Four characteristics of a “religious” philosophical conversion

Not all philosophical shifts have the character of a religious conversion. However, I do think religious conversions are essentially philosophical shifts with several distinctive features:

  1. The new philosophy replaces one’s most fundamental unifying concepts and consequently effects a near-total transfiguration of experience.
  2. The shift creates a life experience that is not only useful (that is, helps people function more effectively) and usable (that is, helps people think and communicate more clearly and coherently), but intensely desirable. A feeling of value floods into the world.
  3. The new philosophy is oriented toward a mind-transcendent reality. In other words it points beyond what is experienced and known to what can potentially be experienced and known.

A fourth characteristic is highly desirable, but not necessary: Ideally, it fosters solidarity with other people and supports a community of faith.

And yes: I am arguing all the other features commonly associated with religion are nonessential — just accidents of the history of concepts.


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