What Are the Main Strengths and Weaknesses of the Rational Choice Appr

1781 words 8 pages
What Are The Main Strengths and Weaknesses of The Rational Choice Approach To
Religions Behavior?

One of the pioneers of the rational choice theory has been Gary Becker.
He states that this approach can be applied to all human behaviour, including religion. This approach has three assumptions. It assumes that people engage in maximising behaviour. When applying this approach to religion we are not concerned with money. We are concerned with the maximisation of personal benefits. When we make a decision we weigh up the costs and benefits and choose the option which offers the most benefit. Secondly, there are ‘markets that with varying degrees of efficiency allow the actions of different participants to function together
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He also argues that the strength of a persons belief is reinforced by social interaction. Therefore a husband and wife reinforce each others beliefs and encourage church attendance. Also
Iannaccone shows a correlation between couples sharing the same faith and being more than averagelt involved in their religion but his data does not show which causes which. It also seems likely that people who are highly committed to their religion will want to marry someone of the same faith. Bruce argues that there is a degree of indeterminacy in the economc approach and gives the example of the low start-up costs controversy explained above. He states that there can not be any way of proving the utility maximisation theory false because utility is a matter of social construction which is interpreted in different ways by different people. What is a cost to one person could be a benefit to another. The only way to identify what are costs and what are benefits is to look at the choices themselves. It is these choices that we wish to explain so we seem to be going round in circles. Another weakness highlighted by Bruce is that economising requires the ability to choose between items that are comparable. he argues if religion is not comparable on some scale then how can we decide which choices will maximise our utility? He argues that religions cannot be alternatives to each other in the sense that


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