View Full Version : How do you convert to a belief system?

11-07-2005, 01:20 AM
I heard some people talking to other day about converting from one religion to another, and it made me curious. How is that one can do this?

I'm an athiest with Jewish background. I have my own distinct worldview about what things do and do not exist, and how they can and cannot be influanced. Most religions include some kind of worldview alogn these lines, such as how many gods there are and what role they play in people's lives.

It has always seemed to me that this kind if belief is a deep and personal thing. It is, essentially, the definition of everything. Its not something I can imagine making a willful decision to change. How is that people can choose to go from a belief and identification in one faith, to a total conversion to another?

11-07-2005, 01:47 AM
I think in a perfect world that conversion should be more a slow series of realisations than a simple decision. One should convert to another religion because it feels right, like something you've known all along, rather than because someone else wants you to, or some other external force is being applied.

Having said that, I've just always felt such a part of my own religion and culture I can't imagne not being Jewish. It'd be like not being me. Religion is the most personal choice you can make-- it should be something you're completely comfortable with.

11-07-2005, 03:07 AM
For me, it was more a question of "wow, that makes sense" as opposed to "'K, I wanna change now".

I was raised Roman Catholic, but grew dissatisfied with it as I grew older. I was also raised to ask questions and RC isn't big with the explanations - other than "cuz the Pope said". ;) I was also disappointed with the treatment of women and the rigidity of teachings. I really didn't feel that a lot of what I had been taught applied to how I lived my life. I lost any emotional connection with the church I was raised in, because none of it was relevant to me.

I started hanging around with a loose group of eclectic pagans in college, and a lot of the things they talked about made a LOT of sense to me. I liked that they stressed a personal relationship with the Spirit, rather than the RC way of "you MUST go thru a priest or it does't count". Also the idea that the Divine had BOTH mascline and feminine aspects was very appealing to me, again because of my experience. I LIKE being a woman, at least most of the time, and the idea that this is inherently not as good as being a man annoys the snot out of me.

So I practice (mostly as a Solitary) a fairly loose and informal faith - looking at the seasons and rituals and finding what is important to me about them. I find that the result is that I pay more attention to the cycles of the seasons and the world around me, even if I don't end up doing something formal for a particular occasion. This keeps me more grounded, and I often find I'm more "spiritual" than folks I know who never miss a weekly mass.

Faith is a matter of emotions, not reason, so I've never understood people who try 'logical" arguments to try and "convert" people - you either feel it in your heart or you don't. I like to learn about other people's beliefs, as long as we agree to disagree. I went to a Seder for the first time this year which was kind of cool. But I do what feels right to me.

Wow - how did I get up here on this soapbox? ::puzzles::

11-07-2005, 07:41 AM
I think people convert for a couple of reasons. Maybe because they are borded with their current religion, someone has asked them to convert (for marriage) or they have found a more 'trendy' religion. All I see as not having a really good basis for converting - those who convert because of marriage are not doing it because they believe in the tenants of their new faith. And those who religion hop will continue to do so.

Truly adopting a new faith, I would think, takes a whole lot of soul searching, even if you are not doing a huge switch. And some study too. And then the decision if your beliefs can jive with a certain religion, as well as the bigger decision about changing some ideas your held previously in light of your new faith.

I think if you can do that and then really believe what is taught and practice it as well, then you have converted.

lady Amalthea
11-07-2005, 10:05 AM
My mother's side of the family is Roman Catholic so as children my brother and I went to mass, I'm not sure why but when I was around 7 or 8 we stopped going to church although my dad still made us watch religious programming on sunday mornings. So after my parents divorced a few years later that stopped also. there was about a 5 year span or so when I didn't attend any church at all but still considered myself Christian.

When my dad met my step mother we started attending the United Methodist church and I converted to that faith. all the while questioning what I truly believed in. I started just going to church because that was expected of me. I also went to a youth group with my friend to her Southern Baptist church. I never felt a sense of belonging and I was always questioning the pastors about different faith systems. I remember that I asked the Southern Baptist pastor once why every other religion in the world was wrong, so to speak, when they were around before jesus appeared. The only answer I got was "because they are heathens and haven't heard the word of god" all this with a shocked look like I would dare question Christianity.

