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The Economics of Sin

Rational Choice or No Choice at All?

Samuel Cameron

The Economics of Sin examines the definition and evolution of sin from the perspective of rational choice economics, yet is conscious of the limitations of such an approach. The author argues that because engaging in activities deemed to be sinful is an act of choice, it can therefore be subject to the logic of choice in the economic model.
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Chapter 3: Religion

Rational Choice or No Choice at All?

Samuel Cameron


God will not suffer his people to be tempted above what they are able to bear. I Corinthians 10:13 [as quoted in Scott (2001, p. 49)] INTRODUCTION The last chapter concluded with the issue of collective regulation of individual behaviour. The paramount element of this, with regard to sin, is organized religion. Granted, formal regulation is in the hands of the government, but even where state and church come to be formally separate there is still a powerful cultural influence of religious ideas through lobbying by religiously motivated groups and from the continuance of religious notions embedded, in subtle ways, in everyday language and discourse. This is particularly the case in life and death matters such as abortion, euthanasia, suicide and capital punishment. There is a large literature on the economics of religion which proceeds without any real necessity of actually defining religion too precisely. As the present work concerns sin, we cannot really avoid giving a definition which, unsurprisingly, is not an easy thing to do. In his key work, of 1902, on religious experience, William James openly invited vagueness by defining it as: the feelings, acts and experiences of individual men in their solitude, so far as they apprehend themselves to stand in relation to whatever they may consider the divine. [James (1997, p. 53)] In the New Fontana Dictionary of Modern Thought [Bullock & Trombley (1999, p. 745)], the definition of religion begins with: An attitude of awe towards God, or Gods, or the supernatural, or the...

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