Why Your Christian Friends and Family Members Are So Easily Fooled by Conspiracy Theories

In sixth grade, I participated in a debate in which I attempted to convince my fellow classmates that we never landed on the moon.

It was the first time I used the Internet to research, and my partner and I found a treasure trove of information. We couldn’t believe it. It was so obvious. The U.S. clearly faked the moon landing in 1969 to trick the Soviet Union that we had superior rocket technology.

On the day of the debate, we exceeded our allotted 30-minute timeslot by more than an hour. After the debate, we held a poll. My partner and I convinced 75% of our classmates that the 1969 moon landing was faked by the government.

I’m sure we made our science teacher proud.


In the words of the Apostle Paul, as I grew older I “did away with childish things.” And that includes my childhood belief that we didn’t land on the moon.

I learned a lot from my sixth-grade debate experience. But I didn’t expect to find the experience of convincing a bunch of sixth graders of a crazy theory so relevant to what we’re experiencing today with full-grown adults.

Especially adults who claim to be followers of Jesus and people of “The Truth.”

During Barack Obama’s presidency, it was fellow Christians claiming online (and sometimes from the pulpit) that Obama was a secret Muslim and the country was headed for mandatory Sharia Law (despite the fact that less than 1% of the U.S. population identifies as Muslim).

After the Sandy Hook school shooting that killed 26 people (most of them children), I was shocked at the number of Christian friends who posted videos claiming the attack was a staged “false flag” operation led by the liberal government.

During the 2016 Presidential Election, my blog’s inbox was flooded with emails from concerned Christians asking me to look into Hillary Clinton’s supposed ties to a pedophile sex ring run out of a Washington D.C. pizzeria. And after DNC staffer Seth Rich was murdered, it was my Christian followers sharing links to conspiracy theories – even after Fox News retracted their original story.

And, with COVID-19 pandemic and the 2020 Presidential campaign in full swing, the amount of Christians posting and sharing conspiracy theory videos has attained critical mass.

For many of us, it can be demoralizing to watch beloved friends, family members, and mentors fall deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole of convoluted government plots and paranoid speculation.

However, rather than attempt to debunk the plethora of conspiracy theories at play (a nigh-impossible task), it’d probably be more helpful to understand why we’re so enamored with them in the first place.


Why We All Love a Good Conspiracy Theory

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Okay, so let’s get this out of the way:

Our government sometimes does shady things and gets caught (like bringing Nazi scientists into the U.S. after World War II and lying about the presence of WMDs in Iraq). Pharmaceutical companies price gouge medications. Powerful people silence victims of sexual assault and abuse. Sex trafficking and the sexual exploitation of minors really happens. Foreign governments are attempting to sow discord in the U.S. through social media. Systemic injustices and cultural prejudices hamper some people’s ability to succeed in our society.

These are not the “conspiracy theories” I’m talking about.

I’m also not talking about partisan differences of opinion. Left-leaning people will always watch and read left-leaning news, and right-leaning people will always watch and read right-leaning news. And that’s okay. Our republic is built upon the salient fact that people will (and should) disagree.

And, while most conspiracy theories are driven by partisan agendas, they’re not one and the same. You can have a right- or left-leaning perspective on current events and not be guilty of spreading unfounded conspiracy theories – this is an important distinction to make. (And, it should be noted, while my exposure to conspiracy theories is conditional upon my social environment – conservative and evangelical – liberal democrats have their own pet conspiracy theories).

Plots, scandals, collusions, and cover-ups do occur in business and politics – just rarely on the scale as imagined by conspiracy theorists. For the sake of my argument, by conspiracy theory I mean, the assumption that “a well-organized effort initiated by an elite group of powerful men and women secretly working toward a singular goal or vision that often involves collaboration between government agencies and the media.

I’m talking about conspiracy theories related to false flag attacks, Deep State, Illuminati, Freemasons, QAnon, Flat Earth, shadow government, or any other belief system that hinges on the assumption that much of our lives are controlled by plots hatched in secret places by a select few individuals.

Based on my research, there are three primary reasons all people are attracted to these types of conspiracy theories. (I’ll address my fellow Christian brothers and sisters in the final section).


#1: Conspiracy Theories Make Us Feel Special.

In a sense, most conspiracy theories aren’t much different than the “mystery cults” the apostle Paul had to contend with at the city of Ephesus. Mystery cults were very common in Ancient Rome, and they attracted followers by promising to reveal the “mysteries of the universe” to those who joined.

