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“”Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
|—Jesus on being born again (John 3:3)|
Born again is primarily an evangelical Christian term. Generally, it is synonymous with a conversion to Christianity, a salvation experience, or accepting Jesus as one's personal savior. However, if it is used by a televangelist or similar figure, it is typically a code word or synonym for "sucker."
Not born right
Most of us were born right the first time. The concept of being "born again" implies that we were not born right the first time because of original sin, so we need a second "birth" to wash away our sins. It implies we have to, in some way or another, become infants again, which would certainly explain the level to which the intellectual discourse of the born-again will often regress.
It also carries an implication of starting over with a clean slate, so for example if somebody is a Really Bad Person, they can become a "born again" Christian and start anew. This further implies that before conversion to Christianity, that person was living according to their own inherently sinful ways, but after conversion, they have become a new person guided by the Holy Spirit, livin' for the LORD hating sin and earnestly obedient
to Jesus to what the Religious Right say Jesus wants. Sometimes there is a feeling that past crimes should be forgiven on this account, or that a given sentence should be lighter or a prisoner be granted parole on that basis.
Funny thing is, a lot of these people wind up in all sorts of scandals and such after their conversion. How else to account for all the televangelist scandals? Or they find they have all the same issues and personality quirks to deal with after their conversion as they did before. Some, when they find they still sin, get scared and wonder if they are truly saved. Others have a religious crutch to fall back on so they can still sin and in spite of that be born again: "Christians aren't perfect, just forgiven."
In popular usage, the term is often used to refer to people who were better known for something else before their conversion. The media made "born again Christian" a religious buzzword especially during the 1970s, to refer to such people as Bob Dylan, Larry Flynt, Jimmy Carter, and Chuck Colson, and in recent years with Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao whose conversion drew both praise and scrutiny.