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The Religious Market Model And Conversion: Towards A New Approach

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The article gives a critical overview of the religious market model to assess its usefulness for analyzing religious conversion in a context of increasing pluralism. The model's central idea is that religious organizations are competing for adherents, who make (rational?) choices from the available options. I first present the main tenets, contributions, and possible short-comings of the religious market model at three different levels of analysis: micro, meso, and macro. The next section describes and assesses the conventional social science approaches to conversion. Then I describe and analyze the approach to religious conversion that follows from the religious market model, as developed in Stark and Finke (Acts of Faith: Explaining the Human Side of Religion, Berkeley etc.: University of California Press 2000, 114–138). I end with my own evaluation of the usefulness of the market model for empirical research in a situation of religious pluralism. The conclusion will sketch the connections between individual religious demand and the supply-side of competing religious organizations.

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