The standard reading of the apostle Paul's life is the story of conversion, and at work in that story is religion and hence of Paul "finding religion" or "leaving religion for faith." In the altogether exciting 15th chp of NT Wright's Paul and the Faithfulness of God, Wright pitches his tent in a way that he gets a good angle on this very topic (though I shall suggest another angle might provoke a more refined perspective on the question if Paul was a convert).
He sees three definitions often at work: (1) those who see Paul abandoning one religion (Judaism) for another (Christianity)-- which is not how Paul saw it; (2) an inner renewal on the part of those who had no faith-- again not the best way to see Paul; and (3) the move from "religion" (externality kind of thing) to "faith" (inner reality). Again, NT Wright says this too is not how Paul saw things. He says more about this third view, because he's right in saying this is the core orientation in the "old" perspective on Paul:
What does Paul say? That's the question NTW asks, and it's the right question. In his view, the only passage from Paul on this event is Galatians 1:15-17,... The term he uses is "called"-- so to Wright we go: "There is nothing here about repentance and faith; nothing about finding his heart strangely warmed; nothing about replacing 'works' with 'faith'. There is a 'call,' that of the ancient prophets…" (1421).
To be sure, there is here a "fresh and transformative divine work… revolutionized" (1423). So if the primary theme is call there is also a sense of conversion (as in Alan Segal's works). But Paul did not think others needed his experience (which in my view is the precise problem at work in so much rigorous thinking about the old perspective, whether it is the Puritan kind of experience or the Wesleyan one or the modern evangelical revivalist sort). He wanted them to enter into the new age inaugurated in Jesus' death and resurrection and exaltation.
The issue here for me is completely tied into how one defines "conversion." In this case I appeal to my own work, both in Turning to Jesus and in Finding Faith, Losing Faith, where conversion is defined the rewriting of one's own autobiography. If a person tells their own story in a new way then a conversion has occurred. Conversion then is determined by whether or not a person rewrites their own story: if they don't, no conversion; if they do, conversion. (I don't equate conversion with being saved, by the way, though they are often connected. Some people ease into the faith like evening shadows moving instead of through an event or series of events that rewrites their story.) For this I would appeal to Philippians 3; a text in which we see Paul reflecting on the rewriting of his own autobiography (past story, formerly, but now, that kind of thing)....
The entire post, including quotes from Wright can be read here.
A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)