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Working Paper 114

Working Paper 114

Searching for a Purpose of Life: conversion to Jehovah’s Witnesses in Eastern Germany

Małgorzata Rajtar

Abteilung ‚Resilienz und Transformation in Eurasien’

Jahr der Veröffentlichung


Working Paper 114

In most studies of conversion the term itself is used, first and foremost, to refer to changing from one 'religion' to another. This paper, however, presents accounts of conversion of former atheists and/or non-believers. In this paper I shall try to answer the question of why some people, often from an atheist background, decided and still decide to convert to Jehovah’s Witnesses in Eastern Germany. What makes conversion to this religious minority a worth-pursuing option in a social environment where non-belonging to and a lack of interest in any religion is a standard and not an exception? In answering this question I focus on Jehovah’s Witnesses – a millenarian movement founded in the 1870s in the United States that has been present in East Germany since the end of the 19th century. Despite the fact that established religious groups, i.e. Protestant and Catholic Churches and other religious minorities, have lost many members both during socialism and after 1989, Jehovah’s Witnesses managed to retain the number of their members and thus are considered an exception.

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