Submission Date


Document Type

Paper- Restricted to Campus Access



Faculty Mentor

Abigail Kluchin


Presented during the 19th Annual Summer Fellows Symposium, July 21, 2017 at Ursinus College.

Project Description

The execution of religious conversion is a pivotal moment in time, because it highlights the exact action that an individual takes, aware that they stand to lose their community by leaving the fold. The individual acts on the conviction that the path they are undertaking is more ethically sound than the one they are leaving behind. This essay examines the moment of conviction enacted by an individual’s conversion out of the religious movement they were indoctrinated into, or conversion into a religious movement of their own autonomy. The rules of conviction that I offer, redefining the way this term is used in everyday life and conversations, emphasize the difference between a strongly held belief and conviction. The rules of conviction, I propose, are as follows: conviction (1) begins with a live hypothesis,[1] (2) can only be found in its true form in the individual, (3) must be tied to an action, (4) exhibits a kind of risk for the individual, and (5) implies that the action birthed of conviction comes about due to the individual’s internal set of ethics that deviate from that of the larger society’s ethics. Using Malcolm X, Children of the Westboro Baptist Church, Soren Kierkegaard, and Miguel de Unamuno’s novella Saint Manuel Bueno, Martyr as case studies, this essay explores the individual’s divorce from religious movements using the rules of conviction to emphasize the internal struggle of faith made external through conviction.

[1] The theory of the live hypothesis comes from William James’s work “The Will to Believe.”


Available to Ursinus community only.