Experiences of religious and spiritual converts sought by academics
Dr Glenn Williams, Principal Lecturer, and Dr Leonie O’Dwyer, Research Assistant, both in the Faculty of Health and Social Sciences at Leeds Beckett, have launched an online survey to explore how, and why, people convert to another religious or spiritual tradition. They are keen to learn more about the ways converts are supported and to understand the impact that conversion has had on their wellbeing.
Dr Williams commented: “Converts have diverse needs and are often misrepresented and treated as a curiosity by the media. Instead, our research is aimed at getting a comprehensive understanding of the challenges that converts face and the strategies that they use to cope with these challenges.
As far as we are aware, there is little systematic and comprehensive research into what it is like to convert to a new religious or spiritual tradition and what impact the conversion process can have on the person who has converted. There have been studies that have focused on converts belonging to one or two faiths but, to our knowledge, there are no studies that have attempted to obtain a cross-section of the psychology of conversion across a highly diverse range of beliefs.
“Our study is aimed at addressing this gap in the evidence base – it is not focused on giving more prominence of one belief system over another belief system, but is rather aimed at understanding processes and effects of religious/spiritual conversion. We have set a challenging task for ourselves to capture a wide range of conversion experiences, but we are committed to doing research that can fully analyse converts’ needs and ways of best meeting these needs.”
The survey is now open and will run until Sunday 6 March. The researchers are inviting anyone who has converted to another religious or spiritual tradition to take part. This can also include conversions to or from: atheism, agnosticism, humanism or any other belief system that might be understood as a spiritual or moral philosophy. The survey takes approximately 15-20 minutes to complete.
Within the survey there will be the option to express interest in taking part in an interview with the researchers, where they can share more in-depth reports of their experiences. A selection of interviews will be conducted as a way of getting even deeper insights into what religious/spiritual conversion means for the convert and the strategies that the convert has employed to cope with the transition in embracing a new belief system.
Dr O’Dwyer added: “The findings of our research project are intended to inform faith groups and support services to understand the needs of religious/spiritual converts, with a goal of helping to plan for better advice and support for converts. By getting the frank and honest views of those who have converted, we hope that participants will be contributing to the development of more evidence-based approaches to support those who are in similar situations to themselves.”
For more information and to take part in the survey, please go to: http://tinyurl.com/ReligiousConvert.