Religious conversion

Religious conversion is the adoption of a set of beliefs identified with one particular religious denomination to the exclusion of others. Thus "religious conversion" would describe the abandoning of adherence to one denomination and affiliating with another. This might be from one to another denomination within the same religion, for example, from Baptist to Catholic Christianity or from Shi’a to Sunni Islam.[1] In some cases, religious conversion "marks a transformation of religious identity and is symbolized by special rituals".[2]

People convert to a different religion for various reasons, including active conversion by free choice due to a change in beliefs,[3] secondary conversion, deathbed conversion, conversion for convenience, marital conversion, and forced conversion.

Conversion or reaffiliation for convenience is an insincere act, sometimes for relatively trivial reasons such as a parent converting to enable a child to be admitted to a good school associated with a religion, or a person adopting a religion more in keeping with the social class they aspire to.[4] When people marry, one spouse may convert to the religion of the other.

Forced conversion is adoption of a different religion under duress. The convert may secretly retain the previous beliefs and continue, covertly, with the practices of the original religion, while outwardly maintaining the forms of the new religion. Over generations a family forced against their will to convert may wholeheartedly adopt the new religion.

Proselytism is the act of attempting to convert by persuasion another individual from a different religion or belief system. (See proselyte).

Apostate is a term used by members of a religion or denomination to refer to someone who has left that religion or denomination.

Conversion of Ghazan. Ghazan was born and raised as a Christian, studied Buddhism, and converted to Islam upon accession to the throne. Illustration from: "World History", Rachid Ad-Din, 14th century.

Abrahamic religions

Bahá'í Faith

In sharing their faith with others, Bahá'ís are cautioned to "obtain a hearing" – meaning to make sure the person they are proposing to teach is open to hearing what they have to say. "Bahá'í pioneers", rather than attempting to supplant the cultural underpinnings of the people in their adopted communities, are encouraged to integrate into the society and apply Bahá'í principles in living and working with their neighbors.

Bahá'ís recognize the divine origins of all revealed religion, and believe that these religions occurred sequentially as part of a divine plan (see Progressive revelation), with each new revelation superseding and fulfilling that of its predecessors. Bahá'ís regard their own faith as the most recent (but not the last), and believe its teachings – which are centered around the principle of the oneness of humanity – are most suited to meeting the needs of a global community.

In most countries conversion is a simple matter of filling out a card stating a declaration of belief. This includes acknowledgement of Bahá'u'llah – the Founder of the Faith – as the Messenger of God for this age, awareness and acceptance of his teachings, and intention to be obedient to the institutions and laws he established.

Conversion to the Bahá'í Faith carries with it an explicit belief in the common foundation of all revealed religion, a commitment to the unity of mankind, and active service to the community at large, especially in areas that will foster unity and concord. Since the Bahá'í Faith has no clergy, converts are encouraged to be active in all aspects of community life. Even a recent convert may be elected to serve on a local Spiritual Assembly – the guiding Bahá'í institution at the community level.[5][6]


Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio - The Conversion of St. Paul - WGA04135
The Conversion of Saint Paul, a 1600 painting by Italian artist Caravaggio (1571–1610)

Within Christianity conversion refers variously to three different phenomena: a person becoming Christian who was previously not Christian; a Christian moving from one Christian denomination to another; a particular spiritual development, sometimes called the "second conversion", or "the conversion of the baptised".[7]

Conversion to Christianity is the religious conversion of a previously non-Christian person to some form of Christianity. Some Christian sects require full conversion for new members regardless of any history in other Christian sects, or from certain other sects. The exact requirements vary between different churches and denominations. Baptism is traditionally seen as a sacrament of admission to Christianity.[8] Christian baptism has some parallels with Jewish immersion by mikvah.

In the New Testament, Jesus commanded his disciples in the Great Commission to "go and make disciples of all nations" ([Matthew 28:19], [Mark 16:15]). Evangelization—sharing the Gospel message or "Good News" in deed and word, is an expectation of Christians.[9]

Comparison between Protestants

This table summarizes three Protestant beliefs.

Topic Calvinism Lutheranism Arminianism
Conversion Monergistic,[10] through the inner calling of the Holy Spirit, irresistible. Monergistic,[11] through the means of grace, resistible. Synergistic, resistible due to the common grace of free will.[12]

Latter Day Saints movement

Mormon baptism circa 1850s
Latter Day Saint baptism ceremony, circa the 1850s

Much of the theology of Latter Day Saint baptism was established during the early Latter Day Saint movement founded by Joseph Smith. According to this theology, baptism must be by immersion, for the remission of sins (meaning that through baptism, past sins are forgiven), and occurs after one has shown faith and repentance. Mormon baptism does not purport to remit any sins other than personal ones, as adherents do not believe in original sin. Latter Day Saints baptisms also occur only after an "age of accountability" which is defined as the age of eight years.[13] The theology thus rejects infant baptism.[14]

In addition, Latter Day Saint theology requires that baptism may only be performed with one who has been called and ordained by God with priesthood authority.[15] Because the churches of the Latter Day Saint movement operate under a lay priesthood, children raised in a Mormon family are usually baptized by a father or close male friend or family member who has achieved the office of priest, which is conferred upon worthy male members at least 16 years old in the LDS Church.[16]

Baptism is seen as symbolic both of Jesus' death, burial and resurrection[17] and is also symbolic of the baptized individual putting off of the natural or sinful man and becoming spiritually reborn as a disciple of Jesus.

