Religious market theory
Learning Objective 1:
To understand the key concepts of Stark and Bainbridge’s ‘Religious Market Theory’ . (Grade D/E)
The main advocates of the Religious Market Theory (also known as rational choice theory) are Stark and Bainbridge (1985).
They are very critical of secularisation theory which they see as Eurocentric.
Q. What do they mean by ‘Eurocentric’?
Stark and Bainbridge also believe that secularisation theory puts forward a distorted view of the past and the future.
They believe that there was no ‘golden age’ of religion in the past, as secularisation theory implies, nor is it realistic to predict a future end point for religion when everyone will be an atheist.
Q. What was the ‘golden age’? Why is it debatable as to whether the golden age ever existed?
Stark and Bainbridge propose religious market theory. The theory is based on two assumptions. What are these?
According to Stark and Bainbridge religion is attractive because it provides us with compensators. What is a compensator?
As an alternative to secularisation theory, which sees a one-way process of continuous decline. Stark and Bainbridge put forward the idea of a perpetual cycle of religious decline, revival and renewal.
Draw a diagram of Stark and Bainbridge’s proposed perpetual cycle.
How do Stark and Bainbridge compare church operations to a market?
Learning Objective 2: To be able to explain why Stark and Bainbridge