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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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Marketplace of the Gods

Marketplace of the Gods

(p.115) Chapter 7 Marketplace of the Gods
Marketplace of the Gods

Witham Larry

Oxford University Press

The “religious economies” of every society are a balance of monopoly and competition. Competition develops around religious market niches where suppliers meet consumer demand. No single religion (or business) can suit all consumer preferences, so pluralism and competition are the results. In the history of religion, competition is typified by the so-called church-sect dynamic, which describes the level of “tension” a religion has with its environments. Hence, religious niches range from strict (high-tension sectarian) to lenient (low tension church). In this marketplace, religions use every tool to find a stable and growing niche: innovation, specialization, product differentiation, and reducing start-up costs. Often, religious market vitality is determined by the degree of regulation and pluralism in the environment. This chapter looks at cases in colonial America, the Great Awakening, the rise of new religions, and the dynamics of politics and religion in Latin America and China.

Keywords:   China, church-sect, competition, innovation, Latin America, market niches, monopoly, regulation, strict religion, supply-side

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