The Bielefeld-Based Cross-Cultural Study on Deconversion
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Bielefeld-based Cross-cultural Deconversion Project

Qualitative Results

From qualitative analysis of the narrative interviews, four types of biographical trajectories have emerged. Even though the psychodynamics and biographical dynamics of deconversion can be seen only in the cases studies, we mention the labels that we have assigned to the four types: a. Pursuit of Autonomy; b. Barred from Paradise; c. A Finding a New Frame of Reference; d. Life-Long Quests – Late Revisions.

In type A., Pursuit of Autonomy, we typically find adolescents of young adults who have been raised in a religious tradition which however was perceived as constriction and ballast and which has to be left behind for the sake of religious self-determination or secular autonomy.

In type B., Barred from Paradise, we associate deconverts, typically adults, who previously hove converted in adolescence or early adulthood into a high-tension religious group – which they later, sometimes after decades of membership, leave with feelings of disappointment, deception or even hate (survivors) or feelings of delusion and disrespect (heroes).

Type C., Finding a New Frame of Reference, assembles deconverts, typically from mainline religions which were not able to provide a narrative, moral and ritual structure coherent, plausible and strong enough to meet the deconvert’s needs and expectations; thus, these deconverts typically affiliate with higher-tension or fundamentalist groups.

Type D., Life-Long Quests – Late Revisions, deconverts are typically persons in middle or late adulthood who, in their search for religious truth, for living ritual or for spiritual depth have tried out one – or more than one – religious traditions – and have decided to look further for a new religious environment which typically has lower tension and a more liberal atmosphere.

More detailled case studies are presented in our book (Streib, H., Hood, R. W., Keller, B., Csöff, R.-M., & Silver, C. (forthcoming). Deconversion. Qualitative and Quantitative Results from Cross-Cultural Research in Germany and the United States of America. Research in Contemporary Religion, Vol 5, Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Rupprecht [more]). The interviews of these deconverts are in full lenghth availabe here and on our website in the open access area.


For the readers of our new book on deconversion who are interested in reading more about the 21 cases, we present the faith development and narrative interviews in full length in an open access publication: Streib, H. (2008). 21 Narrative and Faith Development Interviews with Deconverts in the United States and Germany, CIRRuS Research Documents, No. 3, Bielefeld: Universität Bielefeld. Download PDF



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