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Marketplace of the GodsHow Economics Explains Religion$
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Larry Witham

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780195394757

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195394757.001.0001

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Why Religions Form

Why Religions Form

Chapter:
(p.73) Chapter 5 Why Religions Form
Source:
Marketplace of the Gods
Author(s):

Witham Larry

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195394757.003.0005

Two models of business organization, the club and the firm, can be used to explain the origins of religion. Theories of the club and firm are recent developments in economics. In religion, Buddhism illustrates the evolution of a club, or sect, to a firm, or established faith. Buddhism’s competition with Hinduism and its role in becoming a monopoly faith in Tibet illustrate economic principles at work. Medieval Catholicism illustrates a multidimensional firm, with its features of division of labor, product differentiation, specialization, and profit making. Practices found in penance manuals and usury laws illustrate the economic forces. Today, clubs are exemplified by stricter sectarian groups or innovative “new” religions. As firms, religious groups can succeed a various sizes, but the megachurch is a particularly successful model because of its use of the entrepreneurial principle.

Keywords:   Buddhism, club, Catholicism, division of labor, entrepreneurs, firm, megachurch, product differentiation, profit

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