In the USA, a prominent strand of sociological thought argues that a free market in religious ideas is what drives the popularity of religion in that country – so call Rational Choice Theory. So here’s some interesting new market research from an Arizona-based agency.
Apparently, seven out of ten regular church goers are open to switching denomination – there’s less loyalty to denomination than to toothpaste and toilet rolls! On the face of it, that’s good support for at least one basic premise of RCT. But the devil is in details
For example, there’s a dramatic difference between Protestants and Catholics. Whereas 85% of Protestants are open to switching, only 40% of Catholics are. And only 10% of Catholics have no particular preference for a particular denomination.
What this illustrates is that, even in the USA, the free market in religion only stretches so far. Even within Christianity, choices are in fact restricted. And as for switching between religions – well that’s very rare of course.
The USA is in many ways a bit of a one-off. It’s certainly true that Protestant Christians have a bewildering array of options available to them. But outside of this the realities of religious identification are much the same as in the rest of the world.