Membership into a Latter Day Saint church is granted only by baptism whether or not a person has been raised in the church. Latter Day Saint churches do not recognize baptisms of other faiths as valid because they believe baptisms must be performed under the church's unique authority. Thus, all who come into one of the Latter Day Saint faiths as converts are baptized, even if they have previously received baptism in another faith.

When performing a Baptism, Latter Day Saints say the following prayer before performing the ordinance:

Having been commissioned of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen[18]

Baptisms inside and outside the temples are usually done in a baptistry, although they can be performed in any body of water in which the person may be completely immersed. The person administering the baptism must recite the prayer exactly, and immerse every part, limb, hair and clothing of the person being baptized. If there are any mistakes, or if any part of the person being baptized is not fully immersed, the baptism must be redone. In addition to the baptizer, two priesthood holders witness the baptism to ensure that it is performed properly.[19]

Following baptism, Latter Day Saints receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands of a Melchizedek Priesthood holder.[19]

Latter Day Saints hold that one may be baptized after death through the vicarious act of a living individual, and holders of the Melchezidek Priesthood practice baptism for the dead as a missionary ritual. This doctrine answers the question of the righteous non-believer and the unevangelized by providing a post-mortem means of repentance and salvation.


There are five pillars, or foundations, of Islam but the primary, and most important is to believe that there is only one God and creator, referred to as Allah (the word for God in Arabic) and that the Islamic prophet, Muhammad, is God's final messenger. The time of a person's conversion is counted from the moment they sincerely make this declaration of faith, called the shahadah in front of witnesses.[20]

Islam teaches that everyone is Muslim at birth[21][22] but the parents or society can cause them to deviate from the straight path. When someone accepts Islam, they are considered to revert to the original condition. In Islam, circumcision is a Sunnah custom not mentioned in the Qur'an. The majority clerical opinion holds that circumcision is not a condition for entering Islam. The Shafi`i and Hanbali schools regard it as obligatory, while the Maliki and Hanafi schools regard it as only recommended. However, it is not a precondition for the acceptance of a person's Islamic practices, nor is choosing to forgo circumcision considered a sin. It is not one of the Five Pillars of Islam.[23][24][25]


Temple Beth-El (Birmingham) mikveh
The traditional normative conversion process to Judasim (gijur) of one, two or more years is finalized with ritual immersion in a natural collection of water, e.g. a river, a lake, or a mikveh, down to the present day (Beth-El reform-synagogue, Birmingham, Alabama, 2006).

Conversion to Judaism is the religious conversion of non-Jews to become members of the Jewish religion and Jewish ethnoreligious community.[26] The procedure and requirements for conversion depend on the sponsoring denomination. A conversion in accordance with the process of a denomination is not a guarantee of recognition by another denomination.[26] A formal conversion is also sometimes undertaken by individuals whose Jewish ancestry is questioned, even if they were raised Jewish, but may not actually be considered Jews according to traditional Jewish law.[27]

As late as the 6th century the Eastern Roman empire and Caliph Umar ibn Khattab were issuing decrees against conversion to Judaism, implying that this was still occurring.[28]

In some cases, a person may forgo a formal conversion to Judaism and adopt some or all beliefs and practices of Judaism. However, without a formal conversion, many highly observant Jews will reject a convert's Jewish status.[29]


There are no rituals or dogmas, nor any sort of procedures in conversion to Spiritism. The doctrine is first considered as science, then philosophy and lastly as a religion. Allan Kardec's codification of Spiritism occurred between the years 1857 and 1868. Currently there are 25 to 60 million people studying Spiritism in various countries, mainly in Brazil, through its essential books, which include The Spirits Book, The Book on Mediums, The Gospel According to Spiritism, Heaven and Hell and The Genesis According to Spiritism.

Chico Xavier wrote over 490 additional books, which expand on the spiritualist doctrine.

As explained in the first of the 1,019 questions and answers in The Spirits Book:

1. What is God? Answer: "God is the Supreme Intelligence-First Cause of all things."[30]

The consensus in Spiritism is that God, the Great Creator, is above everything, including all human things such as rituals, dogmas, denominations or any other thing.

Indian religions


Persons newly adhering to Buddhism traditionally "take Refuge" (express faith in the Three JewelsBuddha, Dharma, and Sangha) before a monk, nun, or similar representative, with often the sangha, the community of practitioners, also in ritual attendance.

Throughout the timeline of Buddhism, conversions of entire countries and regions to Buddhism were frequent, as Buddhism spread throughout Asia. For example, in the 11th century in Burma, king Anoratha converted his entire country to Theravada Buddhism. At the end of the 12th century, Jayavarman VII set the stage for conversion of the Khmer people to Theravada Buddhism. Mass conversions of areas and communities to Buddhism occur up to the present day, for example, in the Dalit Buddhist movement in India there have been organized mass conversions.

Exceptions to encouraging conversion may occur in some Buddhist movements. In Tibetan Buddhism, for example, the current Dalai Lama discourages active attempts to win converts.[31][32]


A yajna initiation to Hinduism ceremony in progress.

