Plan of the Book

Our analysis of the evolution of Christianity in the post-Reformation period is presented in succeeding chapters. In chapter 2 we provide a limited survey of the major approaches to the economics of religion, starting with Adam Smith and moving toward the present. Using past research as a backdrop, we attempt to place our theory within the context of existing research, including studies generated by other allied social sciences. In chapter 3 we analyze religion as rational economic behavior from both historical and contemporary perspectives. This chapter attempts to develop a theory of the demand and supply for the existence and form of religion and to identify the determinants of demand and supply. Chapter 4 presents historical examples of how economic determinants affect forms of religion in religious markets. This chapter is a prelude to our theory and discussion of the Protestant Reformation in chapter 5, in which we provide historical evidence for the usefulness of economics in analyzing the critical point of entry by Protestants into the market for Christian religion. Chapter 6 explores and evaluates the Roman Catholic response to market entry, which is commonly known as the Counter-Reformation. Chapter 7 supplies economic context for the early doctrinal and organizational responses to the new market entrants (i.e., by Martin Luther, leader of the great religious revolt of the sixteenth century, and others), and traces the ensuing developments that led almost immediately to open competition in the market for religion. This chapter emphasizes the doctrinal and organizational developments of Protestant Christianity that bestowed utility-enhancing benefits on members of various denominations. In chapter 8 we examine, evaluate, and supplement the sociologist Max Weber's famous conjecture that the advent of Protestantism encouraged the development of capitalism. Finally, in chapter 9 we explore the contemporary impact of Christianity's historical evolution on today's hot-button religious issues, such as the so-called North-South (liberal-conservative) issue, sectarianism, and other highly charged controversies (e.g., women/gay clergy, gay marriage, celibacy, and competition from other religious traditions). We conclude this study with some speculations on the usefulness of an analytical method that exploits modern microeconomics to understand Christianity. Although we do not argue that modern economics is capable of explaining all facets of religion and religious institutions, we nevertheless affirm, with the backing of an ever-growing body of scientific literature, that economic analysis can improve our understanding of important aspects of religion and religious practice.

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