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Individual paper or full paper/panel session proposals (with a preference for the latter) are welcome on any topic related to religious conversion, including, but not limited to the following topics in which the Religious Conversions Unit is particularly interested in featuring at the 2021 annual meeting:

Deconversions in the context of / related to: the COVID-19 pandemic; professional dislocation due to changes in higher education and downsizing (e.g., department closures); the Spiritual But Not Religions (SBNRs); secularism; atheism; class, race, sexual orientation, gender identity; politics / the political climate (contacts: Linda Mercadante, lindamercadante@healthybeliefs.org and/or Edith Szanto, eszanto@ua.edu or edith.szanto@gmail.com)

Virtual Conversions with respect to: religion online in various media and platforms; conversion of worship experience in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic; changes in personal religious self-identity including multiple religious identity (even beyond multiple religious belonging) through online / virtual / electronic media (contact: Cody Musselman, cody.musselman@yale.edu)

Neuroscientific and Cognitive Scientific approaches to conversion: this panel/call invites papers grounded in cognitive and/or neuroscientific approaches to understanding religious conversion. Potential topics include brain-based technologies for spiritual enhancement (e.g., "Spirit Tech" by Wildman and Stockly); spiritual practices' effects on the brain (e.g., "When God Talks Back" by Tanya Luhrmann); the relationship between mindfulness, meditation and neuroplasticity; and similar topics. This is a potential co-sponsorship with the Cognitive Science of Religion Unit. (contact: Marc Pugliese, marc.pugliese@saintleo.edu).

Class Consciousness and Conversion: Comparing and/or connecting religious conversion and coming to class consciousness as two modes/forms of "conversion." This is a potential co-sponsorship with the Class, Religion, and Theology Unit: (contact: Edith Szanto, eszanto@ua.edu and/or edith.szanto@gmail.com).

Conversion and Proselytization by Means of Digital Media: We seek individual papers or complete panels that investigate conversion and proselytization by means of digital media, whether by examining change of religious self-identity primarily or exclusively due to online/electronic/virtual means (e.g., social media, religious institutions’ websites, gaming sites) or proselytization through on-line, electronic or virtual media (e.g., not “in-person” proselytization). This is a potential co-sponsorship with the Religion, Media, and Culture Unit: (contact: Eliza Kent, ekent@skidmore.edu).


Mission Statement:

This Unit studies the full spectrum of issues related to religious conversions, in any historical or geographic context, encompassing different forms of religious belief and practice. The scope of the issues we cover is broad and wide-ranging. We consider investigations into the reasons for various types of religious conversions including, but not limited to intellectual, theological, philosophical, historical, experiential, psychological, social, cultural, political, and economic causes. We also study the consequences of religious conversions, both individually and socially, and their implications. We encourage the methodologies of multiple disciplines, as well as interdisciplinary approaches. More narrowly focused areas of inquiry suggested by interested scholars include, but are not limited to the following:

• Multiple conversions
• Group and individual conversions
• Forced conversions
• The narrative and/or literary aspects of conversions
• Hybridity
• Ecclesiological consequences of conversion
• The place and role of conversion in a specific religious tradition
• Theories of conversions
• Formulas of religious conversion (as step-by-step processes)

Method of Submission:




Linda A. Mercadante, lindamercadante@healthybeliefs.org

Marc Pugliese, marcpug@gmail.com


Steering Committee:

Alexander Y. Hwang, alexander.y.hwang@gmail.com

Eliza Kent, ekent@skidmore.edu

Cody Musselman, cody.musselman@yale.edu

Edith Szanto, eszanto@ua.edu


Session Allotment: Tier 1 – Two 90-minute sessions

Next Review: 2024