This was a very seductive hook. And it’s one of the reasons conspiracy theories are more likely to spread among people with lower levels of education. But that doesn’t mean people who are higher educated are immune to their allure. Conspiracy theories are just as likely to spread among people with radical political ideologies.

In The Death of Expertise, Tom Nichols writes,

“[Conspiracy] theories also appeal to a strong streak of narcissism: there are people who would choose to believe in complicated nonsense rather than accept that their own circumstances are incomprehensible, the result of issues beyond their intellectual capacity to understand, or even their own fault.”

In other words: “The masses have been fooled by the media and/or government, but I’m special and different, and I know the truth!

While narcissism isn’t a motivator for all conspiracy theorists, it does explain why some people have such a hard time letting go of a conspiracy theory – even when confronted with incontrovertible proof their beliefs are wrong.

And, this is also why challenging someone’s belief in a conspiracy theory is often interpreted by that person as a personal attack. No one wants to admit they’ve been fooled. And once you sacrificed your reputation and social capital for the sake of a conspiracy (like posting something on Facebook), it becomes harder for your ego to disengage from the illusion.

And, perhaps more damaging, conspiracy theories gradually become self-isolating echo chambers. If you ever argued with someone peddling a conspiracy theory, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

(As The Wall Street Journal‘s Blue Feed, Red Feed visual experiment brilliantly illustrates, many of us already inhabit ideological echo chambers on social media. And when the people we follow on Twitter and Facebook all begin peddling the same conspiracy theory, we’ll often adopt the belief to not feel out of the loop – thus contributing to a feedback loop of misinformation and deception).

When people attach their belief in a conspiracy theory to their ego, it can be nearly impossible to convince them that they’re wrong. Every piece of contrarian evidence you present to a friend or family member simply becomes part of the conspiracy and expands the scope of the deception. 

That’s what “They” want you to believe. If you just did some research, you’d find The Truth. All your sources are just part of the Cover-Up. You actually believe those “fact-checking” websites? I wish you’d open your eyes and not be such a sheep.

It’s an insidious bit of circular logic that not only creates a criticism-proof belief system, but it also makes a twisted sort of sense.

Conspiracy theories are self-perpetuating rationalization machines. They eat facts, distort reality, and destroy relationships. And, by the time someone realizes they’re in too deep, it’s often too late to salvage a reality-based worldview (or the relationships of the people they isolated in the process).


#2: Conspiracy Theories Help Us Make Sense of a Chaotic and Complicated World.

The term “Black Swan” was popularized by statistician Nassim Taleb and refers to “high-profile, hard-to-predict, and rare events that are beyond the realm of normal expectations in history, science, finance, and technology.

Historical examples of Black Swan events include the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the 1918 Influenza pandemic, the collapse of the Soviet Union, the September 11 terrorist attacks, the Fukushima nuclear accident, and the fall of the Lehman Brothers in 2008.

Black Swan events are incredibly fertile ground for conspiracy theorists. When the unexpected occurs, there’s always an initial vacuum of precedent and context as we try to make sense of how and why something happened. Black Swans are equalizers; they dumbfound experts and laypersons alike.

And catastrophic events are inherently traumatizing. They interrupt our routine and force us to change the way we view the world.

In an interview with NPR on conspiracy theories, Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said,

“We as human beings do not like unanswered moral questions. We want to know who did it. We want to know how it was done. We’re looking for a pattern. Our intelligence, given to us by God, is a pattern-seeking intelligence.”

Our ability to discern patterns helps us construct internal narratives that give our lives meaning and make sense of the world around us. Conspiracy theories hijack that ability by linking loosely-connected events into a semi-coherent narrative (usually through the assistance of a well-edited YouTube video).

Of course, Black Swan events aren’t really random. Everything that happens in the universe is a result of a cause-and-effect relationship. Nothing really occurs spontaneously. It’s just that sometimes, the real-world explanation of a catastrophic event isn’t very emotionally satisfying. A big effect needs a big cause, right? Shouldn’t dramatic events require dramatic explanations?

No.

Sometimes all it takes to change the world is a single deranged individual with access to a rifle and a decent perch. Or a religious extremist who exploits an overlooked security flaw in airport security. Or a bat that urinates on the wrong animal in an open-air market in China.

