Arnold Kling has another post at Tech Central Station about the work of his co-blogger Bryan Caplan.
It's entitled "Stuck On 1968", and its about the locking in of the liberal mindset around the set of beliefs available at that time.
I was interested in the more general thesis though
Caplan, in a book that eventually is to be published by Princeton University Press, argues that most people do not work very hard to arrive at worldviews that are logically consistent and factually supported, because the reward for rational beliefs is too small. He writes: "we should expect people to...believe whatever makes them feel best. After all, it's free...
Kling connects this to politics, but to me it speaks to religion (as did Arnold's recent article about folk Marxism). If I can extend the argument a bit:
...People are insulated from the consequences of their beliefs [because they have] a low probability of influencing the outcome ...
Now I don't want to criticize people's broader beliefs, but even the faithful will admit that their religions have lots of contradictions that they can't explain - say like being against suicide but in favor of homicide bombers.
The economics of this then becomes rather interesting. If a religion provides explanations of events cheaply then it may get people to consume it more readily - either by being more faithful, or by being more willing to accept or convert. This jibes fairly well with practical experience that religions offer lots of answers while science seeks questions that are unanswered. So a faith that attempts to provide more answers may actually do better in terms of size; I think this would be supported if we went out and looked at things like pages in scriptural texts, or availability of books in specialty bookstores.
UPDATE (I didn't quite finish this before I posted it).
Continuing that thought, we should observe that faiths that are more interested in growth should more heavily promote the availability of cheap and readily available information for those seeking answers. I am not an expert on either, but contrast the Mormon faith (which is predominant where I live), and the Jewish faith (with which I have considerably more personal history than the typical non-Jew). Clearly these are on opposite ends of the spectrum on proselytization. They are also on opposite ends of the spectrum as far as free or cheap advice and direction goes. My Mormon friends describe their faith as a lifestyle, and it is certainly one in which there is a ready supply of free advisement about minute details of daily existence. Contrast this with Judaism, which is known for its more general propositions, and the obscurity of more specific positions in the Talmud. You could extend this to religious booksellers as well: my guess is that there are more LDS oriented bookstores in my corner of southwestern Utah than there are Jewish oriented bookstores in Manhattan.
OK ... now I've put my head in the noose ... but ... if this ticks you off, can you name a faith that isn't aggressively proselytic that provides a large volume of answers, or one that is proselytic that doesn't?