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What Is a Damascus Road Conversion?

A Damascus Road Conversion is based on the story of the Apostle Paul. The term actually refers to a sudden change of beliefs on issues like religion, politics or philosophy. Usually a very important event happens that causes someone to suddenly fervently support a position he was against previously. A radical example would be a racist who, after listening to a spirited and insightful lecture against bigotry, becomes fervently opposed to racial discrimination.

The Damascus Road Conversion references the story in the Bible of a Roman citizen who opposes Christians but became one of its most important followers. Saul was a person who worked in Jerusalem and who made it his mission to make it hard for early Christians to practice their new religion. One day, as he was walking on the road to Damascus, intent on persecuting more Christians, he saw a great flash of light and he heard God’s voice. He was brought to task for his persecution and became blinded by the light. He continued to walk towards Damascus and when he regained his sight he underwent a conversion and became a fervent supporter of the Christians. He changed his name to Paul to signify his transformation.

The story has been used to illustrate the possibility that a man can change his outlook on life because of a single significant event. Most changes are seen as happening gradually as a person becomes more immersed in knowledge and realizes the significance of certain facts on his own. But a person who is actively opposed to something but just as suddenly becomes in favor of it is considered as a person who has been converted.

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