Adam Smith ( 1965: 740-766) laid the foundation for the economic analysis of religion in a largely ignored chapter of The Wealth of Nations. Smith argued that self-interest motivates clergy just as it does secular producers; that market forces constrain churches just as they do secular firms; and that the benefits of competition, the burdens of monopoly, and the hazards of government regulation are as real for religion as for any other sector of the economy. (For an attempt to test these assertions, see Iannaccone 1991)
Smith's insights languished for 200 years, but since the 1970's, and especially in the past few years, economists and sociologists have returned to Smith's insights. (Contemporary research on the economics of religion began with Azzi and Ehrenberg .) Viewing religious behavior as an instance of rational choice, rather than an exception to it, researchers have analyzed religious behavior at the individual, group, and market level.
Individual-level research has focused on the determinants of religious participation (church attendance and giving) and religious mobility (denominational switching and religious intermarriage). Group-level research has sought to explain why different types of people are drawn to different types of groups and, in particular, why many high-cost, "sectarian" groups enjoy substantial success, both high levels of commitment and continued growth, in the religious marketplace. Market-level research has sought to determine whether monopoly, regulation, and competition affect religious institutions and religious outcomes in the same ways that they affect standard, markets. (For an overview of this work, see "An Introduction to the Economics of Religion".)Do listen to the Podcast here and then lets discuss what your perspective is on this as a Christian.