Introduction: World Building and the Rationality of Conversion

Robert W. Hefner

in Conversion to Christianity

Published by University of California Press

Published in print February 1993 | ISBN: 9780520078352
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520912564 | DOI:
Introduction: World Building and the Rationality of Conversion

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This chapter emphasizes that though most of the discussion in these chapters centers on Christianity, the remarks are necessarily broader. It speaks of Christianity as a species of world religion and investigates the differences between world religions and the other great family of religions referred to, much too generally, as traditional. It is stressed that the discussion of the social science commentary on conversion is inevitably selective, designed less to provide an exhaustive history of ideas than to highlight a few recurring themes. Max Weber's early writings were influenced by the Hegelian ethos of late-nineteenth-century German social thought and held that rationalization was intrinsic to social development. The chapters in this book also show the variability of the phenomenology of religious conversion. Conversion is related to a process of identity development often referred to as “reference group” formation. Christianity differs markedly from the core tradition within Islam.

Keywords: religious conversion; Christianity; world religion; social science; Max Weber; reference group; Islam

Chapter.  17560 words. 

Subjects: Anthropology of Religion

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