Posted by: aboutalbion | March 1, 2013

The mimetic basis of religious risk analysis (4)

The next proposition in Rodney Stark’s list is the ‘voluntary poverty proposition’.

Religious leaders have greater credibility when they receive low levels of material reward in return for their religious services.”

In this proposition, Stark is addressing the incentive that religious leaders have “to overstate the benefits of the religion”. (p174)

This incentive arises because the officers of a religion need to (at least) maintain membership levels for the reason that their “livelihood may depend on keeping the flock faithful”. (p174)

In order to minimize the risk of leaders claiming too much for their products, and becoming ‘successful’, and creating the impression of affluence, it is a rational response for religious organizations to arrange matters so that their paid staff have relatively modest incomes.

In Stark’s view, it is rational for religions to wish to increase their credibility by associating themselves with “the powerful ascetic current that persists in all religious traditions …”. (p174)

[Stark, Rodney (1997) The Rise of Christianity. New York: HarperOne.]


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