Choice and Religion: A Critique of Rational Choice Theory

Synopsis

The orthodox view is that the democracies of the western world have become increasingly secular over the twentieth century. Fewer and fewer people have chosen to believe, and the church has declined markedly as religion has changed from being part of an identity ascribed at birth to being a matter of personal choice. Choice and Religion provides a detailed critique of the 'rational choice' approach to religion to demonstrate that industrialisation has secularised the western world and that diversity, far from making religion more popular by allowing individuals to maximize their returns, undermines it. The claim that diversity and competition promote religion is refuted with evidence from a wide variety of western societies. Bruce examine the Nordic countries and the ex-communist states of eastern Europe to explore the consequences of different sorts of state regulation, and to show that ethnicity is a more powerful determinate of religious change than market structures. Where religion matters, it is not because individuals are maximising their returns, it is because it defines group identity and is heavily implicated in social conflict.

Additional information

Contributors:
Publisher: Place of publication:
  • Oxford
Publication year:
  • 1999