Luckily my mother was never a strong RC but she is religious to her own extent, but she never shoved Christianity down my brothers and my throats. She let us choose our own paths. Always being fastinated with the western religions I started watching history channel specials on them and reading books but when I started reading about Wicca and Paginism when I was around 18, it was just like this uplift to me with a sense of "This is it, I'm home" Type of feeling. My brother, on the other hand studies the Celtic ways of belief.

I'm just glad I have a family that supports individual thinking and not the you must do it this way because that's the way we do it thinking. For each person it's a purly emotional and spiritual thing. If it feels right and true to you then I say it's the path you were suppossed to be on. For me I just fianlly found where I belong!

I have a strong respect for other religions and cultutes and feel that each person must find their own. My philosophy is there is no one way, each person must find their way to the Spirit their own way.

11-07-2005, 10:21 AM
Wendyzski, you put me feelings into words perfectly, thank you. I could not have said it better.

I could not live my life with a religion that felt, to me, like going through the motions. When I felt the things that you mentioned in your post, I knew I needed to find my own way. I did it the same way you did - through friends. It has now brought me a personal fulfillment that Catholicism never did. And isn't that really what it's all about? Find the path that gives you that feeling?

Jessa, do what is right for you, not what other people feel you are "supposed to do". If it is right, you will know. *hug*

Mairi the Herbwench
11-07-2005, 04:21 PM
I was raised Methodist, went to church, got confirmed, and never felt it - never felt the faith, never felt the spirit, it just didn't click. My mom died when I was 15 (dad was out of the picture when I was 7) and I went to a lot of different churches, tried many different things, and nothing clicked - I felt the best at Southern Baptist, because they seemed to have the most fun at their services. Over the years, I talked with more people, did a lot of reading, have been told that much of what I believe and how I try to live my life is Buddhist, but feel most comfortable describing myself as Pagan. I have found that organized religion of any flavor doesn't work for me - I work best alone and have my own beliefs.

My mom (as usual,) was the person who got us to church, but where she came from and when she grew up (Kansas, born in 1925,) religion was part of your social life, She had a very deep spiritual base, but not much "religion" - she felt that hell was here on earth, and heaven was what we got after we died. Unfortunately, she died before we discussed it too much.

So, it's like the others have said - it's a path I still follow, it's not a black and white decision.

11-07-2005, 07:26 PM
Converting is a tricky issue.

Myself, I stopped attending the church I was raised in when I was 17. About 3 years ago I began attending another church.

I've never taken any conversion classes or anything.

I'm probally still on the books as a member of my old church as I've never officially renounced them. So I'm kind of on the line.

For my own personal reasons, I see no point in getting babtized a 2nd time to join my new church. Which has been accepted.

So on paper I may still be a member of one church. but I consiter another home.



Mistress Lisette
11-07-2005, 07:42 PM
Truly adopting a new faith, I would think, takes a whole lot of soul searching, even if you are not doing a huge switch. And some study too. And then the decision if your beliefs can jive with a certain religion, as well as the bigger decision about changing some ideas your held previously in light of your new faith.

I think if you can do that and then really believe what is taught and practice it as well, then you have converted.

I agree. I really started questioning my Catholic upbringing while in high school. I went to Catholic school pretty much all my life and the nuns used to shake their heads at the trouble I would cause. In retrospect, I believe I was "acting out" because of the rigidity and, yes, inherent sexism of Catholicism. At least this is my interpretation of Catholicism.

As an undergraduate, I began exploring philosophy but still called myself a Catholic only out of habit, ya know? As a graduate student, I considered myself a "recovering Catholic" but married in the Catholic church to please my mom. Now, many years later, I've fully realized that while Catholicism still holds major importance in my worldview, I am no longer a Catholic. Rather, my journey of 20 years has led me to paganism. Small steps, surely, but steadfast steps nonetheless.