In The Death of Expertise, Tom Nichols writes,

“Conspiracy theories are also a way for people to give context and meaning to events that frighten them. Without a coherent explanation for why terrible things happen to innocent people, they would have to accept such occurrences as nothing more than the random cruelty either of an uncaring universe or an incomprehensible deity.”

We don’t like random. We don’t like chaos. We don’t like ambiguity. And we don’t like living under the realization that we’re at the mercy of forces outside of our control that we don’t understand or can’t comprehend.

Or, in the words of Christian writer D.L. Mayfield,

“People believe conspiracy theories because it is psychologically easier to believe a singular and unlikely narrative rather than engage in a hard and complicated reality where your own long-term participation is needed.”

Instead of accepting reality, we construct elaborate fantasy worlds to process our cultural and existential anxieties. The President was killed by the mafia and CIA. The terrorist attack was allowed to happen to help justify a war in the Middle East. The school shooting was faked by the government so they can take our guns away. The virus is a ploy by the Deep State to take away our rights.

In a weird way, the idea of a secret cabal of powerful men and women pulling the strings on international events (like assassinations, pandemics, terrorist attacks, world wars, etc.) is somewhat comforting because at least it implies someone is in control of all this madness.

So, when someone posts conspiracy theory video on social media with the message, “Don’t give in to fear! Stay informed!“, they’re most likely writing to themselves. You’re watching someone publicly process their anxieties and insecurities in real-time by latching onto an explanation that places themselves “in the know” of a secret plot they want other people to know they also know about.

This is doubly ironic because their conspiracy theory’s far-reaching implications are often far more frightening than the event the conspiracy theory is attempting to explain.

And this doesn’t even begin to tackle the absolutely lazy nature of most conspiracy theories and videos that go viral on the Internet. In most cases, all you need to do to gain traction on social media is post dubious information, say “The mainstream media won’t report this!” and completely ignore any sort of follow-up to confirm if the information turned out to be true or not.

Note: Nassim Taleb considers the COVID-19 pandemic a “White Swan” – an event that would eventually take place with great certainty given the innumerable warnings of a global pandemic by public health experts and epidemiologists for years. In a twist that should surprise no one, conspiracy theorists have actually rolled those warnings and preparation plans into proof that a conspiracy exists. Like I said, maddening.


#3: Conspiracy Theories Make Our Reality Seem More Exciting.

Everyone loves a good conspiracy thriller. The idea of a lone “agent of truth” against a diabolic enemy makes for great entertainment. But real-life conspiracies are rarely that exciting.

For example, Watergate. Probably the most well-known conspiracy in American history (the word “Watergate” is basically synonymous with “political scandal”), the Watergate scandal led to the resignation of a sitting U.S. President.

But, compared to the pyrotechnic-filled exploits of James Bond or Jason Bourne, the Watergate scandal is a downright snoozefest. I mean right now, without Googling, would you be able to tell me what the Watergate Hotel scandal was actually about?

The U.S. Government isn’t exactly known to be a well-oiled and efficient machine. And, yet, so many conspiracy theories hinge on the unbelievable assumption that hundreds – if not thousands – of people are able to work together in harmony to accomplish a singular goal for decades and keep it a secret.

Think about the bureaucratic inefficiencies, petty drama, and divided loyalties at your own workplace. Do you really think the U.S. Government is any better?

The people most likely to believe the government is too incompetent to be trusted are often the people most likely to believe the government also has the ability to secretly orchestrate massive operations under the noses of most Americans.

Government bureaucracy is boring. Conspiracy theories are ridiculously entertaining. If you don’t believe me, do a deep dive into the beliefs of Flat Earthers, 9/11 Truthers, and QAnon followers. They’re intoxicatingly addictive.

Connecting the dots, decoding secret messages in emails or tweets, and assembling “pieces of the puzzle” into a semi-coherent narrative can take the form of a live-action role-playing game or an internet scavenger hunt for adults.

In a modern world largely devoid of danger and threat, conspiracy theories help bring purpose and urgency to the mundanity of our lives — which may explain why they spread so quickly among lifestyle bloggers, Instagram influencers, and the “wellness” community.

And, because conspiracy theories tend to cross-pollinate, it doesn’t take long for someone to become completely entrenched in a conspiratorial worldview.

In a Relevant Magazine article titled “Why Do So Many Christians Believe Conspiracy Theories?“, Jessica Stephens writes,

“Experts believe our tendency to fall into the trap of confirmation bias can lead some people to slip into a rabbit hole of conspiracies. The problem is especially prominent in the internet era, where people can find information that confirms whatever value they hold—and ignore any information that does not.”

Every conspiracy theory is a gateway drug to an even more ludicrous and far-reaching conspiracy theory. Once you believe the government is powerful enough to stage a fake mass shooting with “crisis actors,” it doesn’t take much of a leap to convince yourself they can also manufacture a virus scare to crash the U.S. economy (or vice versa).

In an interview for Vox, psychologist Jan-Willem van Prooijen said,

“The best predictor of believing in one conspiracy theory is believing in another. Once they firmly start to believe in one specific conspiracy theory, it opens the door to many others. Because then people start thinking, “Hey, there may be a lot more going on behind the scenes that I don’t know. What else is there?

However, if you were to construct the “perfect” conspiracy theory, you couldn’t do much better than believing there’s a secret department at the Pentagon that’s sole job is to spread conspiracy theories to make people believe the government is competent enough to pull off a conspiracy.


The Christian Problem

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Christians, we have to do better.

Christians are repeatedly pandered to by far-right conspiracy theory websites. Liberal “info-tainment” bounces from one Trump-related outrage to the next with reckless abandon. Real-world social ills are capitalized upon and transformed into vapid social justice “slacktivism” campaigns. Russian trolls targeted us during the 2016 Presidential Election with memes and clickbait articles.

In response to the surge of COVID-19 conspiracy theories, Saddleback Church in California and The Humanitarian Disaster Institute had to band together to create a resource for pastors to quell the spread of misinformation in their congregations.

And after renowned pastor Ed Stetzer wrote an article for Christianity Today calling for Christians to avoid posting conspiracy theories about COVID-19, the Christian publication had to amend the original article with a note commenting on the flood of vitriol the article received.

Of the seven things the Lord finds detestable mentioned in the sixth chapter of Proverbs, “a lying tongue,” “a false witness who pours out lies,” and “a person who stirs conflict in the community” are included in the list.

No one is immune from conspiratorial thinking, but Christians have a bit more to lose from falling for conspiracy theories than the average person. And I think there a few additional reasons Christians may be susceptible to unhealthy paranoid skepticism.

Maybe it’s because, from a young age, many of us were taught the “scientific establishment” was out to destroy our belief in the Bible by disregarding Creationism and promoting the “theory” of evolution. We were primed from the beginning to adopt an implausible conspiratorial mindset regarding science, logic, and reason, and now we can’t shake it.

Or maybe so many of us were convinced by the Left Behind books and a manufactured intepretation of Biblical prophecy that a satanic one-world government was on the horizon that we had the ability to “decode” clues in the current events that predict the apocalypse.

Or maybe because we’ve already been conditioned by our own belief system that there exists a hidden spiritual reality that making the leap to a hidden “shadow government” isn’t all that big of a deal.

Of course, not all   Christians are conspiracy theorists (and those that are aren’t all to the extent I’ve explored above). But there are enough Christian conspiracy theorists doing enough damage that other Christians shouldn’t feel afraid to call them out. We need to hold ourselves and each other to a higher standard of objective truth.

And it’s important to note that a lot of Christians share conspiracy theories out of good faith. They believe they’re sharing the truth. But most conspiracy theories are rotten at the core. It’s obvious they’re rooted in fear, insecurity, and loneliness. And they’re often designed to give us more reasons to loathe our ideological enemies.

In an article for Christianity Today, Andrew McDonald, Associate Director of the Billy Graham Institute, writes,

“Conspiracy theories play upon our fear by supplying a more powerful emotion: rage. Fear can so quickly morph into anger because it provides an object: they are to blame, they caused this, they deserve retribution.”

Conspiracy theories speak to our desire to be a part of a story bigger than ourselves. And what blows my mind is that Christians should already believe that to be true. Christians shouldn’t need to buy into conspiracy theories to feel special, or to make sense of the world, or to make their lives feel more exciting.

But we’re so enraptured with conspiracy theories, I question if we believe serving the Creator God of the Universe is really enough.

In an article for Christian Today, pastor Ed Stetzer writes,

“If there was ever a group of people that should care about the truth, it should be the people who believe ‘the truth sets you free.’ Integrity should matter for Christians, but too often it does not…Proverbs 28:18 explains, ‘The one who lives with integrity will be helped, but one who distorts right and wrong will suddenly fall.’

