Econophysics of a religious cult: the Antoinists in Belgium [1920-2000

arXiv:1201.4841v2 [q-fin.ST] 24 Jan 2012

Marcel R. Ausloos Beauvallon, r. Belle Jardini`re 483, B-4031 Li`ge, Euroland e e previously at 2 GRAPES, University of Liege, B-4000 Li`ge, Euroland e

e-mail address:

In the framework of applying econophysics ideas in religious topics, the finances of the Antoinist religious movement organized in Belgium between 1920 and 2000 are studied. The interest of investigating financial aspects of such a, sometimes called, sect stems in finding characteristics of conditions and mechanisms under which definitely growth AN D decay features of communities can be understood. The legally reported yearly income and expenses between 1920 and 2000 are studied. A three wave asymmetric regime is observed over a trend among marked fluctuations at time of crises. The data analysis leads to propose a general mechanistic model taking into account an average GDP growth, an oscillatory monetary inflation and a logistic population drift.

Keywords : econophysics; Antoinism; GDP; logistic; grow; decay


Figure 1: Yearly income and expenses of the belgian Antoinist community as reported in the Moniteur Belge



In modern statistical physics nowadays [1], much work is pertaining to econophysics [2, 3, 4] and/or sociophysics [4, 5, 6]. Among such topics, religious communities have attracted some interest [7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13]. However the data is often rare, irregular and subject to caution. Moreover, data acquisition is often relying upon opinion pools or indirect statistical survey means. Their validity limit is usually far away from any accepted one in laboratory studies.1 Two recent examples can be used for illustrating the point, i.e.
For example, the anomalous jump observed [7] at 106 in the number of adherents for the largest religions, was recently re-pointed out through a Benford test by Mir [14] on seven major world religions. It is found that the adherent data on all the religions, except Christianity, conform to the Benfords law. Yet, the significant digit distribution of the three major Christian denominations, Catholicism, Protestantism and Orthodoxy, is


(i) the evolution in the number of ”publishers”. 23]. . an enormous compilation.e. with a finite life time. It is therefore of interest to find examples of complex systems or processes showing both growth and decay features. only Bass model [26] describes a growth-death process along a first order differential equation.e. • for a specific religious movement. specifying the number of adherents for 150 religions. or of a given religious movement. This necessarily involves two differential equations. though apparently governed by similar growth mechanisms. was proposed to describe the growth of a community. . On the other hand. if at all. (ii) the precise and reliable high frequency data used by Picoli and Mendes [13] is for 47 years. but rarely used. there are plenty of studies about the growth or the decay of various ”populations”. can be examined [18]. Often the approach is based on prey-predator aspects [19]. gives information on the population of 103 nations worldwide. only 1/3 of the present world population. i. one can obtain the number of adherents as a function of time. on the one hand. from a theoretical point of view. see table 58. i. i. (ii) from the World Christian Encyclopedia [16.e. between 1959 and 2005. 17]. but only for 56 religions. However this is for about 2 billions people.commenting upon (i) the evolution of the partial distribution function or (ii) the evolution of the number of adepts. in describing the evolution of socio-economic and scientific activities. concise Verhulst [24] first order differential equation. but within 5 years averaging windows between 1935 and 1995.the data being averaged over a regularly distributed 5 years span. between 1960 and 1992. To my knowledge. as often demonstrated. Jehovah’s Witnesses. It is popular in marketing. In contrast. and to treat them with in mind a simple found to obey Benford law. as in language [20. However such a first order differential equation to describe growth and decay on the same footing seems to be missing [25]. 21] and more generally ”opinion” competitions [22. 3 . the single. on the other hand: • (i) the International Data Base (IDB) [15]. from 1900 till 2000.either of several religious denominations. and can be adapted to describe a population decay.

