Religious conversion is the adoption of a new religion that differs from the convert's previous religion. Changing from one denomination to another within the same religion (e.g., Christian Baptist to Methodist, Muslim Shiite to Sunni, etc) is usually described as reaffiliation rather than conversion.
People convert to a different religion for various reasons, including: active conversion by free choice due to a change in beliefs, secondary conversion, deathbed conversion, conversion for convenience and marital conversion, and forced conversion.
Christians consider that conversion requires internalization of the new belief system. It implies a new reference point for the convert's self-identity, and is a matter of belief and social structure—of both faith and affiliation. This typically entails the sincere avowal of a new belief system, but may also present itself in other ways, such as adoption into an identity group or spiritual lineage.
Conversion or reaffiliation for convenience is an insincere act, sometimes for relatively trivial reasons such as a parent converting to enable a child to be admitted to a good school associated with a religion, or a person adopting a religion more in keeping with the social class he or she aspires to. When people marry one spouse may convert to the religion of the other.
Forced conversion is adoption under duress of a different religion. The convert may secretly retain the previous beliefs and continue, covertly, with the practices of the original religion, while outwardly maintaining the forms of the new religion. Over generations a family forced against their will to convert may wholeheartedly adopt the new religion.
Proselytism is the act of attempting to convert by persuasion another individual from a different religion or belief system. (See proselyte).
Apostate is a pejorative term used by members of a religion or branch to refer to someone who has left that religion or branch.
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