking, more or less, to provide meaning to life on earth. Although we cannot know for sure, it is quite possible that religion is as old as mankind. Can the same be said of economics Whereas economic behavior is probably as old as Homo erectus, by a common consensus the...

Limitations of the Economic Approach

The extension of Adam Smith's analysis of the economics of religion is even more appropriate today for two reasons Religion remains at the center of culture and civilization, and economic theory has progressed substantially in the past two and a half centuries. Contemporary economics can bring many analytical tools and concepts to bear that were not available to Smith and his contemporaries. Our study relies not only on the standard techniques of demand and supply analysis, but also on...