it is found that several growth-decay regimes are in fact observable. ”sects”. 29] has neither proselytism nor wealth accumulation as active principles. i. In fact.. Fortunately. The ”exact” number of adherents to the Antoinist cult is not known. called a sect in France [30]. data might lead to a description of causes (”forces”) inducing the overall evolution and mutatis mutandis to suggest ingredients of a model for most. but rather discretion and anonymous concerns.g. a concise mechanistic-like model is proposed. In order to do so. whereas ”sects” have a very short life and are often somewhat hiding. but the data on adherents would be highly unreliable. is known to have had a rather huge growth since 1880 or so. the possibility is hereby explored that concepts and methods from statistical physics may lead to a better understanding of the mechanisms governing the growth and decay of systems. religious movements (”organized churches”) have a long and often extraordinarily complicated life due to various events. it is necessary to obtain enough reliable data points. extends between 1922 and 2002. yearly legal reports about the budget (expenses and income) of the cult community are known. Religions and sects are such organised systems. on a rather short life time. A religious movement community. P¸kalski e 4 . Again. It appears that the data can be understood taking into account various factor 2 Interesting growth-decay cases. In Sect. in both cases. Moreover. even indirect measure. ”religious” cases. 28..2 Thus.first order differential equation as a support. over a sufficiently long time span. could be the communist party memberships in various countries. This goes against the strong recruitment policy as in all expanding cults. but is much decaying nowadays. of ”churches”. and ”religious movements”. 28. e. the data is intrinsically rare and spare. However. the Antoinist cult [27. . The data. Thus. 2. religious movements and sects have very often no binding to publish data on their activities. in Belgium.e. though for different reasons.3. it can be expected that some interpretation of some reliable. grossly speaking over the 20-th century. The more so since the Antoinist cult [27. scribit A. thus. even more complicated. outlined in Sect. this indicates that some non-trivial evolution of the Antoinist cult should be expected [32]. 29]. but rather stems from socio-economic condition improvements. Following an empirical analysis. whatever their size. sects and religious movements [31]. it is of common knowledge that the evolution in the number of adherents of the Antoinist cult is not due to a prey-predator aspect.

since 1922.see also culteantoiniste. 28. financial data. mainly in Belgium and France [30]. every year.responses. Belgium.4. as can be observed from the evolution in the number of ”temples”. it must legally report regularly. developed during the life time of ”Father” (Louis) Antoine (1846-1912). in charge of ”churches” and ”religious movements” activities in Belgium. 29]. There are a few missing few data points. Such data must be published in the Belgian yearly official journal (Moniteur Belge). one needs specific approbation from the Antoinist cult hierarchy.approximately 32 in each country3 and ”reading rooms” [29] at the end of the 30’s. 2 The data set The Antoinist cult [27. and some spiritism activity. but they turn out to be a weak contribution to the total sum. approbation which was presently The here below analysed financial data set was obtained through the Moniteur Belge issues. However.after examining detailed data. first near Li`ge. the religious movement e steadily expanded. under the supervision of the Minister of Justice. when available in the archives of the Antoinism Library in Jemeppe-sur-Meuse. they are without much loss of content for the present discussion and conclusion. Father Antoine. before 1940. 29]. after some catholic education. Belgium. Thus only data up to 2000 are examined below. . . which are mainly for the construction and maintenance of the temples. Moreover due to a change in regulation. A conclusion is given in Sect. 28. mainly appealed to steel and coal mine workers. The community structure is legally recognised as an Etablissement d’utilit´ e publique (Organism of Public Utility) in Belgium. turned toward predication and ritual healing. but deposited at some court office in Li`ge. the data has not to be published anymore in the Moniteur Belge. Almost all incomes are turned toward expenses. based on ten ”principles” [27. Then. In order e to obtain them. Thus. His ”philosophy”. It is important to stress that the so called ”temple desservants” and ”lecture room readers” 3 A few temples are also found in Congo (DRC) and Brazil. not shown. . since 2002. The income is almost originating in (anonymous) gifts. as it will be apparently seen below. The sales of books is included in such yearly accounts. 5 . approved by the Cult Administration Board and its General Assembly.

