Recovering from Religion - Phoenix Message Board › Psychosocial perspective on being "born-again"
Valerie Tarico, PhD, provides an interesting analysis of the "born-again" experience from a psychosocial perspective in her article entitled "Christian Belief through the Lens of Cognitive Science," which appears in John W. Loftus's book The Christian Delusion. Here are some quotations concerning the conversion experience, which she also refers to as "snapping," and which she believes is characterized by an altered state of consciousness.
"In an evangelical conversion context like a revival meeting or missionary work, religious interpretations of the snapping experience are provided both before and after it occurs. These explanations become the foundation stones on which whole castles of beliefs later will be constructed. The authorities who triggered the otherworldly experience are trusted implicitly, which gives them the power to now transform the convert's worldview in accordance with their own theology." pg. 61
"With few exceptions the evangelists, from megachurch ministers to 'friendship missionaries," are largely unaware of the powerful psychological tools they wield. They are persuasive in part because they genuinely believe they are doing good. After all, they have their own born-again experiences to convince them that they are promoting the Real Thing." pg. 62
"What decent person wouldn't want to share the secret to healing and happiness? The challenge is trying to figure out exactly what that secret is." pg. 62
Dr. Tarico hypothesizes that the conversion experience begins with social influence, is cultivated in revival meetings or retreats through semi-hypnotic processes which draw a potential convert closer to the "toggle point," and culminates in a peak experience in which the new convert experiences a flood of relief and bonds with other individuals who are present and who have also undergone a conversion experience. She speculates that the conversion experience is often accompanied by what she terms a "transcendence hallucination," which she defines as "...an acute sense of connection with a reality that lies beyond and behind this natural plane." Interestingly, she points out that a "transcendence hallucination" may also be triggered by neurological events (a seizure, stroke, or migraine aura), drugs, or any over- or understimulation of the brain.