Religious conversion

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Religious conversion is the changing of one's religion, usually from the faith in which one was raised to a different set of beliefs. Conversion sometimes includes adopting a different name or lifestyle.

Historically, conversion has happened for many reasons: positive change such as personal choice or converting to one's spouse's religion for the sake of family unity, or negative impetus, such as whole groups of people being compelled to convert, as after conquest or being coerced into conversion in some manner. In modern times, conversion is usually the individual's own choice and takes place after a period of research and reflection.

Why do people convert?

There are many theories of conversion. A longstanding view sees conversion as the result of some great, sudden revelation or epiphany, and indeed, some such dramatic conversions are well known, such as conversion story of Saul who became Paul, as described in the New Testament, or the revelations described by Joseph Smith.

The theory of forced conversion by brainwashing for recruitment into cults or new religious movements has been rejected by the majority of scholars. Sociologists now tend to see conversion as a gradual process in which socialization is at least a factor, although, in situations where much social pressure can be applied, the methods of thought reform can be an influence.

The role of evangelism

In Christianity

The New Testament states that Christians have the obligation to tell others about their faith. Most Christian denominations believe in evangelism but they may differ on how active or aggressive this should be. Jehovah's Witnesses for example, consider active evangelism a great part of the faith. Passive evangelism consists mostly in evangelism by example: showing others the practical effects of Christian faith in one's life and serving as a role model.