AbstractWe develop a generalized theory of religious markets and apply its insights to archaic Greece, ancient Israel, and modern America. Our starting point is a simple game-theoretic model in which secular leaders enhance their power by influencing the location of sacred places. The model includes standard equilibria - such as pure competition and state-sponsored monopoly - as well as a novel equilibrium, which we call the neutral nexus, wherein a sacred place gains widespread authority precisely because it lies beyond the centers of secular power. The nexus can promote cooperation, innovation, and exchange, especially where markets are weak and power is fragmented. It can also sustain random divination - a surprisingly effective way to manage conflict and risk. The sanctuary of Delphi illustrates the real-world relevance of the neutral nexus, as does Israel's tabernacle of Shiloh.
Economics of religion Focal points Delphic Oracle Sacred space Religious markets Legitimacy