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  • Created by: katieMCR
  • Created on: 21-03-16 18:53

McGuire and William James

  • The word 'conversion' means 'to change direction' or 'turn around'
  • McGuire's definition:
    "A process of religious change which transforms the way the individual percieves the rest of society and his or her personal place in it, altering one's view of the world"
  • William James' definition:
    "To be converted, to be regenerated, to recieve grace, to experience religion, to gain an assurance, are so many phrases which denote the process, gradual or sudden, by which a self hitherto divided, and consciously wrong, inferior and unhappy, becomes unified and consciously right, superior and happy, in consequence of its firmer hold upon religious realities".
  • Key features of James' definition:
    - A process; the straightening out and unifying of the inner self
    - Grdaual or Sudden; experience happens suddenly or over a long period of time
    - Self divided becomes unified; Sick souls and Healthy minded
    - Volitional or Self Surrendering; the individual gives up, reliquishes, his or her personal will
    - Passive where the subject has a religious experience without deliberately seeking it
      or Active; where a person is specifically seeking a religious experience
    - Transforming; passing from one state to another
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James' results of a conversion

  • The loss of worry, the sense that all is ultimately well with one's being.
  • The sense or percieving truths not known before.
  • A sense of clean and beautiful newness within and without.
  • The ecstasy of happiness produced.

Symbolic religious rituals often follow the conversion experience and include joining a faith

  • For Christians these rituals can include baptism or confirmation.
  • In Judaism there are two ritual requirements: 
    - A male must undergo circumcision.
    - The convert mmust undergo immersion in a Mikveh (a Jewish ritual bath).
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Types of Conversion and Conversion Motifs

Types of Conversion

  • Conversion from no faith to a faith
  • Conversion from one faith to another
  • Conversion from faith (believing) to faith (trusting)

Conversion Motifs 
In 1981 Lofland and Skonovd described six patterns (motifs) of religious conversion. This list was then summarised by Moojan Momen

  • Intellectual- emphasis is on intensive study with little personal contact
  • Mystical- occurs suddenly and dramatically, accompanied sometimes by dreams or visions
  • Experimental- emphasis is on active exploration, assessing the religion over a period of time through participation
  • Affectional- involves contact and bonding with actual members of the religion and experiencing being loved and nurtured.
  • Revivalist- occurs in a revivalist meeting. Usually involves emotional arousal.
  • Coercive- persuasion and thought programming. Another form of this involves financial or social status enticements.
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Stages of Conversion

Lofland and Stark gave a conversion process model of seven stages. Keishin Inaba applied these stages using studies on two new religious movements: the Jesus Army, and Friends of the Western Buddhist Order (FWBO)

  • Tension- Inaba found that over 50% in his survey of Jesus Army interviewees had been experiencing tensions when they met the Jesus Army.
  • Religious Problem-Solving Perspective- potential converts seek solutions within a religious perspective. many FBWO converts were initially interested in meditation and then gradually progressed to Buddhism.
  • Seekership- potential converts become religious seekers
  • Turning Point- pre-converts percieved a turning point in their lives shortly before their encounter with the new religious movement.
  • Affective Bond- the formation of a strong bond between the believer and the potential convert is an important factor. This close personal relationship helps the potential convert to feel accepted and overcome any conflicts
  • Weak Extra-Cult Attatchments- the Unification Church were known for moving potential converts away from their homes and surrounding them with a new environment
  • Intensive Interaction- new friendships and bonds are developed amongst believers so that a new family is formed
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Examples of Conversion

Hindu's converting to Christianity and Buddhism in order to escape the life of a low-caste (Dalits)
- Conversion from one faith to another
- Coercive
- Gradual
- Religious problem solving perspective
Saul's conversion on the road to Damascus
- Sudden
- Mystical
- Conversion from no religion to a faith
- Turning point
Yusaf Islam/ Cat Stevens had searched through various religions before reading the Qur'an and becoming a Muslim
- Intellectual
- Conversion from no religion to a faith
- Active 
- Seekership
- Gradual
- Healthy minded

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