People who "religion hop" are, imho, spiritually lost and desperately looking for something. I think meaningful conversion is a slow and painful process because it really forces you to focus intensely on your inner self. And a lot of people refuse to do that for whatever reason.


Lady Laurel
11-09-2005, 02:42 PM
I agree that religion is a deeply personal issue. I was raised in a Southern Baptist home went to Christian schools all my life. Did alot of studying in the Bible.
In high school I started to question the thing of everyone else is going to Hell but Baptist. When I brought up this issue no one really wanted to explore it with me. Why because it was rediculous. Since the Baptist religion has only truly been around for 2-3 hundred years ( it one one off the religions that developed in the US like the methodist religion spin off from Protestants. I believe around the time of the Great Awakening in the US) someone else might know the time period better.

The Catholic Religion has always been very interesting to me but I just cannot get over the way they treat women, going to confessionals etc... but I do like thier sense of history and ritual.

As a child I think I was somewhat programmed. ( In grammer school at school we did chapel everyday and they screamed hell and brimstone to us. I was terrified had horrible nightmares of hell. For years I tried to think good thoughts and be a good child so I would not go to hell. Needless to say I will never do this to my children) It took alot for me to try and understand other religions because I was scared that if I did what if God punished me. It took a long time for me to work through that.

Now I am non denominational. They seem to preach from the Bible. I am still in a way searching for where I am supposed to be. Maybe we all are in a way I don't know.
Anyway so sorry for the long winded post.

Eric McTavish
11-11-2005, 03:32 PM
well for me, I asked too many questions, when the church wouldn't/couldn't answer I studied the answers myself... that led me back further and further untill I found the origins of my beliefs...

11-15-2005, 05:40 PM
I was baptised/raised high church episcopal but had attended lutheran and methodist....I went with friends to their churches but it was like trying to put on a shoe that is 4 sizes too small....I did a lot of research and inner searching before I moved into paganism. It was like a switch went on....Eureka! so thats what I am...of course mom laughed and said she should have known as I had howled all during my baptism

11-16-2005, 09:31 AM
I don't think it's so much changing your belief system as it is finding the system that is what you really believe. Obviously, if you're looking for a different spiritual path than the one you're currently on, you've already got some problems in the way of belief in that first system. Faith is not something you can really choose to have, change or lose. Your experiences, thoughts and life events change it, but I don't think it can ever be a completely concious decision. I believe that most people who REALLY change religions (as opposed to playing along because it's cool, or to fit in) were already the religion they changed to, in their hearts.
I know a lot of people say this, but I really WAS pagan before I found paganism. I believed in many gods, I knew the trees, the wind, the rivers had spirits, I was sure magic was still a possibility in this world.
Can you imagine how relieved I was, at fourteen, to find out about pagan religions, and that I wasn't totally off my rocker! That there was a community I could belong to that when I talked about various spirits, gods, etc asif they actually existed, I wasn't given the wide eyed stare and back away.
So, short of it is, my beliefs never really changed. I just found 'home' so to speak.

Eric McTavish
11-16-2005, 10:34 AM
I believed in many gods, I knew the trees, the wind, the rivers had spirits, I was sure magic was still a possibility in this world.
Can you imagine how relieved I was, at fourteen, to find out about pagan religions, and that I wasn't totally off my rocker!

Funny... Thats how I fely after I started my reaserch... once I learned about the Pagan ways things seemed to just "click" into place like finding the one piece of the puzzle that starts all the other pieces falling into place...

Jessa, I wish you the best on your path... remember sometimes is not the destination, but the Journey that counts... enjoy the scenery. :wink:

Fion Faolan
12-01-2005, 02:57 AM
I was raised as a Christian. But I've been through Buddhism, Taoism, Celtic Creek and Cherokee lore. I don't think I'm a very religious person, but I am a spiritual one. Religious customs are things I have been raised with, and rituals and my own symbolisms. I tend to do things off the cuff, throwing prayer chits into a campfire, making the circle and clapping, or whatever seems to come to hand... But I've never said, "I'm this religion, or that religion."

I guess that makes me superstitious.

Or something. :roll: