Conspiracy theories always have been around. But they've proliferated, in the United States, at least, in recent years.
Donald Trump deserves much of the credit, better termed blame.
Trump never saw a fact that he didn't like to denigrate, calling every media story which irritated him "fake news."
Of course, almost always there wasn't anything fake about the news. However, Trump's devotees came to feel like they were in a special club of People in the Know.
Meaning, people who think they know what is really going on in the world. Which is much different from actually knowing.
At the moment, QAnon is the craziest conspiracy theory, though it has lots of competition.
What gives QAnon its special wacko flavor is that supposedly there's someone who goes by "Q" who's privy to deep dark astounding secrets, such as that Democratic politicians and other liberals are part of a pedophile ring.
More specifically, a ring "devoted to the abduction, trafficking, torture, sexual abuse and cannibalization of children, all with the purpose of fulfilling the rituals of their Satanic faith."
That's absurd. No one should believe it. But a great many people do.
Likewise, every world religion makes other sorts of absurd claims. And billions of people believe those claims -- such as that Jesus was born of a virgin birth and Muhammed had the Koran dictated to him by an angel.
Recently I came across two stories in The Atlantic about conspiracy theories that got me thinking about their relation to religious belief.
"What Conspiracy Theorists Don't Believe" starts out this way.
Some people believe the most extraordinary things. Earth is flat, and airplane GPS is rigged to fool pilots into thinking otherwise. COVID-19 vaccines are a pretext to inject thought-controlling microchips into us all. The true president of the United States is Donald Trump; his inauguration will happen on January 20, make that March 4, make that a date to be arranged very soon.
The question “How could anybody believe this stuff?” comes naturally enough. That may not be the most helpful question, however. Conspiracy theorists believe strange ideas, yes. But these outlandish beliefs rest on a solid foundation of disbelief.
To think that Trump is actually still the president, as some in the QAnon movement do, you first have to doubt.
You have to doubt the journalism practiced by any mainstream media outlet of any political persuasion; you have to doubt all the experts and the political elites; you have to doubt the judiciary, the military, and every other American institution. Once you have thoroughly disbelieved all of them, only then can you start to believe in Trump’s ascension being just around the corner—or in lizard overlords or alien prophets.
Religious fundamentalists also doubt. Notably, they doubt science and the scientists who produce scientific research.
Without doubting evolution, for example, it is much more difficult to embrace Godly creation stories. Yet it doesn't really work to make believers in something unbelievable accept evident facts. Typically that just makes them harden their stance in favor of what they already believe.
Instead, says the story:
When someone has dismissed the obvious facts, repeating them will not persuade him to see sense. But when people are given time and space to explain themselves, they may start to spot the gaps in their own knowledge or arguments. The psychologists Leonid Rozenblit and Frank Keil coined the phrase “the illusion of explanatory depth” to refer to the way our self-assurance crumples when we are invited to explain apparently simple ideas.
I like to do this when someone asserts that human consciousness isn't produced by the brain.
OK, then explain why anesthesia makes people lose consciousness? Or being hit in the head with a baseball bat? If consciousness isn't physical, why does Alzheimers change consciousness so much? Or a brain tumor?
The other story is "The Truth Seekers Are Coming." It talks about the people who claim to be devoted to truth, yet what they consider to be true is decidedly weird -- just like religious truth seekers.
Sometime in the middle of the pandemic year, and sometime in the middle of a prolonged and compulsive scroll through Instagram, the “truth seekers” came into my life. The term was showing up over and over in the bios and captions of the women I followed, so often that I was starting to feel as if I were seeing things.
The lockdowns seemed to have inspired a new kind of internet identity: There were truth-seeking fashion bloggers, truth-seeking travel influencers, and truth-seeking expectant moms who prayed that their daughters would be truth seekers too.
Some would even seek the truth across platforms, beckoning their followers to new podcasts about the truth, new Telegram group chats in which the truth was up for discussion, or new lines of truth-related merchandise.
“If Jesus were walking the Earth today, do you think you’d see him for his miracles?” a QAnon-obsessed fashion blogger and “relentless truth seeker” asked several weeks ago. “Or would you label him a conspiracy theorist?” I knew why she was asking, and it was not because she was leading Bible study.
It didn’t take me long to realize that the “truths” these women had in mind were highly suspect and disturbing ones.
They wanted all the facts about the Democrats’ scheme to harvest the blood of children, and all the evidence proving that the COVID-19 vaccines have microchips in them. The stress of that pursuit frequently culminated in angry speeches, delivered to a front-facing camera, about how Instagram was trying to silence their unpopular opinions and original perspectives.
Like-minded Instagrammers may refer to themselves as “critical thinkers” or “true journalists,” among other coded phrases, but the term I saw most often—the succinct and pretty hook that has pulled so many women down the rabbit hole—was truth seeker.
