A key pillar of modern morality is the sanctity of romantic love. We reel in horror at the thought of “backward” societies, including our ancestors’, who arrange marriages without intense emotional romantic love. While they think it nice if arranged partners have such romantic feelings, if that does not happen such partners are not to look for love elsewhere. They think a life without romantic love can be a fine life.
An intense emotional religious conversion is not the same as an intense emotional romantic love, and one is not a substitute for the other. But the two have much in common. In fact, one could argue that someone who has lived a life without ever experiencing an intense religious conversion is nearly as emotionally impoverished as someone who had never experienced an intense romantic love.
Yet our modern sensibility does not reel in horror at the thought of a life lived without an intense religious conversion. In fact, among our cultural elites religious feelings are seen as embarrassing, and low status; they think lives are usually better without such conversions. Why?
Yes, religious conversion can lead to false and destructive beliefs. But then so can romantic love; it is not at all clear which one is worse by that measure. An obvious if shallow explanation: in our society religion is low status, while romantic love is high status. Perhaps either a life without romantic love isn’t nearly as bad as we think, or a life without religious conversion is much worse than we think.