Since 1800 CE, religious conversion from and to Hinduism has been a controversial subject within Hinduism. Some have suggested that the concept of missionary conversion, either way, is contrary to the precepts of Hinduism.[33] Religious leaders of some of Hinduism sects such as Brahmo Samaj have seen Hinduism as a non-missionary religion yet welcomed new members, while other leaders of Hinduism's diverse schools have stated that with the arrival of missionary Islam and Christianity in India, this "there is no such thing as proselytism in Hinduism" view must be re-examined.[33][34]

Hinduism is a diverse system of thought with beliefs spanning monotheism, polytheism, panentheism, pantheism, pandeism, monism, and atheism among others. Hinduism has no traditional ecclesiastical order, no centralized religious authorities, no universally accepted governing body, no binding holy book nor any mandatory prayer attendance requirements.[35][36][37] Hinduism has been described as a way of life.[35] In its diffuse and open structure, numerous schools and sects of Hinduism have developed and spun off in India with help from its ascetic scholars, since the Vedic age. The six Astika and two Nastika schools of Hindu philosophy, in its history, did not develop a missionary or proselytization methodology, and they co-existed with each other. Most Hindu sub-schools and sects do not actively seek converts.[38] Individuals have had a choice to enter, leave or change their god(s), spiritual convictions, accept or discard any rituals and practices, and pursue spiritual knowledge and liberation (moksha) in different ways.[39][40] However, various schools of Hinduism do have some core common beliefs, such as the belief that all living beings have Atman (soul), a belief in karma theory, spirituality, ahimsa (non-violence) as the greatest dharma or virtue, and others.[41]

Religious conversion to Hinduism has a long history outside India. Merchants and traders of India, particularly from Indian peninsula, carried their religious ideas, which led to religious conversions to Hinduism in Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia and Burma.[42][43][44] Some sects of Hindus, particularly of the Bhakti schools began seeking or accepting converts in early to mid 20th century. For example, Arya Samaj, Saiva Siddhanta Church, BAPS, and the International Society for Krishna Consciousness accept those who have a desire to follow their sects of Hinduism, and each has its own religious conversion procedure.[45]

In recent decades, mainstream Hinduism schools have attempted to systematize ways to accept religious converts, with an increase in inter-religious mixed marriages.[46] The steps involved in becoming a Hindu have variously included a period where the interested person gets an informal ardha-Hindu name and studies ancient literature on spiritual path and practices (English translations of Upanishads, Agamas, Epics, ethics in Sutras, festivals, yoga).[47] If after a period of study, the individual still wants to convert, a Namakarana Samskaras ceremony is held, where the individual adopts a traditional Hindu name. The initiation ceremony may also include Yajna (i.e., fire ritual with Sanskrit hymns) under guidance of a local Hindu priest.[46] Some of these places are mathas and asramas (hermitage, monastery), where one or more gurus (spiritual guide) conduct the conversion and offer spiritual discussions.[46] Some schools encourage the new convert to learn and participate in community activities such as festivals (Diwali etc.), read and discuss ancient literature, learn and engage in rites of passages (ceremonies of birth, first feeding, first learning day, age of majority, wedding, cremation and others).[48]


Jainism accepts anyone who wants to embrace the religion. There is no specific ritual for becoming a Jain. One does not need to ask any authorities for admission. One becomes a Jain on one's own by observing the five vows (vratas)[49] The five main vows as mentioned in the ancient Jain texts like Tattvarthasutra are:[50][51]

  1. Ahimsa - Not to injure any living being by actions and thoughts.
  2. Satya - Not to lie or speak words that hurt others.
  3. Asteya - Not to take anything if not given.[52]
  4. Brahmacharya - Chastity for householders / Celibacy in action, words and thoughts for monks and nuns.
  5. Aparigraha (Non-possession)- non-attachment to possessions.[53]

Following the five vows is the main requirement in Jainism. All other aspects such as visiting temples are secondary. Jain monks and nuns are required to observe these five vows strictly.[49]


Sikhism is not known to openly proselytize, but accepts converts.[54][55]

Other religions and sects

In the second half of the 20th century, the rapid growth of new religious movements (NRMs) led some psychologists and other scholars to propose that these groups were using "brainwashing" or "mind control" techniques to gain converts. This theory was publicized by the popular news media but disputed by other scholars, including some sociologists of religion.[56][57][57][58][59][60]

In the 1960s sociologist John Lofland lived with Unification Church missionary Young Oon Kim and a small group of American church members in California and studied their activities in trying to promote their beliefs and win converts to their church. Lofland noted that most of their efforts were ineffective and that most of the people who joined did so because of personal relationships with other members, often family relationships.[61] Lofland published his findings in 1964 as a doctoral thesis entitled "The World Savers: A Field Study of Cult Processes", and in 1966 in book form by Prentice-Hall as Doomsday Cult: A Study of Conversion, Proselytization, and Maintenance of Faith. It is considered to be one of the most important and widely cited studies of the process of religious conversion, and one of the first modern sociological studies of a new religious movement.[62][63]

The Church of Scientology attempts to gain converts by offering "free stress tests".[64] It has also used the celebrity status of some of its members (most famously the American actor Tom Cruise) to attract converts.[65][66] The Church of Scientology requires that all converts sign a legal waiver which covers their relationship with the Church of Scientology before engaging in Scientology services.[67]

Research in the United States and the Netherlands has shown a positive correlation between areas lacking mainstream churches and the percentage of people who are a member of a new religious movement. This applies also for the presence of New Age centres.[68][69]

On the other end of the scale are religions that do not accept any converts, or do so very rarely. Often these are relatively small, close-knit minority religions that are ethnically based such as the Yazidis, Druze, and Mandaeans. Zoroastrianism classically does not accept converts, but this issue has become controversial in the 20th century due to the rapid decline in membership.[70] Chinese traditional religion lacks clear criteria for membership, and hence for conversion. The Shakers and some Indian eunuch brotherhoods do not allow procreation, so that every member is a convert.

International law

The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights defines religious conversion as a human right: "Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief" (Article 18). Despite this UN-declared human right, some groups forbid or restrict religious conversion (see below).

Based on the declaration the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) drafted the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a legally binding treaty. It states that "Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice" (Article 18.1). "No one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice" (Article 18.2).

