Failed Secular Revolutions: Religious Belief, Competition, and Extremism

33 Pages Posted: 4 Mar 2023 Last revised: 23 Aug 2023

See all articles by Jean-Paul Carvalho

Jean-Paul Carvalho

Department of Economics, University of Oxford

Jared Rubin

Chapman University - The George L. Argyros College of Business and Economics

Michael Sacks

Clarkson University

Date Written: August 18, 2023

Abstract

All advanced economies have undergone secular revolutions in which religious belief and institutions have been subordinated to secular forms of authority. There are, however, numerous examples of failed secular transitions. To understand these failures, we present a religious club model with endogenous entry and cultural transmission of religious beliefs. A spike in the demand for religious belief, due for example to a negative economic shock, induces a new and more extreme organization to enter the religious market and exploit the dissatisfaction of highly religious types with the religious incumbent. The effect is larger where institutional secularization is more advanced, for example where the religious establishment has moderated itself or has been moderated by the political authority. The greater the moderation of the religious incumbent, the more extreme is the position chosen by the religious entrant, and the larger is the rise in religious participation. Hence, unanticipated shifts in religious demand can lead to the emergence of new and more extreme religious organizations, and reverse previous trends toward secularization. Our model sheds light on the causes and consequences of failed secular revolutions and religious revivals in Latin America and Egypt.

Keywords: Secularization, religious organizations, co-optation, extremism

JEL Classification: Z12, L1, O5

Suggested Citation

Carvalho, Jean-Paul and Rubin, Jared and Sacks, Michael, Failed Secular Revolutions: Religious Belief, Competition, and Extremism (August 18, 2023). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4373707 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4373707

Jean-Paul Carvalho

Department of Economics, University of Oxford ( email )

10 Manor Rd
Oxford, OX1 3UQ
United Kingdom

Jared Rubin

Chapman University - The George L. Argyros College of Business and Economics ( email )

One University Drive
Orange, CA 92866
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.jaredcrubin.com

Michael Sacks (Contact Author)

Clarkson University ( email )

Potsdam, NY 13699
United States

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