I’m not suggesting Christians should believe everything the government says.
Not by a long shot.

To the contrary, we need to learn to differentiate between government officials and public policy experts. They’re rarely one and the same. Elected officials will often act in opposition to the advice of public policy experts if they believe it’ll hurt their chances of re-election.

I’m also not implying that Christians should believe everything the media says (though, it should be noted, that when people use the term “the media” in a derogatory fashion what they’re really referring to is “media outlets that don’t share my partisan worldview”). I’ve written extensively on media bias and outrage culture.

But it is possible to make smarter media choices.

This is not to say we shouldn’t be skeptical. By all means, we should ask questions. But we also need to be skeptical of whom we seek answers (and our own motives for seeking alternative explanations). There’s a stark difference between “questioning the narrative” and peddling misleading theories as truth just because it’s different than what the “mainstream media” is reporting – especially if the information you’re sharing comes from a Mommy Blog or Instagram influencer’s story.

Be watchful and be vigilant and be responsible. Clicking ‘Share’ or ‘Forward’ may not require much effort on your part, but it could have serious ramifications down the line.

The spread of misinformation is an issue we all need to confront – no matter our political persuasion, religious affiliation, or age demographic. If the online sphere is our new battleground then truthful information should be our weapon of choice.

Because conspiracy theories aren’t harmless.

To this day, conspiracy theorists still harass the families of the first-grade children who died in the Sandy Hook school shooting. In December 2017, a man opened fire in a D.C. pizzeria with an assault rifle because he was convinced it was filled with trafficked children as a result of the Pizzagate conspiracy theory. In October 2018, a man mailed pipe bombs to people named in a prominent far-right conspiracy. And downplaying a virus by posting an easily debunked “Plandemic” conspiracy video puts real people at risk. And you’re spitting in the faces of healthcare workers risking their lives and the lives of their families.

But, on a more mundane level, posting and endorsing conspiracy theories makes Christians look like idiots. And it reinforces the public perception that Christians will fall for anything while seriously putting the object of our faith into question by outsiders who want nothing to do with our fear-and-hatred based worldview.

In his first letter to the church in Thessalonica, the apostle Paul wrote, “Don’t be gullible. Check out everything, and keep only what’s good. Throw out anything tainted by evil” (The Message).

If you don’t have the time nor patience to fact-check an article or video, you have no business sharing it. Because you’re bearing false witness. Even if you think you’re making a difference, you’re deceiving other people. You’re harming your witness and the witness of your community.

Or, in the words of pastor Ed Stetzer,

“If you still insist on spreading such misinformation, would you please consider taking Christian off your bio so the rest of us don’t have to share in the embarrassment?


Addendum: How to Not Be Fooled by a Conspiracy Theory

  • Remember Occam’s Razor: “Entities should not be multiplied without necessity,” which is often paraphrased as “The simplest solution is often the right one.” Don’t try to overcomplicate your perception of reality by falling for irrationally convoluted explanations of unexpected events. Remember, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.
  • Read boring news. Sometimes all it takes to convince someone of an inane conspiracy theory is a well-edited YouTube video, a pretty website, or aesthetically-curated Instagram profile. And most mainstream news is sensationalized garbage designed to generate ad revenue through clicks. In our home, we don’t watch or read network news (CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, etc). While not perfect, outlets like The Atlantic, Foreign Policy, and The Economist are stellar because their articles are long, well-researched, and not interested in entertainment. Also, AllSides.com is a great place to get a breakdown of how different political ideologies are reporting on current events. (And check out Mark Manson’s fascinating article, “Why You Should Quit the News.”)
  • If you’re seeing the same video pop up over and over again on your social media feed, wait a couple of days before interacting with it. A lot of conspiracy theories spread quickly because they appeal to our vain desire to be “the first” to break the news to our friends and followers. If you stumble across something incredibly alarming and inflammatory online, it’s never a bad idea to wait until more information comes to light (or for the fact-checking websites to catch up to it).
  • And, before sharing something, ask yourself: Does this worldview diminish or ignore other people’s real suffering? If the answer is yes, you probably shouldn’t share or post it.