The UNCHR issued a General Comment on this Article in 1993: "The Committee observes that the freedom to 'have or to adopt' a religion or belief necessarily entails the freedom to choose a religion or belief, including the right to replace one's current religion or belief with another or to adopt atheistic views [...] Article 18.2 bars coercion that would impair the right to have or adopt a religion or belief, including the use of threat of physical force or penal sanctions to compel believers or non-believers to adhere to their religious beliefs and congregations, to recant their religion or belief or to convert." (CCPR/C/21/Rev.1/Add.4, General Comment No. 22.; emphasis added)

Some countries distinguish voluntary, motivated conversion from organized proselytism, attempting to restrict the latter. The boundary between them is not easily defined: what one person considers legitimate evangelizing, or witness-bearing, another may consider intrusive and improper. Illustrating the problems that can arise from such subjective viewpoints is this extract from an article by Dr. C. Davis, published in Cleveland State University's Journal of Law and Health: "According to the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, Jews for Jesus and Hebrew Christians constitute two of the most dangerous cults, and its members are appropriate candidates for deprogramming. Anti-cult evangelicals ... protest that 'aggressiveness and proselytizing ... are basic to authentic Christianity,' and that Jews for Jesus and Campus Crusade for Christ are not to be labeled as cults. Furthermore, certain Hassidic groups who physically attacked a meeting of the Hebrew Christian 'cult' have themselves been labeled a 'cult' and equated with the followers of Reverend Moon, by none other than the President of the Central Conference of American Rabbis."[71]

Since the collapse of the former Soviet Union the Russian Orthodox Church has enjoyed a revival. However, it takes exception to what it considers illegitimate proselytizing by the Roman Catholic Church, the Salvation Army, Jehovah's Witnesses, and other religious movements in what it refers to as its canonical territory.

Greece has a long history of conflict, mostly with Jehovah's Witnesses, but also with some Pentecostals, over its laws on proselytism. This situation stems from a law passed in the 1930s by the dictator Ioannis Metaxas. A Jehovah's Witness, Minos Kokkinakis, won the equivalent of $14,400 in damages from the Greek state after being arrested for trying to preach his faith from door to door. In another case, Larissis v. Greece, a member of the Pentecostal church also won a case in the European Court of Human Rights.

