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TITLEThis Is a Progression, Not Conversion': Narratives of First-Generation Bahá'ís
AUTHOR 1Tova Makhani-Belkin
ABSTRACTUnlike personal transformation experiences in Christianity, religious conversion to the Bahá'í Faith is more often described as a gradual personal and spiritual growth analogous to progressive revelation. Link to article (offsite).
NOTES Published in the Religions special issue "The Bahá'í Faith: Doctrinal and Historical Explorations," online at, where it is also available in HTML, XML, and epub formats.
TAGS- Interfaith dialogue; Conversion; Progressive revelation
Abstract: This paper discusses the concept of religious conversion in the Bahá’í Faith through conversion narratives of first-generation Bahá’ís. Through life story interviews, the converts narrate their process of becoming Bahá’í as “not converting”, which aligns with a principle of the Bahá’í Faith called “progressive revelation”. Religious conversion has frequently been described in the literature as a radical, sudden, dramatic transformation–often following a personal crisis and seemingly entails a definite break with one’s former identity. Consequently, religious conversion studies have focused on the subjective experiences of the rapid changes in the lives and identities of individuals. However, such perspectives have, until now, focused mainly on Christianity and Christian models and have not adequately addressed religious conversion models in other Abrahamic religions, such as the Bahá’í Faith. The paradigm of conversion focuses our attention on the ways particular theologies shape life stories of conversion and what kind of narratives social scientists will include in the corpus of conversion. Therefore, this research asks to broaden the social scientific paradigms of religious conversion through the case study of the Bahá’í Faith.
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