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Preferences, Constraints, and Choices in Religious Markets: An Examination of Religious Switching and Apostasy

Darren E. Sherkat and John Wilson
Social Forces
Vol. 73, No. 3 (Mar., 1995), pp. 993-1026
Published by: Oxford University Press
DOI: 10.2307/2580555
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2580555
Page Count: 34
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Preferences, Constraints, and Choices in Religious Markets: An Examination of Religious Switching and Apostasy
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Abstract

A new paradigm in the sociology of religion offers a compelling perspective on processes of religious affiliation. Drawing on rational choice theory, this paradigm views religion as a marketplace consisting of freely choosing individuals and competitive organizations. Religious affiliation is an instance of cultural consumption, guided by preferences that inform the actor's calculation of the relative costs and benefits of various cultural choices. In this article we examine the development of religious preferences that inform choices about religious mobility. Since cultural consumption is both individual and social in nature, we move beyond the rather narrow focus on socioeconomic factors and integrate family and organizational variables, hitherto treated as competing explanations of religious mobility, into an overall theory of religious mobility. Further, we move beyond the assumption of religious voluntarism, which underlies the new paradigm in the sociology of religion, to examine how religious choices are subject to constraints imposed on individuals.

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