Qual Quant (2013) 47:1199–1212
A model of secularism in the state of nature
Published online: 2 March 2012
© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012
Abstract The issue of secularization has been extensively discussed within the Economics
of Religion. However, the related issue of secularism has received little, if any, attention.
Moreover, social sciences have only debated secularism in the context of state. This paper
disaggregates religion and secularism into a number of analytically tractable strands and
explores the possibility of secularism in the state of nature from different perspectives. The
incidence of secularism in the state of nature is shown to be contingent on the level of aggre-
gation, the reference groups and the dimensions of religion under consideration, and the cost
of religious contest. It is also shown that the belief regarding the externalities of individual
religious practice is the key determinant of the incidence of secularism, while the degree
of exclusivity of religion moderates/accentuates the effect of the aforesaid belief. Finally, it
is argued that a class of stateless settings is inherently conducive to constitutionally secular
states. But it is also shown that unconditionally secular individuals are not necessary for a
secular society and, by implication, state.
Keywords Economics of Religion · Law and Economics · Secularism · Secularization ·
State of nature
Religion remains one of the least, if not the least, understood aspects of human civilization.
Economists, qua economists, began to engage with religion in a sustained manner only in
I am grateful to P. G. Babu, Abhijit Banerji, Mario Ferrero, Manfred J. Holler, Pierre Salmon, and Robert
Sugden for helpful comments on earlier drafts and to the Institute of SocioEconomics and Institute of Law
and Economics, University of Hamburg and Azim Premji University for institutional support. This paper has
also beneﬁted from presentation at the University of Hamburg and the Annual Meeting of the European
Public Choice Society (Jena, 2008). The usual disclaimer applies.
V. K u m a r (
Azim Premji University, Bangalore 560100, Karnataka, India