See also


  1. ^ Stark, Rodney and Roger Finke. "Acts of Faith: Explaining the Human Side of Religion." University of California Press, 2000. p.114. ISBN 978-0-520-22202-1
  2. ^ Meintel, Deirdre. "When There Is No Conversion: Spiritualists and Personal Religious Change". Anthropologica. 49 (1): 149–162. |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  3. ^ Falkenberg, Steve. "Psychological Explanations of Religious Socialization." Religious Conversion. Eastern Kentucky University. August 31, 2009.
  4. ^ The Independent newspaper: "... finding religion – is there anything middle-class parents won't try to get their children into the 'right' schools?"
  5. ^ Smith, P. (1999). A Concise Encyclopedia of the Bahá'í Faith. Oxford, UK: Oneworld Publications. ISBN 1-85168-184-1.
  6. ^ Momen, M. (1997). A Short Introduction to the Bahá'í Faith. Oxford, UK: One World Publications. ISBN 1-85168-209-0.
  7. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church retrieved 24 Mar 2016
  8. ^ "Baptism, Christianity". Britannica.
  9. ^ "Evangelization." Evangelization. United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, n.d. Web. 05 Oct. 2016.
  10. ^ Paul ChulHong Kang, Justification: The Imputation of Christ's Righteousness from Reformation Theology to the American Great Awakening and the Korean Revivals (Peter Lang, 2006), 70, note 171. Calvin generally defends Augustine’s “monergistic view.”
  11. ^ and Paul ChulHong Kang, Justification: The Imputation of Christ's Righteousness from Reformation Theology to the American Great Awakening and the Korean Revivals (Peter Lang, 2006), 65.
  12. ^ Roger E. Olson, Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities (InterVarsity Press, 2009), 18. “Arminian synergism” refers to “evangelical synergism, which affirms the prevenience of grace.”
  13. ^ See Doctrine and Covenants 68:25–27
  14. ^ See Moroni 8:4–23
  15. ^ See, e.g., "Guide to the Scriptures: Baptism, Baptize: Proper authority",, LDS Church
  16. ^ See, e.g., "Gospel Topics: Priest",, LDS Church
  17. ^ See, e.g., "Baptism", KJV (LDS): LDS Bible Dictionary, LDS Church
  18. ^ See 3 Nephi 11:25
  19. ^ a b "Performing Priesthood Ordinances", Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood: Basic Manual for Priesthood Holders, Part B, LDS Church, 2000, pp. 41–48
  20. ^ Vincent J. Cornell. Voices of Islam. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 8. ISBN 0275987337.
  21. ^ "Every Child is Born Muslim".
  22. ^ ALAM, NANCY. "Conversion to Islam".
  23. ^ "Islamic Invitation Centre – most comprehensive FAQ on Islam". Archived from the original on 2006-03-29.
  24. ^ "Considering Converting: Is it necessary to be circumcised?". Archived from the original on 2012-07-16.
  25. ^ "Circumcision for Converts". Archived from the original on 2012-07-16.
  26. ^ a b "Converting to Judaism". BBC. July 12, 2011. Retrieved November 18, 2016.
  27. ^ Heilman, Uriel (October 6, 2014). "So You Want to Convert to Judaism? It's Not That Easy". Retrieved November 18, 2016.
  28. ^ "Internet History Sourcebooks Project".
  29. ^ "". Retrieved 2012-07-21.
  30. ^ The Spirits Book (PDF).
  31. ^ Dalai Lama opposed to practice of conversion Archived February 9, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  32. ^ Dawei, Bei (2012). Conversion to Tibetan Buddhism: Some Reflections, in: Ura, Dasho, Karma: Chophel, Dendup, Buddhism Without Borders, Proceedings of the International Conference of Global Buddhism, Bhumtang, Bhutan, May 211-23, 2012, The Center for Buthane Studies, pp, 53–75
  33. ^ a b Sharma, Arvind (22 April 2011). Hinduism as a Missionary Religion. Albany, New York: State University of New York Press. pp. 31–53. ISBN 978-1-4384-3211-3.
  34. ^ Gauri Viswanathan (1998), Outside the Fold: Conversion, Modernity, and Belief, Princeton University Press, ISBN 978-0691058993
  35. ^ a b Chakravarti, Sitansu (1991), Hinduism, a way of life, Motilal Banarsidass Publ., p. 71, ISBN 978-81-208-0899-7
  36. ^ Julius J. Lipner, Hindus: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices, 2nd Edition, Routledge, ISBN 978-0-415-45677-7
  37. ^ MK Gandhi, The Essence of Hinduism, Editor: VB Kher, Navajivan Publishing, see page 3; According to Gandhi, "a man may not believe in God and still call himself a Hindu."
  38. ^ Catharine Cookson (2003), Encyclopedia of religious freedom, Taylor & Francis, p. 180, ISBN 978-0-415-94181-5
  39. ^ Bhavasar and Kiem, Spirituality and Health, in Hindu Spirituality, Editor: Ewert Cousins (1989), ISBN 0-8245-0755-X
  40. ^ Gavin Flood, Brill's Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Editor: Knut Jacobsen (2010), Volume II, Brill, ISBN 978-90-04-17893-9
  41. ^ SS Subramuniyaswami (2000), How to become a Hindu, 2nd Edition, Himalayan Academy, ISBN 0945497822
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  43. ^ Richadiana Kartakusama (2006), Archaeology: Indonesian Perspective (Editors: Truman Simanjuntak et al.), Yayasan Obor Indonesia, ISBN 979-2624996
  44. ^ Reuter, Thomas (September 2004). Java's Hinduism Revivial. Hinduism Today.
  45. ^ See, for example: ISKCON Law Book, International Society for Krishna Consciousness, GBC Press
  46. ^ a b c SS Subramuniyaswami (2000), How to become a Hindu, 2nd Edition, Himalayan Academy, ISBN 0945497822
  47. ^ SS Subramuniyaswami (2000), How to become a Hindu, 2nd Edition, Himalayan Academy, ISBN 0945497822
  48. ^ SS Subramuniyaswami (2000), How to become a Hindu, 2nd Edition, Himalayan Academy, ISBN 0945497822
  49. ^ a b Pravin Shah, Five Great Vows (Maha-vratas) of Jainism Jainism Literature Center, Harvard University Archives (2009)
  50. ^ Jain 2011, p. 93.
  51. ^ Sangave 2001, p. 67.
  52. ^ Jain 2011, p. 99.
  53. ^ Jain 2011, p. 100.
  54. ^ "ThinkQuest – Sikhism". Archived from the original on 2011-11-30. Retrieved 2011-07-27.
  55. ^ "Sikhism (Sikhi) the Sikh Faith and Religion in America".
  56. ^ Melton, J. Gordon (1999-12-10). "Brainwashing and the Cults: The Rise and Fall of a Theory". CESNUR: Center for Studies on New Religions. Retrieved 2009-06-15. In the United States at the end of the 1970s, brainwashing emerged as a popular theoretical construct around which to understand what appeared to be a sudden rise of new and unfamiliar religious movements during the previous decade, especially those associated with the hippie street-people phenomenon.
  57. ^ a b Bromley, David G. (1998). "Brainwashing". In William H. Swatos Jr. (Ed.) (eds.). Encyclopedia of Religion and Society. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira. pp. 61–62. ISBN 978-0-7619-8956-1.CS1 maint: Uses editors parameter (link)
  58. ^ Barker, Eileen: New Religious Movements: A Practical Introduction. London: Her Majesty's Stationery office, 1989.
  59. ^ Wright, Stewart A. (1997). "Media Coverage of Unconventional Religion: Any 'Good News' for Minority Faiths?". Review of Religious Research. Review of Religious Research, Vol. 39, No. 2. 39 (2): 101–115. doi:10.2307/3512176. JSTOR 3512176.
  60. ^ Barker, Eileen (1986). "Religious Movements: Cult and Anti-Cult Since Jonestown". Annual Review of Sociology. 12: 329–346. doi:10.1146/
  61. ^ Conversion, Unification Church, Encyclopedia of Religion and Society, Hartford Institute for Religion Research, Hartford Seminary
  62. ^ Introduction to New and Alternative Religions in America: African diaspora traditions and other American innovations, Volume 5 of Introduction to New and Alternative Religions in America, W. Michael Ashcraft, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2006 ISBN 0-275-98717-5
  63. ^ Exploring New Religions, Issues in contemporary religion, George D. Chryssides, Continuum International Publishing Group, 2001 ISBN 0-8264-5959-5
  64. ^ The Foster Report. Chapter 5, "The Practices of Scientology;" section (a), "Recruitment;" pages 75–76.
  65. ^ "Artists Find Inspiration, Education at Church of Scientology & Celebrity Centre Nashville." The Tennessee Tribune, Jan 20 – Jan 26, 2011. Vol. 22, Iss. 3, pg. 14A
  66. ^ Goodyear, Dana (2008-01-14). "Château Scientology". Letter from California. The New Yorker. Retrieved 2008-01-10.
  67. ^ Friedman, Roger (3 September 2003). "Will Scientology Celebs Sign 'Spiritual' Contract?". FOX News. Retrieved 2008-12-07.
  68. ^ Schepens, T. (Dutch) Religieuze bewegingen in Nederland volume 29, Sekten Ontkerkelijking en religieuze vitaliteit: nieuwe religieuze bewegingen en New Age-centra in Nederland (1994) VU uitgeverij ISBN 90-5383-341-2
  69. ^ Stark, R & W.S. Bainbridge The future of religion: secularization, revival and cult formation (1985) Berkeley/Los Angeles/London: University of California press
  70. ^ Sherine, Ariane (8 December 2013). "Zoroastrianism needs to adapt its archaic laws – or die | Ariane Sherine". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 February 2019.
  71. ^ "Joining a Cult: Religious Choice or Psychological Aberration?".

