Piers Benn

Conundrums and Controversies


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Narratives of religious de-conversion – some thoughts

Piers Benn

I have been following with considerable interest some of the material on faith, de-conversion and the psychology of belief that have been appearing on various blogs. This is partly because religion has always fascinated me, partly because I find my general lack of commitment either decisively for or against any religious system to be a source of anxiety and frustration, and partly because I find myself increasingly absorbed in matters to do with the psychology of faith, belief, doubt and especially sudden transformations.

Religious traditions are awash with ‘conversion literature’ – accounts of how people reached faith after periods of doubt, a great sense of facing a momentous existential choice, and not infrequently a sense of sin. These periods of acute conflict and anxiety are reputedly resolved by conversion experiences, which take different forms according to differences in individual psychology and surrounding religious culture. Furthermore, many who recount such experiences…

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