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date: 25 May 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter presents a comprehensive overview of psychological research on religious conversion and spiritual transformation, in which a marked increase has occurred in the past generation. From around 1900 to the 1930s, milestones appeared by James, Hall, Freud, and their intellectual offspring; subsequent limitations brought such work to a standstill. The 1960s saw the field re-emerge; it has since greatly expanded. New research examines conversion to varieties of religion including Christianity, Islam, Judaism, New Religious Movements, and spirituality. Conversion is seen as a process that varies in speed, motivations, context, and direction including deconversion. Psychological processes include step models, attachment, psychodynamics, group pressures, and cognitive manipulations. This chapter offers the model of religion as a meaning system as a theoretical approach to integrate the research.

Keywords: conversion, deconversion, Freud, James, meaning system, New Religious Movements, psychology of conversion, religious conversion, spiritual transformation, spirituality

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