Further reading

  • Barker, Eileen The Making of a Moonie: Choice or Brainwashing? (1984)
  • Barrett, D. V. The New Believers: A survey of sects, cults and alternative religions (2001) UK, Cassell & Co ISBN 0-304-35592-5
  • Buckser, A. S. and S. D. Glazier. eds. The Anthropology of Religious Conversion Roman and Littlefield,2003
  • Cooper, Richard S. "The Assessment and Collection of Kharaj Tax in Medieval Egypt" Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 96, No. 3. (Jul–Sep., 1976), pp. 365–382.
  • Curtin, Phillip D. Cross-Cultural Trade in World History. Cambridge University Press, 1984.
  • Hoiberg, Dale, and Indu Ramachandran. Students' Britannica India. Popular Prakashan, 2000.
  • Idris, Gaefar, Sheikh. The Process of Islamization. Plainfield, Ind.: Muslim Students' Association of the U.S. and Canada, 1977. vi, 20 p. Without ISBN
  • James, William, The varieties of religious experience: a study in human nature. Being the Gifford lectures on natural religion delivered at Edinburgh in 1901–1902; Longmans, Green & Co, New York (1902)
  • Morris, Harold C., and Lin M. Morris. "Power and purpose: Correlates to conversion." Psychology: A Journal of Human Behavior, Vol 15(4), Nov–Dec 1978, 15–22.
  • Rambo, Lewis R. Understanding Religious Conversion. Yale University Press, 1993.
  • Rambo, Lewis R., & Farhadian, Charles. Oxford Handbook of Religious Conversion. Oxford University Press, 2014.
  • Ramstedt, Martin. Hinduism in Modern Indonesia: A Minority Religion Between Local, National, and Global Interests. Routledge, 2004.
  • Rawat, Ajay S. StudentMan and Forests: The Khatta and Gujjar Settlements of Sub-Himalayan Tarai. Indus Publishing, 1993.
  • Vasu, Srisa Chandra (1919), The Catechism Of Hindu Dharma, New York: Kessinger Publishing, LLC
  • Jain, Vijay K. (2011), Tattvârthsûtra (1st ed.), (Uttarakhand) India: Vikalp Printers, ISBN 81-903639-2-1, Non-Copyright
  • Sangave, Vilas Adinath (2001), Aspects of Jaina religion (3rd ed.), Bharatiya Jnanpith, ISBN 81-263-0626-2

External links

The dictionary definition of convert at Wiktionary

Conference on Religious and Philosophical Conversion in the Ancient Mediterranean

Quotations related to religious conversion at Wikiquote

1981 Meenakshipuram conversion

The 1981 Meenakshipuram conversion was a mass religious conversion that took place in the Indian village of Meenakshipuram, in which hundreds of low caste Hindus converted to Islam. This incident sparked debate over freedom of religion in India and the government decided to introduce anti-conversion legislation. Later, many converts converted back to Hinduism, citing the lack of fulfillment of promises made during the conversions.


Anusim (Hebrew: אֲנוּסִים, pronounced [anuˈsim]; singular male, anús, Hebrew: אָנוּס pronounced [aˈnus]; singular female, anusáh, אָנוּסָה pronounced [anuˈsa], meaning "coerced") is a legal category of Jews in halakha (Jewish law) who were forced to abandon Judaism against their will, typically while forcibly converted to another religion. The term "anusim" is most properly translated as the "coerced [ones]" or the "forced [ones]".

Caste Disabilities Removal Act, 1850

The Caste Disabilities Removal Act, 1850, was a law passed in British India under East India Company rule, that abolished all laws affecting the rights of persons converting to another religion or caste. The new Act allowed Indians who converted from one religion to another religion equal rights under no law, especially in the case of inheritance.

Conversion of Chełm Eparchy

The Conversion of Chełm Eparchy, which occurred from January to May 1875, refers to the generally forced conversion of the last Uniate Eparchy in the Russian Empire, which was centered in the city of Chełm (Kholm) in Congress Poland, to the Orthodox faith.


Endogamy is the practice of marrying within a specific social group, caste or ethnic group, rejecting those from others as unsuitable for marriage or other close personal relationships.

Endogamy is common in many cultures and ethnic groups. Several religious and ethnic religious groups are traditionally more endogamous, although sometimes with the added dimension of requiring marital religious conversion. This permits an exogamous marriage, as the convert, by accepting the partner's religion, becomes accepted within the endogamous rules. Endogamy, as distinct from consanguinity, may result in transmission of genetic disorders, the so-called founder effect, within the relatively closed community.

