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Conversion to ChristianityHistorical and Anthropological Perspectives on a Great Transformation$
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Robert Hefner

Print publication date: 1993

Print ISBN-13: 9780520078352

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520078352.001.0001

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Introduction: World Building and the Rationality of Conversion

Introduction: World Building and the Rationality of Conversion

(p.3) Chapter One Introduction: World Building and the Rationality of Conversion
Conversion to Christianity

Robert W. Hefner

University of California Press

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

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