Articles

How to Keep Conspiracy Theories From Ruining Your Time With Your Family

The Women Making Conspiracy Theories Beautiful

How to Spot a Conspiracy Theory When You See One

Conspiracy Theories, Engaging Online, and Wisdom

QAnon is More Important Than You Think

Christians Are Not Immune to Conspiracy Theories

How to Have Hard Conversations (And Maybe Save the World)

Conspiracy Theories Are Dangerous – Here’s How to Crush Them

How America Lost Its Mind

Get Ready for a Vaccine Information War

The Psychology of Conspiracy Theories

On Christians Spreading Corona Conspiracies: Gullibility Is Not a Spiritual Gift

The Death of Expertise

The Dark Allure of Conspiracy Theories

Why Do So Many Christians Believe Conspiracy Theories?

The Coronavirus Conspiracy Boom

Why People Cling to Conspiracies Like “Plandemic”

Fact-Checking Sites: Politifact, Snopes, and FactCheck.

Disclaimer: As an Amazon affiliate, I earn a small percentage from qualifying purchases at no additional cost to you.

204 thoughts on “Why Your Christian Friends and Family Members Are So Easily Fooled by Conspiracy Theories

  1. Good essay – thanks. Please consider, also, the effect of our Santa Claus tradition on people’s ability to discern truth and trust others.

    Children are lied to by their parents and all of society, trained to ignore their quite reasonable doubts, and then generally learn the truth from an older child who makes them feel stupid for having believed the myth in the first place. Only then – after the trauma – will their parents tell them the truth (possibly adding, “But God? And Jesus? That part is true.”) They’re then asked to participate in the lie themselves (and feel smarter than some other, smaller child).

    (On a side note, the content of the Santa Claus myth is dreadful: If you’re really good – and only some children are good – a nice white man will come down from the sky and give you things. I would say that many Christians’ adult beliefs about God and Jesus (e.g., prosperity theology) can be traced to their childhood beliefs about Santa.)

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    1. Joe forest you are the reason I believe these theories and being a man of god which you are not we know the truth and you publish and write lies because you work for the deep state and the Illuminati and are a piece of human shit

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      1. Your insane reply perfectly illustrated Joe Forest’s entire article, and your filthy mouth confirmed that you are not a Christian. Jesus commanded us to love one another and taught us to love our enemies, and you truly expressed your hatred in contrast to the Ruler of the Universe, who forgave sinners as he died on the cross.

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      2. You suicide monkey, Jesus commanded love of people. You crazy loser, you’re trying to hurt my feelings cause you lack inner strength to help yourself. You’re like a desperate dog wanting to be the first to be saved. You’re like Osama Bin Laden because you’re a skeevy loser perverting religion for a selfish reason. You’re trash and should kill yourself. You can’t understand your own feelings nor think deep before acting and that makes you a soulless animal that will die and stop existing. Those are facts, monkey boy. Insanity is going outside of logic for a selfish reason like you do, ya desperate beast

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      3. I concur with the others who responded to your inane post. I would also add that your lack of punctuation only further signifies that you are indeed an uneducated fool.

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      4. Trump2020,The first thing that gives away that you’re acting in an unchristian way is that you proclaim yourself to be a “man of God” while judging another as ungodly and then call them excrement. Take a deep breath dude, go back and actually read the word of Jesus (The Gospel not the words of his disciples) and then try to live by them.

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      5. Look at the lack of education just in this one man’s words: “we know the truth”, “you write lies”, you are a piece of human shit”..it is sickening to hear people talk this way or to write this way. R. Mitchell

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    2. My beliefs can not be traced back to my upbringing, quite the opposite. You need to know Christianity and the Bible in its entirety before you make the comments you have just made. The Bible in it’s entirety the whole truth. I am proud to be a follower of Jesus. Many scholars have tried to prove the Bible wrong and I can’t speak for ever one of them but I know many by the time they were done and not just shouting off their month but actually researching the facts in the end not only are Christians today, but Christian teachers. Before you say something you should know more about it.

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    3. Atlantic and the Economist are left leaning media and that is being charitable. So you lost some credibility with those suggestions but really… blogging about how Christians should conduct themselves, what they should think…are you really qualified? Nice article but you’re a one timer.

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  2. Of course, there’s a big overlap in the Venn diagram of conspiracy theories and Christianity in general: faith.

    Both *demand* faith — faith in the sense of believing things in spite of evidence. Both take pride in this aspect. Both see it as a badge of honor to retain belief when evidence suggests otherwise. Both use this to enforce a secret knowledge that must be spread with evangelical fervor. Both say that every wind buffeting against them is proof of their correctness. Both say that the prize is worth any cost (see the parable of the great pearl and the great buried treasure in a field).

