Religion without doctrine or clergy: The case of Ancient Greece

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The paper examines doctrinal and political reasons to explain why the Ancient Greek religion did not feature a distinct class of professional priests as suppliers of religious goods. Doctrinal reasons relate to worshiping a multitude of powerful anthropomorphic gods with flawed characters; absence of a founder of religion and of a scripture; lack of religious doctrine and of a code of moral behaviour; and piety manifested as mass participation in rituals. These factors denied religious suppliers the opportunity to form a monopoly acting as an autonomous intermediary between humans and gods. Political reasons relate to the supremacy of the demos which watchfully guarded its decision-making powers and prevented other actors like a priestly interest group to challenge its authority.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Institutional Economics
Early online date1 Jul 2021
Publication statusPublished online - 1 Jul 2021
EventPresented to 2021 European Public Choice Conference (Lille, France, virtual event) - Lille, France, Lille, France
Duration: 21 Apr 202122 Apr 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of Millennium Economics Ltd.


  • Ancient Greek religion
  • priests
  • religious doctrine
  • moral behaviour
  • interest groups
  • city-state


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