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Conversions in Context: On the Interaction between the Personal and the Social

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Chapter Summary

This introductory chapter of the book focuses on converts in one country, the United States. It includes conversions to various religious groups with a variety of beliefs (ranging from theologically conservative to liberal) and group organization (from relatively strict to loose), men's as well as women's conversions, converts from various paths in life, including immigrants to the United States, and people from various ethnic groups. The book defines conversions as changes in a person's religious beliefs that can happen suddenly or gradually. These changes are accompanied by an alternate view of reality and of self, and in general also entail a "reconstruction of one's biography". The book shows how contrasting background experiences influence two broad categories of conversions. It presents seven case studies that, along with others, will be utilized for comparison. The book outlines the background experiences that emerged from the comparison of the interviews.

Keywords: background experiences; conversions; group organization; religious beliefs; United States



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