Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on ReligionInstitute for Studies of Relgion
IJRR :: 2012 Volume 8 :: Article 8
2012 Volume 8, Article 8
Religion as a Credence Good and the Case Against Galileo

Author: Kristina Terkun Castro (DePaul University)

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In 1633, the Papal Inquisition condemned Galileo Galilei as a heretic for attempting to rationalize Catholic scripture with Copernicus’ theory of heliocentrism. Nearly four centuries later, heliocentricity is widely accepted, and the Roman Catholic Church boasts one of the finest astronomical observatories in the world. What might account for such a radical shift in Church policy? Credence good theory offers an explanation. According to this theory, it is vital to establish and maintain a reputation if a credence good supplier is to survive. An examination of the credence qualities of religion reveals this to be true in the religious marketplace. Paying particular attention to the Roman Catholic Church, this article reveals reputational maintenance to be a driving force behind the Church’s response to Galileo. Furthermore, the theory explains how a longer-term strategy of reputational maintenance continues to influence the Church’s policy as it prepares to meet similar challenges in the future.

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