Extremism and the Economics of Religion


  • This work was supported in part by grants from the Metanexus Foundation and John Templeton Foundation.

Laurence R. Iannaccone, George L. Argyros School of Business and Economics, Chapman University, Orange County, CA 92866. Email: larry@econzone.com


By modeling religious activity as a product of rational choice and market forces, the economics of religion offers new insights concerning religious trends, the consequences of religious freedom, doctrinal innovation, and the enduring appeal of extremism. The work both complements and challenges that of sociologists, historians, and other religious scholars. Club-theoretic models of sectarianism highlight the potential benefits of strictness and sacrifice, not only in religions, but also in communes, gangs, military units, social movements, political organizations, and even academic subfields.