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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 e ect 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.


ESI Working Paper 23-04

This paper later underwent peer review and was published as:

Carvalho, J.-P., Rubin, J., & Sacks, M. (2023). Failed secular revolutions: Religious belief, competition, and extremism. Public Choice.



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