Here Is A Method Making Religious Conversion Easier On Everyone

October 26, 2010 § 2 Comments

Lauren Booth (Sister In-Law to Tony Blair)

There has been a media-fire on the interwebs concerning a recent religious conversion. Ordinarily, converting to a different religion is pretty normal stuff that we’ll find from time-to-time between our long-term relationships. It’s the kind of thing we see over the years with a few good friends and scattered family members. It’s normal.

However, when that religious conversion is by a public personality, now it becomes something perhaps a little more meaningful. Well no, now that isn’t right at all. That being said, a someone’s belief this way or that way identifies a number of key elements about a person. Such as a their core values.

Andrew Brown, staff writer for the Guardian has some ideas about religious conversion and its implications saying,

“We tend to think of conversion as an essentially solitary or individual choice: the classic picture is the kind of “conversion experience”described in William James, and central both to evangelical Christianity and Alcoholics Anonymous. But it is also always a political and social act, a statement about where you fit into the world. To convert is to announce your allegiance to a new tribe, or a new idea of humanity.”

I mostly agree here, but thereafter we part ways when Brown adds,

“It is also, by implication at least, a rejection of your old self, and of the people who thought they recognised you in it. In this it is more like a divorce or a remarriage than any kind of intellectual experience. This is why it is a little silly to mock Lauren Booth for saying she has got up to page 60 of the Qur’an, after reading it every day. The conviction precedes the reading, and drives it along. Besides, how fast are you supposed to read a holy book? It’s not as if you’re trying to discover who dun it, only how He did it, and that is a study which can take a very long time. I might think her more sincere if she announced she was still on page one after three months.” (A. Brown, the Guardian)

As a convert I’ve experienced the highs and lows of the religious conversion process. And I disagree with Brown that religious conversion implies, “a rejection of your old self, and of the people who thought they recognised you in it.”

Let me digress, actually rejecting my “old self” and the old people is exactly what I did initially. I worked very hard to rebuild a new life for myself. One that was free from everything, this usually meant mundane failings, that were a “burden to my soul”. Slowly family members were cut-off, friends were forgotten, life-long interests and endeavors were tossed aside.

Consequently, Brown’s description is accurate when compared with my initial reaction to my new faith. On the other-hand this kind of behavior is not the way a new Muslim, for example, should behave. Brown used Lauren Booth’s conversion – the most recent star convert to Islam – to suggest that though in theory a person’s religious conversion should express a desire to move closer to God, the actual practice boils down to person’s beliefs being merely a way of expressing their relationship with society. It’s a strong argument but a half-truth none-the-less.

On the contrary, I have experienced something very different with Shaykh Abdul Kerim. It stands worlds apart from Brown’s description. In fact, as I’ve suggested the position Brown discusses here is more closely related to my initial feelings and ideas which were my own, not what I was taught later by my spiritual guide.

When I finally consulted someone I was accepting to give me proper guidance and instruction on religion and spiritual life, I had to shift gears. Instead of isolating myself, cutting-ties and breaking bonds, as I had done on my own, I was encouraged to keep my family relationships and treat them with importance.

What I’ve learned from all of this is that there is a difference from a person following their own ideas in the name of religion and a person living with faith.

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