For this interview with Lynn Davidman, we focus on the concepts of conversion and deconversion, illustrations of these processes in various contexts, what each term means and how each is experienced in someone's life, the histories of these terms and their use in scholarship, and issues that arise from their conceptualization or use.

About this episode

Religious conversion has traditionally been understood as the abandonment of one religious identity for another, or a switch from no religious identification to a newly religious one. Psychologists, sociologists, anthropologists, and others have viewed conversion as a sudden, singular event in one’s life. In the 1960s and 1970s, in the wake of new religious movements and the flowering of Asian religious traditions in the West, sociologists reformulated conversion as an active, gradual process of transformation. Conversion, in these understandings, is not a changed subjective or ontological identity but rather a shift in one’s discursive universe, social relationships, and embodied practices, a new role learned through language, behavior, and interpersonal boundary maintenance. Similarly, deconversion and its scholarly synonyms (apostasy, alienation, disaffiliation, defection, exit, leaving) has many contexts, motivations, and processes, including loss of a specific religious experience, doubt or denial of beliefs, moral criticism, emotional suffering, and unlearning particular vocabularies and behaviors. For this interview with Lynn Davidman, we focus on the concepts of conversion and deconversion*, illustrations of these processes in various contexts, what each term means and how each is experienced in someone’s life, the histories of these terms and their use in scholarship, and issues that arise from their conceptualization or use.

You can download this interview, and subscribe to receive our weekly podcast, on iTunes. If you enjoyed it, please take a moment to rate us. And remember, you can use our Amazon.co.ukAmazon.com, or Amazon.ca links to support us at no additional cost when buying academic texts, jelly beans, the artist formally known as “Prince” memorial T-shirts, and more. *Our interview took place during the Association for the Sociology of Religion annual meeting, held in Chicago. During our conversation, Davidman refers to comments made at an author-meets-critics panel about her new book which took place earlier that day. *For more on conversion, see L. Rambo, Understanding Religious Conversion (1993) and L. Rambo and C. Farhadian, The Oxford Handbook of Religious Conversion (2014), as well as D. Snow and R. Machalek, “The Sociology of Conversion” (1984). *For more on deconversion, see H. Streib et al, Deconversion (2009) and P. Zuckerman, Faith No More (2011).

This episode has not been transcribed yet. 

Consider a donation to pay for the cost of editing a transcript?

Related Resources

The Psychology of Prayer: An interview with Kevin Ladd

Podcast

Ladd begins the interview by discussing what it means to pray. Perhaps most important, he explains how prayer is defined for research purposes, emphasizing that there is no essential definition, nor is one desirable. In taking care to uphold a scientific understanding of prayer, rather than a theologically apologetic one,...
Minority Religions in the Secret Police Archives

Podcast

James Kapaló takes us inside the Eastern European secret police archives to show us how minority and new religious groups were portrayed. We explore the visual and material presence of religious minorities in the secret police archives in Hungary, Romania and the Republic of Moldova.
Holocaust Museums as Sacred-Secular Space

Podcast

In this interview, @Bre_Fallon talks to Dr Avril Alba on the tension between the secular and the sacred in Holocaust Museums.

Responses to this episode

Ours Can Be To Reason Why

While perspectives about conversion are Christian-centric, the idea of conversion itself is religion-centric.Lynn Davidman's recent RSP interview illustrates why her work is important, serious, and engaging. As I listened to the podcast, three ideas came to mind. First, I was delighted to hear Davidman describe much of the literature on conversion and deconversion as Christian-centric. While I think she could have made this point even more compellingly in the podcast, ...

Other EPISODES YOU MIGHT ENJOY

Spiritualism and Shamanism

Podcast

Wilson's 'apprenticeship' model not only gives us a way to conceptualise shamanism without recourse to sui generis discourse, but draws interesting parallels between indigenous cultures and the somewhat hidden world of heterodox religious practices in the West.
Lived Religion: Part 1

Podcast

Dr. Meredith McGuire talks about the multiple issues of power, normativity and embodiment of religious life that can be observed through her concept of Lived Religion. Part 2 on Wednesday! Meredith McGuire shows how Lived Religion, a concept she has coined, is at the core of this distinction and offers a way of understanding religious experiences as creative,
Rudolf Otto

Podcast

Rudolf Otto was a highly influential figure in the history of Religious Studies, but whether that influence was for good or not is a debatable issue. His ideas about the sui generis nature of the religious experience and of an irreductible numinous or sacred foreshadow the work of scholars such as Eliade, but proved highly divisive for scholars and practitioners alike.
Sufism

Podcast

In this interview, Milad Milani discusses the basic orientation and history of Sufi thought. He also speaks about the diverse national variations of Sufism, particularly with respect to Iranian (or “Persianate”) Sufism. The interview concludes with a few critical remarks on the questionable appropriation of Sufism in contemporary Western discourses on religion.
The Fate of Earthly Things

Podcast

In this interview, Molly Bassett begins by introducing us to the world of Middle America, the sources scholars use today to study this period and its cultures, and then describes the benefits and challenges of teaching with Meso-American materials. Her students learn not only to challenge the categories scholars use to describe religious ideas like "god," ...
Interdisciplinary Approaches to the Study of Buddhist Ritual

Podcast

How does discipline impact the way we see Buddhist ritual? How can more diverse disciplinary conversations help scholars see ritual in new ways? Five scholars from four time zones come together from around the world to discuss the impacts of interdisciplinary approaches to Buddhist ritual.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- NonCommercial- NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

The views expressed in podcasts, features and responses are the views of the individual contributors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Religious Studies Project or our sponsors. The Religious Studies Project is produced by the Religious Studies Project Association (SCIO), a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (charity number SC047750).