“A genuine religious conversion usually occurs as the outcome of a crisis of ultimate concern and a sense of desperate conflict”
- Psychologist Paul Johnson
“Sudden conversions were associated with fear and anxiety.”
- Psychologist E.T. Clark after studying 2174 cases of religious conversions.
Converts puzzle me. It is unremarkable if you were raised in a Christian environment (like myself) and been exposed to Christian doctrine from young. But if you somehow move from atheism or whatever religion you were brought up with, there must have been something that really moved you.
Two factors make this difficult:
Firstly, converts aren’t just acknowledging the existence of God, or seeking some general idea of divine intervention in their life. They are subscribing to a specific orthodoxy. What makes them pick one over the rest?
Secondly, converts aren’t just subscribing to a set of privileges – that’d be easy to agree to (as per Prosperity Churches). They need to pay a subscription fee as well, metaphorically of course (although in some churches, literally =P). They need to somehow accept an entire new system of beliefs, and often premises-which-are-accepted-as-truths-just-because. For instance, if a convert acted on his fear of going to hell, there are a number of premises
- There is a problem: Hell and it’s existence.
- The problem is relevant to you: Sin and it’s existence.
- Offered before you is the solution: Redemption, which hinges on even more layers of premises etc etc etc.
Or if that he needed God for health and wealth in his life — well, that’s a lot easier to believe. People are willing to believe anything if there’s a lot of money at stake. (Thus explaining the size of the megachurch. More about this some other day.)
And the convert within that short period of a sermon (or even that altar call) accepts all these premises. A huge leap of Faith is needed to bridge the gap in Reason. And I’m trying to find out what drives this? Perhaps a logical persuasion by a skillfully intellectual preacher, or some warm feeling in the heart where you just realise “This is it”?
It’s unlike someone who’s already been a christian and has had a lifetime of “spiritual experiences” to substantiate all his other beliefs, and hold the realisation that “i can’t do without God.” The convert has been living without this system of orthodoxy for all of his life, and suddenly an hour talk causes a major change. How? What is the rationale?
I know of a lot of social/mass psychology pressures, but I highly doubt that’s enough to cause religious fervor, or a “genuine” conversion. If anyone has any insight/experience on the matter, do let me know!