Forced conversion

Forced conversion is adoption of a different religion or irreligion under duress. Some who have been forced to convert may continue, covertly, with the beliefs and practices originally held, while outwardly behaving as converts. Crypto-Jews, crypto-Christians, crypto-Muslims and crypto-Pagans are historical examples of the latter.

Freedom of religion in Botswana

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respected this right in practice. There were no reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious belief or practice.

Freedom of religion in Cape Verde

The constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the government generally respected this right in practice. Government policy continued to contribute to the generally free practice of religion. There were no reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious belief or practice.

Freedom of religion in Pakistan

Freedom of religion in Pakistan is guaranteed by the Constitution of Pakistan for individuals of various religions and religious sects.

Pakistan gained independence in 1947 and was founded upon the concept of Two-nation theory. At the time of Pakistan's creation the 'hostage theory' had been espoused. According to this theory the Hindu minority in Pakistan was to be given a fair deal in Pakistan in order to ensure the protection of the Muslim minority in India. However, Khawaja Nazimuddin, the 2nd Prime Minister of Pakistan, stated: "I do not agree that religion is a private affair of the individual nor do I agree that in an Islamic state every citizen has identical rights, no matter what his caste, creed or faith be".It is estimated that 95% of Pakistanis are Muslims (75-95% Sunni, 5-20% Shia and 0.22-2.2% Ahmadi, who are not permitted to call themselves Muslims—see Religious discrimination in Pakistan), while the remaining 5% includes Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Zoroastrians, members of other faiths and atheists.Progress on religious freedom is being made gradually as Pakistan transitions to democracy from Zia's legacy, in 2016 Sindh with Pakistan's largest Hindu minority passed a bill that outlawed forced conversions. The bill was tabled by a faction of the Pakistan Muslim League which in Sindh is led by Sufi leader Pir Pagara, called PML-F, Pakistan Muslim League functional. Pakistan is 96% Muslim, and most provinces are overwhelmingly Muslim, Pakistan's most religiously diverse province is Sindh with an 8% religious minority population (predominantly Hindus and also Christians) and there is significant protection within Sindh province against forced conversions against one's will.

Ghar Wapsi

Ghar Wapsi (Hindi, meaning "Back to Home") is a series of “reconversion” activities, facilitated by Indian Hindu organizations Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), to facilitate conversion of non-Hindus to Hinduism. It became a subject of public discussion in 2014. The Bharatiya Janata Party's Yogi Adityanath has claimed this campaign would continue unless conversions to other religions are banned altogether in the country.The Vishva Hindu Parishad and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh organized several Ghar Wapsi events in Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, and Goa. The Indian Express reported that Scheduled Caste Manjhi families demanded better facilities along with education and healthcare before they converted.In a Supreme Court judgment, the judges ruled that reconversion to Hinduism will not prevent a person from accessing quota benefits and adopt the caste of his forefathers. It observed that: "There has been detailed study to indicate that the Scheduled Caste persons belonging to Hindu religion, who had embraced Christianity with some kind of hope or aspiration, have remained socially, educationally and economically backward."

Goodbye Surfing, Hello God!

"Goodbye Surfing, Hello God!: The Religious Conversion of Brian Wilson" is an article written by Jules Siegel chronicling his experiences with Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys during recording sessions for the unfinished studio album Smile and its collapse. It was first published in the magazine Cheetah in October 1967, and has since been anthologized in several formats. In 2011, it was made available by Atavist as an e-book.

Islamization of Egypt

The Islamization of Egypt occurred as a result of the Muslim conquest by the Arabs during Roman Egypt, which led by the prominent Muslim ruler Amr ibn al-Aas, the military governor of Palestine. The masses of locals in Egypt underwent a large scale gradual conversion from Coptic Christianity to Islam. This process of Islamization was accompanied by a simultaneous wave of Arabization. These factors resulted in Muslim faith becoming the dominant faith in Egypt between 10th and 14th century, and the Egyptian acculturating into Islamic identity and then replacing their native Coptic and Greek languages with Arabic as their sole vernacular which became the language of the nation by law, a law that helped in almost vanishing the original tongue till today.

Islamic links to Coptic Egypt predates its conquest by the Arabs. According to Muslim tradition, Mohammed married a Copt; Maria al-Qibtiyya. In 641 AD, Egypt was invaded by the Arabs who faced off with the Byzantine army. Local resistance by the Egyptians began to materialize shortly thereafter and would last until at least the ninth century.The Arabs imposed a special tax, known as jizya, on the Christians who acquired the protected status of dhimmis, the taxation was justified on protection grounds since local Christians were never drafted to serve in an army. Arab conquerors generally preferred not to cohabit with native Copts in their towns and established new colonies, like Cairo. Heavy taxation at times of state hardships was a reason behind Coptic Christians organizing resistance against the new rulers. This resistance mounted to armed rebellions against the Arabs in a number of instances, such as during the Bashmurian revolt in the Delta, which were sometimes successful.The Arabs in the 7th century seldom used the term Egyptian, and used instead the term qbt, which was adopted into English as Copt, to describe the people of Egypt. Thus, Egyptians became known as Copts, and the non-Chalcedonian Egyptian Church became known as the Coptic Church. The Chalcedonian Church remained known as the Melkite Church. In their own native language, Egyptians referred to themselves as ⲛⲓⲣⲉⲙⲛ̀ⲭⲏⲙⲓ (/ni-rem-en-kēmi/ "the people of Egypt"). Religious life remained largely undisturbed following the Arab occupation, as evidence by the rich output of Coptic arts in monastic centers in Old Cairo (Fustat) and throughout Egypt. Conditions, however, worsened shortly after that, and in the eighth and ninth centuries, during the period of the great national resistance against the Arabs, Muslim rulers banned the use of human forms in art (taking advantage of an iconoclastic conflict in Byzantium) and consequently destroyed many Coptic paintings and frescoes in churches.The Fatimid period of Islami in Egypt was tolerant with the exception of the violent persecutions of caliph Al-Hakim. The Fatimid rulers employed Copts in the government and participated in Coptic and local Egyptian feasts. Major renovation and reconstruction of churches and monasteries were also undertaken. Coptic arts flourished, reaching new heights in Middle and Upper Egypt. Persecution of Egyptian Christians, however, reached a peak in the early Mamluk period following the Crusader wars. Many forced conversions of Christians were reported. Monasteries were occasionally raided and destroyed by marauding Bedouin, but at least in some case were later rebuilt and reopened by Copts.


