Supply of Religious Services

Demanders of religion may also be suppliers of religion. Both suppliers and demanders are motivated in part by the immediacy of survival and/ or the persistence of existential dread, including fear of death. We have already seen that religion may be self-generated without the benefit (or encumbrance) of formal organizations (churches). But because we want to focus our investigation on the behavior of organizational entities, we will not dwell on self-generated religion in our treatment of the supply side of the market. The typical pattern of supply within religious institutions involves the use of intermediaries, or agents. The role of these agents has evolved over long periods of time and across various cultures. The shaman of early societies eventually gave way to the priest of later civilizations.

Joseph Campbell offers the following contrast between priest and shaman, both religious (supply) agents in a market framework: "The priest is the socially initiated, ceremonially inducted member of a recognized religious organization, where he holds a certain rank and functions as the tenant of an office that was held by others before him, while the shaman is one who, as a consequence of a personal psychological crisis, has gained a certain power of his own. The spiritual visitants who came to him in vision had never been seen before by any other; they were his particular familiars and protectors.''40 Unbound by organizational structure, shamans had more freedom of activity, but their role in hunter-gatherer societies was difficult and precarious. According to E. Lucas Bridges, son of a missionary to Tierra del Fuego, who wrote about native Indians, "Medicine men ran great dangers. When persons in their prime died from no visible cause, the 'family doctor' would often cast suspicion, in an ambiguous way, on some rival necromancer. Frequently the chief object of a raiding party... was to kill the medicine man of an opposing group.''41 Despite their extensive powers to create myths and inspire beliefs, shamans were in constant danger of being replaced by those with stronger powers. Of course, as science developed, their influence waned. But in several important ways shamans and necromancers in nomadic societies presaged the priests who were to come: (a) They were the moderators of science and scientific belief and (b) They recognized that magic could be sold as a quid pro quo for their Z-good. Both of these points have been confirmed by countless anthropological studies—the first in an explicit way and the second in an implicit way. Shamans were specialists. As Bridges notes, they preferred chant and teaching to drudgery and work.42 Thus they supplied their expertise in return for sustenance by the community. In some early societies, such as ancient Egypt, myth and religion were so integral to everyday life that the lion's share of society's resources was devoted to maintenance of a priestly class (with the god Pharaoh as its head).

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