Burge, Ryan P.
Burge, R.P. Is Becoming Born-Again a Transformative Experience? Results from Three Sets of Panel Data. Rev Relig Res (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13644-020-00428-9
Publication year: 2020

The process of becoming a born-again Christian is one that has intrigued social scientists for decades but has never been studied in a large-scale way, using panel data. While sociologists have tried to conceptualize and operationalize how one converts to a new religious experience, many political scientists have used “having a born-again experience” as a way to classify evangelical Protestants. While there is a great deal of scholarship devoted to understanding how born-again Christians navigate the social and political world, the direct impact of adopting a born-again status has eluded scholars. Using panel surveys from three different polling organizations, this work analyzes how those who convert and de-convert to born-again Christianity change their political and religious behaviors in after the switch. Analysis indicates that conversion and deconversion is not uncommon among the population, occurring in approximately 1 in 10 survey respondents. Results indicate that women, younger Americans, and those with less educations are more likely to change their conversion status. Of those who do make a switch, few significantly change their partisanship, while shifts in church attendance are more common and this is confirmed through statistical modeling. These findings fill a gap in scholars’ previous understanding of the changes in behavior and political orientation following a shift in born-again status—something that was only studied at the aggregate level in prior work. This research offers an additional angle for scholars who are seeking to understand the caused by religious switching in the United States.