One of the disadvantages of any project is that you need – as the Americans say – to trawl for trash, or at least know what is not worth using. As I set my mind to the Idols of Nations project, I have come across yet more of the innocuously named ‘economics of religion’ crap. To wit, an anthology edited by Rachel McCleary in the Oxford handbook series, and a journo book by Larry Witham. This stuff used to be called – and still is in some circles – ‘rational choice’ theory. All of that is a cover for neoclassical economics applied to religion. You know the drill: models of the ‘market’, supply and demand, self-interest, comparative advantage, all the while kowtowing to Adam Smith and his great myth. Sheer depravity if you ask me, removing the epithet ‘neoclassical’ or indeed ‘neoliberal’ and thereby absolutising it as ‘economics’. Nor have they noticed that in most situations, we don’t rationally choose the best option, but usually the worst.

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