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Religious Conversions Happen for Social Reasons June 24, 2012

Posted by wfenza in Culture and Society, Religion, religion, atheism, polyamory, culture, Skepticism and atheism.
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Some of you may have heard of Lea Libresco’s recent conversion to Catholicism. A lot of people have been posting about it, but Chris Hallquist has the best take I’ve seen on the topic:

I was briefly puzzled when I heard about atheist blogger Leah Libresco’s conversion to Catholicism. But I was immediately un-puzzled when I read Dan Fincke’s post on it, which reminded me that “the very premise of Libresco’s blog was that she was romantically involved with a Catholic.” Oh yeah. Duh.

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1. Alex - June 24, 2012

That seems to be cherry-picking Fincke’s quite thorough analysis. Fincke actually mentioned the idea that Libresco’s conversion was motivated by a personal relationship as one of a number of ad hominem attacks against her. While we should be open to the idea that her romantic/personal relationship may have played some role in her conversion, it seems like an awfully big logical leap of faith to assume that it was/is the primary motivating factor.

Nonetheless, I did like the rest of Hallquist’s piece, particularly the part about Mormons using personal relationship building as a recruitment technique. I experienced this from a Jehovah’s Witness one time. He was a nice guy, but I neither wanted to be his friend nor his convert.

2. wfenza - June 24, 2012

Well, I think the cherry-picking of Fincke’s post was intentional. Fincke offered a number of explanations, none of which I found nearly as plausible as the fact that her conversion was largely due to social reasons. As Hallquist pointed out, her explanation of her conversion offers no actual reasons for choosing Catholicism over any number of other religions. The simplest explanation (and the one that squares easiest with my understanding of human behavior) is that she has relationships with Catholics, and so chose that religion for social factors.

3. Respectful Atheist - June 24, 2012

Agreed. I don’t know much about Lea specifically but, in my observation, most Christian conversions happen for emotional (or family) reasons…whereas most de-conversions are driven (primarily) by intellectual doubts. I wrote more about it at http://respectfulatheist.blogspot.ca/2011/12/roots-of-faith.html.

4. wfenza - June 24, 2012

Hmm… I’m not reflexively distrustful of the proposition that more deconversions than conversions occur based on intellectual doubts, because atheism is a much more intellectually compelling position that theism. However, I’m doubtful that most deconversions happen for that reason. I’d need to seem some hard data before having any confidence in such a proposition.

5. Respectful Atheist - June 24, 2012

True. It’s never been properly studied, to my knowledge; just something I’ve noticed in comparing the two personally. More hard data would be needed for it to be anything more than a personal observation.


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