That parallel, absolutely, it's unmistakable.
I'd say that of the two, the religious are, in comparison, a lesser breed of crazy.
I mean, might there have been the two-in-one (god cum man) son, born millennia ago, of some weird three-in-one (trinity) god, who did these things with water like walking on it and turning it into wine -- a talent no doubt inherited from his weirdo father who in turn did charming things with water like playing around with it and killing people like ants not because of any fault of those people but because their leader happened to piss him off ... anyway, whatever.
Or for that matter the whole weird RSSB/GSD story.
I mean, it's all weird, it's all crazy, and there's zero evidence supporting any of this weirdness, but hey, if your thinking is not quite ...tight, then one can see how there might be some ...in, some space, for some such superstition to seep in, as a perhaps-maybe supposition if not certainty, as long as you don't examine it too closely.
But this QAnon madness? This whole Trump craziness? You've got to be plumb crazy to believe that crap. You've got to have the wiring in your head totally messed up to go in for that kind of bull.
If there's an Olympic Games of craziness, then the QAnon-Trump cultist-types win gold hands down, leaving Jesus cultists and GSD cultits way way way behind.
Posted by: Appreciative Reader | March 19, 2021 at 07:20 AM
In our family, from early age, we were taught in a very simple way, certain things that William James elaborated on in his essay "The will to believe".
IF you want apples
IF you are told that they are to be found in a basket behind a door
THAN, you can stand up, walk to that door, open it and see if the called apples are there and doing so, prove to yourself that it is correct what you earlier accepted in good faith.
A believe that cannot be proved to one selves and/or one for which one has no desire to prove it ... a believe just to be talked about, is empty and worthless.
And ... many people that go to see a psychologist, to get rid of something that causes them harm, of ten don't have that desire at all ... yes they want to get rid of the negative aspects of something .... but otherwise they would continue.
And ... in the same way many that say that they believe or did so in the past, never had on true introspection a real heartfelt desire for "apples" or the believe that they could be found behind "that door".
Honesty is a rare found virtue
Posted by: um | March 19, 2021 at 08:45 AM
RSSB, GSD are the only conspiracy path I know. GSD rather like David icke, claims hes the son of god when hes a fake and a fraud, and a total hypocrite to his own teachings. His mishmash rebranded teachings of sikhism, christianity, Hinduism etc is total baloney and in serious copyright infringement. GSD claim of being part of sant mat is like Hitler claiming that hes the second coming of christ. Beware this conspiracy, you may just start believing GSD is god and here to save you, 5million people already do !!!
Posted by: Dragon slayer | March 19, 2021 at 02:39 PM
We can point the finger of blame at others, but we must deal with the fact that a lot of people believe in these things that objectively are false. Even confronted with the facts, people cling to their beliefs. You can call that human nature. So many people, perhaps billions, select false disproven opinions over proven facts.
The only hope is in education, and efforts to enlighten, to sensitize each other, and raise the value of objectivity over one's own beliefs.
But this starts with an understanding that factual, objective truth is the reward for an honest, open mind willing to learn and to change as facts begin to emerge into our awareness. Facts others may not yet understand, or even oppose.
Surrounded by the descendents of slave owners, how will slavery end? It still exists right here in America. Today. Both physically and mentally.
Slavery is illegal. But it exists in America. When that is so, all information is slanted, all view points are set to an extreme imbalance on a fulcrum far from the center. And that is why so much weight of change and disruption may be needed to bring that balance back, and that fulcrum back to center.
"It is the hallmark of every adult to change their opinion and behavior when facts prove otherwise"
It starts with education and values.
Posted by: Spence Tepper | March 19, 2021 at 09:16 PM
@ Likewise, every world religion makes other sorts of absurd claims. And billions of people believe those
@ claims -- such as that Jesus was born of a virgin birth and Muhammed had the Koran dictated to him
@ by an angel.
Hm, aren't there cases of pregnancy with nary a sperm donor in sight though :) Not that
I'm inclined to believe in the angelic variety either. Just sayin'...
Now the Koran dictated by an angel might make sense. There may well be inner
"angels" buried in our subconscious. Who knows... after all, we attribute bad things
to our demons, usually, to that much maligned evil one that "made me do it". It seems
only fitting that the odd angel or two roams inside. If nothing else, they patrol the halls
to cuff the demons when they start to go too far.
So, a conspiracy theory may make a bit of sense even in the hallowed halls of science
and logic. To quote that masterful sleuth of yesteryear: "Only the Shadow (mystic)
Posted by: Dungeness | March 20, 2021 at 09:33 AM
I want to believe Joseph Smith was a real live prophet of God right in the USA, but there are a few things.
Posted by: Cousin Zigzag | March 22, 2021 at 07:57 AM