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date: 15 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Of all the things that sustain formal religious institutions, none is more essential than material support. Without adequate income, congregations fold, denominations fail, and the faithful flock to greener pastures. Nor is any facet of religious commitment more concrete and quantifiable. Faced with skepticism about the accuracy and consistency of attendance and membership rates reported by individuals or institutions, the obvious alternative is to follow the money. Strange as it may seem, the economics of religion has yet to pay much attention to financial matters. The basic argument of this article, which suggests some first steps toward a general theory of religious finance, rests on a series of observations concerning the impact of government, production, religious beliefs, and religious competition. The article also applies the outlined principles across many different times, places, and traditions, including modern Europe, nineteenth-century Christian America, American Judaism, Buddhism, paganism, and Hinduism.

Keywords: religious finance, Europe, Christian America, religious institutions, government, religious beliefs, religious competition, religion, economics

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