The biblical term "proselyte" is an anglicization of the Koine Greek term προσήλυτος (proselytos), as used in the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament) for "stranger", i.e. a "newcomer to Israel"; a "sojourner in the land", and in the Greek New Testament for a first-century convert to Judaism, generally from Ancient Greek religion. It is a translation of the Biblical Hebrew phrase גר תושב (ger toshav)."Proselyte" also has the more general meaning in English of a new convert to any particular religion or doctrine.


Proselytism () is the act or fact of Religious conversion, or actions inviting this. The word proselytize is derived from the Greek language prefix προσ- (pros-, "toward") and the verb ἔρχομαι (érchomai, "I come") in the form of προσήλυτος (prosélytos, "newcomer"). Historically in the Koine Greek Septuagint and New Testament, the word proselyte denoted a Gentile who was considering conversion to Judaism. Though the word proselytism originally referred to Judaism (and earlier Gentiles such as God-fearers), it now refers to the attempt of any religion or religious individuals to convert people to their beliefs, or any attempt to convert people to a different point of view, religious or not. Proselytism is illegal in some countries.. However, the right to convert to another religion and to manifest religion is enshrined in Article 18 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights. The term is generally understood as pejorative , by contrast with Evangelism which is viewed as a term of approval. The World Council of Churches has indicated that, used pejoratively, proselytism refers to attempts at conversion by 'unjust means that violate the conscience of the human person', such as by coercion or bribery.

Religion not the crying need of India

"Religion not the crying need of India" was a lecture delivered by Indian Hindu monk Swami Vivekananda on 20 September 1893 at the Parliament of the World's Religions, Chicago. In this lecture he criticized Christian missionaries for ignoring the needs of starving millions in India. He said that Indians did not need any religious education, as there was already a surfeit of religion in the East; he stated that they needed "bread" to save their lives, which Christian missionaries did not provide.

Sacred Journeys

Sacred Journeys: The Conversion of Young Americans to Divine Light Mission is a sociological book about the adherents of the Divine Light Mission in the 1970s. In the work, author James V. Downton, Jr. analyzes a sample group of young Americans, and their conversion process to the ideals of the Divine Light Mission and their relationship with Guru Maharaj Ji, currently known as Prem Rawat.

Downton, a sociologist and professor emeritus of Sociology at the College of Arts and Sciences of the University of Colorado at Boulder, spent one month in an ashram and relied on interviews with eighteen followers, presenting a "vivid picture of the social and psychologically dynamics which led to their spiritual awakening". He followed the mission for a period of five years chronicling the followers' personal changes and the evolution of the movement itself. Downton himself later wrote an article in Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, which explored these issues further. Downton also cited the work again, with co-author Wehr, in an article in Journal of Peace Research analyzing social activism and its relationship to pacifism.The work is cited in other books and academic journal articles in various contexts including religious conversion and de-conversion in religions, cults and new religious movements, spirituality among descendants of Spanish Jews, participation in religion and others.

Stephen A. Kent

Stephen A. Kent, is a Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. He researches new religious movements, and has published research on several such groups including the Children of God (also known as The Family), the Church of Scientology, and newer faiths operating in Canada.

The Making of a Moonie

The Making of a Moonie: Choice or Brainwashing? is a 1984 book written by British sociologist Eileen Barker, Blackwell Publishers, Oxford, United Kingdom, ISBN 0-631-13246-5.

The book describes the religious conversion process to the Unification Church, whose members are sometimes informally referred to as "Moonies".

Barker spent close to seven years studying Unification Church members. She interviewed in depth and/or gave probing questionnaires to Unification Church members, ex-members, "non-joiners," and control groups of uninvolved individuals from similar backgrounds, as well as parents, spouses, and friends of members. She also attended numerous Unification Church workshops and communal facilities.Barker writes that she rejects the "brainwashing" theory as an explanation for conversion to the Unification Church, because, as she wrote, it explains neither the many people who attended a Unification Church recruitment meeting and did not become members, nor the voluntary disaffiliation of members. Reviewers have quoted her conclusions: "I have not been persuaded that they are brainwashed zombies," and "Moonies are no more likely to stagnate into mindless robots than are their peers who travel to the city on the 8.23 each morning."In 2006 Laurence Iannaccone of George Mason University, a specialist in the economics of religion, wrote that The Making of a Moonie was "one of the most comprehensive and influential studies" of the process of conversion to new religious movements. Australian psychologist Len Oakes and British psychiatry professor Anthony Storr, who have written rather critically about cults, gurus, new religious movements, and their leaders have praised The Making of a Moonie. It was given the Distinguished Book Award for 1985 by the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion.

Lists of religious converts to and from world religions

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