. appear as pretty scattered. after visual inspection. Notice that. 3 3.1 Data analysis Data visual inspection The yearly income and expenses raw data.1 sometimes the expenses can turn out to be larger than the income. they are recognised through fits with a logistic function on selected time intervals are not paid. The difference between income and expenses goes into savings accounts. Fig. yearly offerings can become very large: already a million of BEF in 1960. it appears that. As seen on Fig. Yet. but the yearly budget has always been balanced.1.Figure 2: Expenses (logarithmic scale) of the Antoinist community in Belgium suggesting three growth regimes. in both income and 6 .savings which can be later on used.

Figure 3: Income (logarithmic scale) of the Antoinist community in Belgium suggesting three growth regimes. they are recognised through fits with a logistic function on selected time intervals 7 .

34] as a source of religion. i. Also. [1939-1967]. 28 and 37 years. from Fig. y/yM = [1 + exp(−b (t − t0 ))]−1 . It seems that one should emphasize that the time interval widths. It is easily understood that such a convincing appeal had to be reduced when the health care and other social conditions of workers improved.2 and Fig. .e. faith in oneself and in the Father.. where i indicates the order of the regimes over the 80 years or so for which the financial data can be examined.see Fig.. that three regimes can be conceived in both expenses and income evolutions. The latter regime is better seen than the previous ones because of the y− axis scale.3. In this regime. argued that sickness and low mood are merely questions of faith. it is thus simply by faith that one can be healed: .. comparing Fig. with two ”special” years (1976 and 1977) before and two ”very special” years after some sort of maximum. three growth-decay regimes can be imagined. slightly larger than the expenses growth rate. one observes that the growth always occurs on a longer interval of time than the decay. the evolution in the income and expenses is more stochastic.g. at first sight. the presence of a maximum is seen near 1929 followed by a short decay till roughly 1940. The next regime has a sharp rise which leads to a bump with a maximum near 1985 and seems to end at the beginning of the 21-st century.see on ritual healing [33. Several temples are in fact closing nowadays. i. when the absolute difference between income and expenses is much larger than in the previous regimes.itself occurring after the golden sixties. On the one hand. in which the regimes appear. it appears in semi-log plots. and [19672004]. 8 . which might be reflected in the financial aspects of the community. Such a theory was accepted by many workers.1. among one of his ”principles”.expenses cases.3. who by imposing hands could pass his fluid to those who could believe to get it and be healed. e. Whence.2 and Fig. since there is no evil. one expects some growth-decay regime(s) in the number of adepts. with parameters appropriate in each regime. . Indeed. follow a simple but remarkable progression. recall that Father Antoine.e. the income growth rate is. Such a historical evolution can be first qualitatively understood according to the social situation in Belgium during the 20-th century. These incomes are attributed to huge and unusual gifts of deceased persons. A second growth regime is followed by a small decay at the end of the golden sixties. apparently (10 + 9 ∗ i)years. 19. Thus. A test can be made with the growing logistic function. over weakly overlapping time interval boundaries: [1920-1939]. For example. except in the 3rd regime.

1835-1990 data. with i = 1.g. management of the finances of the community. It is therefore reminiscent of the average monetary inflation and GDP growth during the 20-th century: y A e+αt α > 0. A second aspect which might be taken into account pertains to Demographics− of− Belgium. after being reconstructed [36.One could also expect that there should be.2 Model It is obvious that the income and expenses span quite different BEF ranges depending on the time interval. the evolution of these being not discussed further here. 37]. the possible change in the specific population size of the areas in which the religious movement was expanding. Time-delay correlations were looked for but no well marked conclusion could be derived. Thus one concludes on an immediate reinvestment of the income. occurring mainly in the industrial 9 .wikipedia. 4. suggesting a short term. see e. the year boundary between the various income regimes seems to occur in slightly different years. that the one for the expenses regimes. some time delay between the incoming money and the expenses.078. one can conceive. On such a figure. with some fine correspondence to the Antoinist community financial data. It is noticed that α 0. One can note a sort of exponential growth over the century. http : //en. if the community is well managed. some sort of wave. the yearly incomes and expenses being necessarily positive numbers. (+/-1). the areas of expansion of the religious movement community were rather limited from a geographical point of view. A search for the trend indicates such an exponential growth indeed. However this is not available. with some yearly savings. However. the most simple sort of periodic wave 2πti ) (2) yi sin( 2Ti in each i regime. 3. 3. (1) The Belgian GDP growth case is shown in Fig. from estimated [35]. for such oscillations. over the exponential trend. seems also observable. Ti being the corresponding semi-period. Nevertheless. 2. Some information is known concerning the whole country population. Thus.

