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Conversion: Heroes And Their Sociological Redemption

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Chapter Summary

It is religion not ideology that marks the great divisions of culture and it is the boundaries between Christianity and Islam that occasion distress and anxiety. Those who move between these boundaries do so in ways difficult to discern for sociologists who see the world with secular eyes. The convert is the one who comes to unsettle their vision of the world. What is his place in sociology? Is he a hero or a villain? In whatever case, the convert springs from modernity with distinctive properties of ambiguity ripe for sociological arbitration. Up to very recently, sociological interest in conversion centered on recruitment to cults and sects, euphemistically termed new religious movements. These sociological interests reflected public anxieties over questions of whether these converts were brainwashed or in some way exploited. Study of these movements dominated the sociology of religion in the 1980s and 1990s.

Keywords: brainwashed; Christianity; conversion; Islam; religious movements; sociological arbitration



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