RELIG 307 Midterm Essay Exam

LATE PAPERS: Your exam grade not only reflects your knowledge of the course content, it also includes your ability to organize your time, overcome obstacles, and complete a task by an assigned deadline. While the course drop box will be opened past the due date and time for those missing the deadline, late essays will be immediately penalized with a 10-point deduction (on a 100-point scale). For each additional day beyond  another five (5) points will be deducted. Given that the essay prompts will be available at least two weeks prior to the deadline, there will be very few excuses accepted for late essays. All excuses for tardiness are to be addressed directly to Professor Gill, who may require validation of the excuse.

PROCEDURES: Respond to all four of the questions (or prompts) below (each worth 25 points). Your answer to each question should not exceed 650 words (or roughly 3-5 paragraphs). This does not mean that you should write exactly 650 words and stop, expecting an “A” for the answer. It means that you will need to be pithy. Pithiness requires revisions and rewrites. Shorter answers are welcomed. Your answer will be evaluated on a proper use and understanding of political economy concepts, use of citations, paragraph/sentences structure, and grammar. Please use a standard 12-point font (e.g., Times New Roman, Garamond, Arial).

Do not “lock” your file and use that as an excuse for being tardy. Likewise, do not accidently submit the “wrong essay” and say, “Oops, that was my BIO A 355 homework.” Locked or incorrect files will be considered late and assessed the penalties mentioned above. Note that we may not be grading your exam immediately and it may take several days to discover it was “accidently” locked or was the wrong file; penalties accrue as if it were not turned in. It is up to you to double check your work. We will only be accepting unlocked .doc, .docx, and .pdf files. Also, do not turn off the information and editing tracking in the file as this allows us to verify, if the need arises, when the file was created, by whom, and how much time was spent writing. If you are using Google Docs, please make the appropriate conversions and provide the link to the Google Docs document so that we can verify editing.

In order to test who has done the reading and viewed the lectures, and to incentivize future reading and viewing, each answer will require citations to the reading material and/or lectures listed in the syllabus. Optional readings or podcasts as posted in the syllabus or course website may also count towards this total. However, while sources not listed on the syllabus or course website are permitted in your responses, they will not count towards your minimum citation count. The purpose is, after all, to motivate you to engage with the course material. The citation form to use is provided at the end of this exam. You will be graded on proper citation format, as well as grammar and spelling.

Respond to all four (4) questions/prompts below.

Answer each question as if you were writing to (or talking with) an educated individual who has not taken POL S / RELIG 307. This means you should clearly lay out what the question or puzzle is in your own words (don’t just cut and paste from this sheet), and provide a clear answer (thesis statement).

Question 1: The Road to Secularization Is Paved with Theories (25 points)

Using two (2) key theoretical points1 from secularization theory and/or the counter-arguments to secularization theory, make a case that either religion has becoming socially and politically irrelevant over the past several centuries (or decades), OR a case that the claims of secularization theory are incorrect. Approach this question as if you were responding to another individual who said the world is becoming more secular or is not growing more secular. (Be sure to write in a professional manner, though.)

Your answer must reference at least one (1) reading and one (1) lecture for a minimum of two citations (your citations will not count towards your word total). Please see the end of this assignment for the proper citation format.

Question 2: The Red, Gray, & Black, and the Red, White, & Blue (25 points)

Why does the current religious landscape in China pose an interesting challenge to secularization theory? Your answer should include two reasons why this is so. What role does the government play in shaping the religious marketplace in China? Explain what is meant by red, gray, and black religious markets. Provide a non-religious, secular analogy to the red/gray/black market

thesis. (In other words, where else might we see red, gray, and black markets?) Finally, give a brief answer as to why we don’t see extensive religious black markets in the United States (or Europe).

Question 3: Pious Puzzles and Learned Lectures (25 points)

In the opening of his book Marketplace of the Gods, Larry Witham discusses the “rush hour of the gods” and then presents five additional puzzles. Furthermore, throughout chapters 1-8, Witham provides a number of interesting empirical examples of how economics has been used to explain religious behavior at the individual or institutional level. Choose two (2) puzzles or empirical examples used in Witham. Using your own words (but citing where appropriate), explain what the puzzle is and then explain the basic answer for each puzzle/example using the religious economy model. Connect your discussion of Witham with at least either one other reading on the syllabus or lecture. Your answer should include at least two different citations to Witham, other syllabus- listed readings, and/or lecture. (See below for examples of proper citation.)

[Note: For this question you likely will only need to cite the Witham book, although there may be other tasty “Scooby Snacks” scattered throughout the lectures or other readings.]

Question 4: The Long Run (25 points)

Consider Gill (2021). Explain the argument for why Gill thinks the major religious traditions have outlasted secular governing institutions. This will require you to parse out the most important aspects of the argument given space constraints. [Hint: there are three major components to the argument.] Next, using material from Gill (2021) and Witham (2010), explain whether religions would be able to better fulfill their social governing functions when officially connected to or separated from secular government. [Note: This question requires citations from both Gill (2021) and Witham (2010). You may also be able to find some interesting nuggets of wisdom and guidance in other readings or the lecture material.]

Citation Format

While there are numerous styles of citation, I am requiring students use the format common to political science and used in our flagship journal The American Political Science Review. This format uses parenthetical references in text and a bibliography. Do not use footnote references. By that last sentence, I mean “do not use footnote references.” This is a test of your ability to follow directions. All parenthetical references must include the author’s last name and year of publication. Direct quotes must have a page reference. General discussion of an idea in a text should also include the relevant page numbers. An example of proper citation, including how to cite lectures and podcasts,2 is provided below.


Prof. Gill argued that the persistent belief in supernatural entities including ghosts is evidence that while religious supply may be waning, religious demand remains high (Gill 2023, Week 2 Wednesday). Rota (2016, circa 20-minute mark) noted there is a strong desire for humans to wants something beyond death, an argument echoed in Witham when he stated that individuals must “cope with both of these existential threats” (2010, 54). Gill (2021, 320-25) considers this constant desire for something beyond our physical existence as a reason why religious governance has been so enduring.3


Gill, A. 2023. “Week 2 Wednesday.” Religion and World Politics Lectures. Seattle: University of Washington.

                    . 2021. “The Comparative Endurance and Efficiency of Religion.” Public Choice 189: 313-34.

Rota, M. 2016. “Michael Rota on Pascal’s Wager.” Research on Religion. Accessed January 19, 2021.

Witham, L. 2010. Marketplace of the Gods: How Economics Explains Religion. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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