relevant dates for the 20-th century are indicated. beside an exponential growth trend.Figure 4: Belgium GDP (PPP) suggesting a 3 wave pattern. time t0 = 0 starts in 1920 10 .

However. of the areas. Whence. the introduction of such a Verhulst-like law interestingly allows to reproduce some possible (though limited) proselytism effect. = yM 1 + e−r t 1 + ert (3) with usual meanings for yM and r. with 4 different fits (see text).Figure 5: Yearly expenses of the belgian Antoinist community as reported in the Moniteur Belge. due to the so called ”country capacity”. Moreover. in order to better extract some specificity of the religious movement evolution. in a demographic sense. 11 (4) . one can introduce a term like B1 eβt B3 ∼ ∼ (1 + bt) βt 1 + B2 e 1 + B4 e−βt on which the oscillating evolution is superposed. indicating a three wave structure areas. this possible population effect suggests to introduce a twoparameter logistic law y ert 1 ≡ .

They support assumptions in adepts behavior. if the time origin is chosen at some origin of the time interval i considered for the fit with the first term and if a single time origin is always chosen for the drift term whatever the time interval (i = 1. and economic constraints. for modelling the community finances. 38]. be determined in each regime. indicating a three wave structure In so doing. likely based on imitative behavior [26. 2Ti (5) with appropriate parameters. 3). the time origin has been imposed to be 1920. 32. in order to have simple values of the x-axis ticks in 12 . one may claim to have ingredients depending both on the adept offerings and indirectly their number. with best fit (see text).Figure 6: Yearly income of the belgian Antoinist community as reported in the Moniteur Belge. 2. . Notice that the φi and Bi values can be taken equal to 0. both income and expenses data are finally proposed to behave along a concise expression yi = Ai e+αi ti sin [ 2πti + φi ] + (Bi + bi ti ). In practice for the drift term.

059 0. these measured in BEF.e. Notice that the sum of Ti ’s for the expense regimes. Eq. The semi-periods Ti of the sine wave have been imposed to be the same one in order to compare each fit meaningfully in each regime.056 0. have been found with rather equivalent residual distributions.e.5. see text. In the four evolution laws for the expenses. i.. both for years and financial numbers.5. over appropriate regime existence intervals.2000] [1920. The order of magnitude of the parameters remain quasi the same. correspond exactly with the time interval investigated (2000-1920=160/2). see Fig. 2000] [1920.09 106 α 0. depending on the initial conditions imposed at the start of the trial and error process. over the whole data range. from the graphs.062 0. to several solutions. but yet depending on the regime.(5). with equivalent distributions of residuals. 38+54+68=160. 38. with parameters given in Table 1. i. 13 . 2000] A 0. The income case is discussed from Fig. 2000] [1920.375 103.625 104 0 1.11 106 0. Such a situation is illustrated on Fig. but this ”origin of time” approximation is not likely to be a drastic one. Notice also.11 106 0. t1 ] [1920. A fit following the model equa4 One could more exactly choose 1922.expenses fits R S T U [t0 .25 104 0 0.053 T − − − − B b 0 0. Note that such nonlinear fits lead.e.09 106 0. however without much significant difference. but can differ by a few years. assuming 3 different regimes. as usual.6. where four different fits.00 103. the drift term and the exponential growth term can be slightly different from each other. having each a different Ti . for the yearly expenses. as one can expect. i.4 Another condition on the fits has been to use integer numbers. the period Ti does not correspond always exactly to half the time interval which is investigated. according to the model equation. a computational detail: in order to minimise the residual spread. 54 and 68 years respectively the displays.5 0 1.5 Table 1: Parameter values of the overall best fit. This might be due to having imposed that Ti be an integer. for the reported yearly expenses of the belgian Antoinist community.

