Becoming a Virtual Pagan: “Conversion” or Identity Construction?


  • James R. Lewis University of Tromsø



Paganism, Solitary, Internet, Conversion, Social Networks, Identity Construction,


Well before the advent of the Internet, Paganism had been experiencing increasing fragmentation due to the growing numbers of solitaries. The Internet did more than simply bring new people into the movement; it also dramatically altered the overall social organization of Paganism. The present article brings together questionnaire data that paint a quantitative picture of these changes. Through the use of a quasi-longitudinal technique, data collected in 2009/2010 is projected backwards in time to show how points of entry for new participants gradually changed across the course of five decades. Information from other questionnaire items is then used to measure how Paganism changed from a movement based on face-to-face interactions to a community of physically-separated individuals interacting within a virtual world. Finally, we consider whether this kind of involvement should be understood as comparable to ‘conversion’ in the traditional sense, or whether this sort of mediated and mediatized interaction is better described as a form of identity construction.

Author Biography

James R. Lewis, University of Tromsø

James R. Lewis is a professor of religion within the Department of History and Religious Studies, University of Tromsø, Norway. Elements of the current article have appeared in other publications. Specifically, Tables 1 and 2 were drawn from James R. Lewis, “Cracks in the Conversion Network Paradigm,” International Journal for the Study of New Religions 3, no. 2 (2012): 143–62. Prototypes of Tables 3 and 4 were drawn from James R. Lewis, “Fit for the Devil: Toward an Understanding of ‘Conversion’ to Satanism,” International Journal for the Study of New Religions 1, no. 1 (2010): 117–38.


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How to Cite

Lewis, J. R. (2015). Becoming a Virtual Pagan: “Conversion” or Identity Construction?. Pomegranate, 16(1), 24–34.