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The cult of martyrs

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  • Ferrero, Mario

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Abstract

This paper suggests a rational explanation for extreme voluntary sacrifice in situations in which the state of the world when the decision must be made is observable only by the agent. Such explanation is the cult of martyrs, heroes, and saints. This cult may get out of control and fuel fanaticism, or excessive sacrifice from the standpoint of the sponsoring organization. A survey of the historical evidence of Christian martyrdom strongly suggests that martyrs were driven by the expectation of a cult in this world, not by otherworldly rewards. In particular, it is argued that the evidence of excess martyrdom in both Muslim Spain and the Roman Empire strongly speaks for the cult theory.

Suggested Citation

  • Ferrero, Mario, 2010. "The cult of martyrs," POLIS Working Papers 145, Institute of Public Policy and Public Choice - POLIS.
  • Handle: RePEc:uca:ucapdv:145
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    File URL: http://polis.unipmn.it/pubbl/RePEc/uca/ucapdv/ferrero168.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Mario Ferrero, 2006. "Martyrdom Contracts," Journal of Conflict Resolution, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 50(6), pages 855-877, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Azam, Jean-Paul & Ferrero, Mario, 2017. "Jihad against Palestinians?: The Herostratos syndrome and the paradox of targeting European Jews," TSE Working Papers 17-874, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE).
    2. Mario Ferrero, 2016. "Jesus and the Ratchet," Homo Oeconomicus: Journal of Behavioral and Institutional Economics, Springer, vol. 33(1), pages 173-195, August.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    martyrdom; cult; afterlife; economics of religion; principal-agent model; suicide terrorism;

    JEL classification:

    • D74 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Conflict; Conflict Resolution; Alliances; Revolutions
    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • Z12 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Religion

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