Conversion stories and their popularization in Japan's new religions
Japanese Journal of Religious Studies
The study of conversion is one of the central tasks of religious studies. It has been taken up in all branches of religious studies, in psychology of religion, sociology of religion, and religious thought. However, surprisingly few efforts have been made to approach this question in terms of conversion stories, i.e., from the perspective of religious language. Modern Japanese conversion stories, with their appeal to the general public, are an everyday occurrence. They frequently take the form
... tly take the form of testimonies about personal experience in the "new" religious movements. The topic of this present essay is the characteristics and functions of religious language as manifested in conversion stories, especially testimonies.' The Scope of Conversion Stories Conversion stories are stories told by persons about their subjective experience of acquiring and deepening religious faith, or stories based on such narrations but related by another party. Needless to say, conversion is a phenomenon that occurs within the hearts of individuals. Unless it is reported by those who have experienced it, there is no way we might know what it means. There are, of course, some indirect indications that aid our understanding, such as the observable changes in the behavior of the converted, witness by others, or utterances by the converted about matters not immediately related to their conversion. The content of a study of conversion depends greatly on whether or not such "reference data" can be obtained. One cannot deny, however, that the "primary data" are the statements and descriptions of the converts themselves, i.e., their conversion stories.