see text.e. 1965] 3 [1966.059 56 0 0.11 106 0. within standard error bars. such that the time intervals do not overlap. 5 is the best of all four: in fact it has an α exponent value. of Belgium. Eq. see Table 2. during the 20-th century. as if for a best fit one should consider a larger life span [1920-2004]. Still. based on three effects from likely three different causes. Observe that the growth-decay curves appear asymmetric. and the closest to the one found in Fig. concerning the global birth-death rate for the evolution of a population. 4 for the Belgium GDP.(5). up to the second decimal. Note that the T-fit in Fig.09 106 αi 2Ti [y] Bi 0. like in Belgium during most of the 20-th century. see Fig. Eq. 14 .11 106 0. 5 Such asymmetry between growth and decay also characterises economic cycles [39]. (ii) the drift terms are characterised by a coefficient bi leading to a value similar to what is expected in demography.059 38 0 0. assuming 3 different regimes tion. has been made in three regimes.6. The amplitude Ai is also almost constant for the three regimes. The periods are slightly longer than for the expenses case. 2000] Ai 0. t1 ] 1 [1922.income regimes i [t0 .062. Fig. The exponent αi is found to be the same. and the ”very special” [2000-2002] years. and (iii) the exponent α is quite similar to that found for the average evolution of the GDP.615 104 1.025. 0. 0.078. according to the model equation. The data analysis following the suggested model of financial evolution of the community.4.059 74 0 bi 0. for the reported yearly income of the belgian Antoinist community. leads to reasonable parameters: one fonds (i) coherence between the time intervals.0725 104 Table 2: Parameter values of the best fits.(5).5 It is much due to the drift term component of course.265 104 0. the largest 0.1940] 2 [1941. the overall fit is rather appealing in spite of a slight anomaly after 1990.g. i. e. .whence leading to a different bi parameter.

41. (iii) such that one can go beyond a Verhulst population description.4 Conclusion In summary. may result from the enthusiastic thanking for healing the suffering. 42. not only religious ones. that many more societies will be found to have the same behavior and for similar reasons. The ”model” indicates that such religious communities are markedly influenced by external considerations (”external fields”).still needing an interpretation of the so called non-universal ”amplitudes”. . one can deduce that there are two different causes for the drop in income: either a lack of money of the adepts. but combining these also in studies having a socio-physics one [49]. . 44]. cults from an anthropology [38. but the second world war increases the community strength. in the present case. before studies on more complex community systems. or historian [46]. In the main text. both of the soul and the body. The golden sixties ”reduce” the income: the adepts well being increased. and (v) hopefully suggesting a non controversial benchmark case. the increase in the religious movement income. ”too much” wealth. at its legal beginning. Similarly. a good explanation why the experimental curves have such a theoretical form seems to have beeen reached. The income and expenses of the Antoinist cult community in Belgium have been found to fullfil such objectives. It seems plausible. (iv) finding qualitatively reasonable causes forcing the behaviour in order to describe the evolution along quantitative modelling aspects. Therefore. churches. 40. Practically. using such financial data to compensate the lack of knowledge on the number of adherents. besides their intrinsic ”religious” goals. with very reasonable values of the parameters. with power exponents. It has to be emphasized that the Antoinist cult was appealing be15 . but without using a Lotka-Volterra (prey-predator) approach.but also occurs due to the income explosion until 1985. as illustrated. In conclusion. The variation in expenses are immediately related with such income considerations. contains apparently rather ”universal”-like laws. or in contrast. becoming in some sense more egoistical. the crash of 1929 induces a drop in income. and is expected to be applicable to other societies. but also from a sociology [47] or economist [48] point of view. but the adherents reduced their offering. see also [45]. paradoxically. (ii) expectedly behaving with a growth and decay history. 43. it is of interest to study the growth and decay of religious movements. Therefore such a ”model”. the objectives of the study were to find (i) a community for which regular and trusted data exist. . and much more.

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