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I'm wondering if there is a term for an experience or event that causes someone to develop new beliefs or change existing beliefs.

Some examples:

  • After a person has negative or positive experiences with a certain group, that person may develop negative or positive beliefs about that group.
  • A person may experience or witness certain injustices, which causes them to change their political beliefs.
  • A person may have a religious experience that causes them to believe in god, or a crisis of faith that causes them to change their beliefs and stop believing in god.
  • A person may have a psychedelic experience that changes their beliefs based on what they experienced while in a psychedelic state.

After researching online I found the above terms like religious experience, crisis of faith, psychedelic experience, etc. However they are too specific and tied to certain types of beliefs (religious) or certain types of experiences (being on drugs).

I'm wondering if there is a general, catch-all term or expression for an experience that causes a person to change their beliefs (without being specific about the type of belief or experience).

As a sample sentence:

Micheal had a [term I'm looking for] when his cousin was killed in a school shooting, causing him to believe that stronger gun-control laws were necessary.

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    'Watershed', 'epiphany', as well as 'Road to Damascus experience' all appear there. Apr 4 at 18:21

3 Answers 3

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Sounds like an epiphany, defined (M-W) as "an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure", along with the more usual religious meaning.

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Micheal had a Road to Damascus experience when his cousin was killed in a school shooting, causing him to believe that stronger gun-control laws were necessary.

From the Bible New Testament book Acts of the Apostles. Referring to the conversion of Saul of Tarsus, later known as the Apostle Paul, to Christianity while travelling to Damascus to persecute Christians.

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I can't think of a widely used and recognized single word for this.

You could say "a transformative experience" or "moment". That's fairly common.

You could say "a life-changing experience" or "moment". That's usually understood to mean it changed your opinions or beliefs, though it is also used for other types of changes, like changes to finances or health. "Winning the lottery was a life changing experience for Fred."

I upvoted Jim Mack's suggest of "epiphany".

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