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Anatomy of a 'deconversion'

  • 11 June 2014

A major challenge facing contemporary Christian institutions, at least in Western countries, is dwindling membership. It's not so much that people no longer have spiritual or religious beliefs, but increasingly these are pursued and expressed outside the confines of traditional religion.

A leading expert in researching and analyzing this phenomenon is American academic Thomas Beaudoin who is featured in this interview on Eureka Street TV.

Beaudoin was born into a committed Catholic household. As a child he was an altar boy in his local parish where his father, a former Jesuit priest, worked as an ordained deacon. He also assisted his father in prison ministry, and as an activist for a range of social justice issues.

After school and university he worked as a high school history teacher, then began post-graduate study of theology. He gained a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School, and his PhD in Religion and Education at Boston College.

His first academic appointment was as Assistant Professor of Theology at the Jesuits' Santa Clara University in California. He is now Associate Professor of Theology, lecturing at the Graduate School of Religion at Fordham University, also run by the Jesuits, in New York City.

He is in demand as a speaker internationally and around the USA, and has contributed scores of articles and chapters to a range of publications. He is also an accomplished rock musician, playing electric bass in bands wherever he has lived. Currently he is in two bands, The Raina and The Particulars.

His books include Virtual Faith: The Irreverent Spiritual Quest of Generation X, Consuming Faith: Integrating Who We Are With What We Buy, Witness to Dispossession: The Vocation of a Postmodern Theologian, and most recently in 2013 Secular Music and Sacred Theology.

In the interview Beaudoin talks about contemporary ways of being religious, what he calls 'deconversion' (how and why people move away from conventional religion), the sexual abuse crisis in Christian churches, and whether Pope Francis might revitalise Catholicism and draw people back to the Church.


Peter Kirkwood is a freelance writer and video consultant with a master's degree from the Sydney College of Divinity, and the producer of Eureka Street TV.