The psychology of religion: examining religious conversion among Iranian migrants in Glasgow

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (not awarded by UHI)


Background The thesis centres upon understanding the psychological motivations for religious conversion among Iranian migrants. In the backdrop of growing media attention covering mass conversion from Islam to Christianity among Iranian Migrants in the UK, the current thesis undertook to determine the spiritual, socio-cultural and psychological motivations for conversion. Method The thesis involved a deep immersive qualitative study using participant observation in a congregation of Iranian Christians in Glasgow, over a period of 9 months. It also involved 21 semi-structured interviews with members of the congregation and the pastors. Following a thematic analysis of data, six major themes were identified which revealed the motivations for the deconversion and conversion motifs. Conclusion Using Meaning System’s Theory (Park, 2005) the analysis revealed that due to doubt and extreme cognitive dissonance, the Islamic meaning system broke down. The subsequent Terror Management Theory (Solomon, Greenberg & Pyszczynski, 1991) analysis revealed how the religion also failed to provide adequate psychological protection for mortality-salience. Conversely, Christianity was able to provide both symbolic and literal immortality. In addition, the cognitive and cultural congruence of the religion determined its suitability as a viable alternative meaning system. Therefore, driving conversion. The research fits within the new paradigm of conversion studies and illustrates the multi-dimensional process of spiritual transformation.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Glasgow
  • McKinney, Prof. Stephen, Supervisor
  • Glasgow, University, Supervisor
Award date15 Jan 2020
Publication statusPublished - 5 Oct 2022


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