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Proponents of this perspective posit that stricter churches reduce free riding, or the ability of members to belong yet not contribute to the group. This concept is generally considered to be part of a religious economies approach to religion because it employs assumptions derived from economics regarding the relationship between individual and group behavior, but there is a distinctive research literature focusing on strictness as an intra-organizational dimension.  Kelley (1972) posited three primary aspects of strictness: 1) ideological; 2) lifestyle or behavioral; 3) policing.

The theory undergirding the concept predicts that strict religious groups will tend to retain members and foster ongoing commitment, while more lenient churches will tend to lose members and exhibit lower levels of commitment. At present, there is not a standard strategy for operationalizing and empirically assessing the concept of strictness.  Although Iannaccone (1994) used the opinions of “experts,” a more objective approach has been to examine the number of behavioral restrictions made on adherents.

There is also a potential avenue of research that examines the micro sociological mechanisms of strict religious organizations from the group processes and symbolic interaction perspectives.  Other current shortcomings in this perspective are the under-specified nature of the connection between strictness and tension with the surrounding cultural environment, and often these terms are incorrectly used interchangeably (Tamney 2005).

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Baker, Joseph O.  2010.  “Social Source of the Spirit: Connecting Rational Choice and Interactive Ritual Theories in the Study of Religion.”  Sociology of Religion 71(4):432-456.

Iannaccone, Laurence. 1994. “Why Strict Churches are Strong.” The American Journal of Sociology. 99(5): 1180-1211.

Kelley, Dean. [1972] 1986. Why Conservative Churches are Growing. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press.

Tamney, Joseph B.  2005.  “Does Strictness Explain the Appeal of Working Class Congregations?”  Sociology of Religion 66(3):283-302.

The following are possible measures of Strictness that can be created using data from theARDA.com
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