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I’ve been reviewing a book* for an economic history journal that claims to explain, using rational choice theory, how Christianity developed over the first thousand years of its existence into a religious monopoly: in the marketplace of ideas, it undercut and outmanoeuvred its rivals through product development, cartelisation, vertical integration and ruthless price-cutting, so that it became the rational choice for religious consumers seeking to maximise their utility. Given the nature of the journal, my actual review will be short and limited in scope – roughly summarised, ‘the only economic history you’re going to find here is the assertion that the Christianisation of the Roman Empire must have ‘crowded out’ crime and immorality, so reduced enforcement costs and promoted economic growth’ – so I wanted to take the opportunity here to engage with some of the other problems I see with its approach to the history of religion. Where do we start..?

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