    I am no longer a believer, so I obviously have a different perspective now.

    However, take a look at the (very good) three points you made: feeling special, making sense of a crazy world, and providing some excitement. Every single one of those is a characteristic of Christianity.

    How can you say that Christianity itself is not a conspiracy theory as well?

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    1. So close and yet so far. Belief in one conspiracy theory is the best predictor that a person will believe another? Then I would claim that for most Christians, God himself is their gateway conspiracy theory.

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  3. If you read interviews with believers in conspiracy theories, they frequently cite God as part of their authority. “God led me to this knowledge, God wants me to expose this, God approves what I am doing.” It’s partly the effect of American Protestant Christianity teaching people that they have the ability to know the will of God. Just, if God didn’t like me sharing this article, he would come down and stop me, right? The ability for any individual to claim a revelatory inspiration from God has always stuck me as downright weird, not coming from that faith tradition myself. Christianity promotes those kinds of claims, encourages them, and should not be surprised when people start claiming god has revealed a bunch of insane BS to them.

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  4. It’s more than a little ironic to read these quotations, otherwise admirable, from Albert Mohler and the Billy Graham Institute, when Mohler has opted for a full “Christian” embrace of the extreme right, and Franklin Graham has promoted wild misinformation about and hatred of Muslims.

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  5. Thanks for posting this. It’s so relevant in today’s culture. I’ll be honest, I’ve fallen for some conspiracy theories in my day and I need to be more careful so that I am not a bad testimony to others and contributing to making Christians look like idiots.

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  6. I have been looking high and low for a blog like this! All of my Christian friends are falling victim to the insanity of the newest conspiracy theories and it’s so hard to figure out a way to stop them from the nonsense. So I’m silent now because I found a while ago that the fighting on social is just not worth it and it never works. But it’s SO good to see someone, finally, who is sharing the truth. Thank you!

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    1. For anyone looking for reliable news sources and don’t have the time to read the Economist or Foreign Affairs (both great sources), I would recommend the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation). When Fox News tried to move into Canada they changed their minds because it is against the law in Canada for news outlets to knowingly lie. BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) is also proudly unbiased.

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  7. I have an easier explanation, without as many words. When you’re religious, you abandon thought and reason for faith. You can clearly see the bullshit of other religions, because you are not giving YOUR religion the same skeptical evaluation of other faiths. And there is nothing you can’t take on faith. You can’t spell “Belief” without “lie” and EVERY lie requires you to abandon sketpicism in order for the lie to be “BELIEVED.”
    So, if you walk around believing in god, accepting it without a fart from a butt hair’s worth of evidence, there’s nothing stopping you in believing anything. You can literally believe in anything if you have faith that what you’re reading is true.
    Which always makes religion the dumb position to have. Religion is simple answers for simple people, folks.

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    1. @Garence deThird: “Religion is simple answers for simple people, folks.”

      An unfortunate mischaracterization, often held.

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  8. Let’s add a little depth to this article. Christianity has believed in many conspiracy theories since its inception. The Virgin Birth was written in Luke. Luke was a Greek doctor and this gospel reflects an audience of Greek Mythology. Other Gospels do not tell the Virgin Birth story because the audience was different. Yet for 2000 years, billions have believed in a virgin birth which did not happen. When you perpetuate a myth, you are more susceptible to belive in conspiracy theories. There are many myths sponsored by Christianity in the past, that have been corrected by science.

    Furthermore, we have Christians today that staunchly believe the world is only 5000 years old because the Bible says so. We have Christians that believe it’s okay to subjugate a woman because the Bible says it is so. Myths and Conspiracies work hand in hand. The age-old debate is did God create Man or did Man create God. This is why we have conspiracy theories. You need faith to validate what can not be proven when it comes to he indoctrination that God created man. Yet science would validate that man created God.

    Great article overall. Anything that can move the far right to the center is great. I just find the title of the article to be misleading. As long as humans indoctrinate the next generation with mythology, we will have a higher likelihood of conspiracy theories. Just my take.

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  9. Lenny Giardino – I wonder who you are quoting since you obviously are not even accurate in your description of the stance of Young Earthers. It is 10,000 years not 5,000 and it isn’t because the Bible says so. Someone with your level of knowledge tried to figure backward from the generations noted in the Bible, assuming a certain number of years between generation to come up with this figure. If you do some studying you learn that such genealogies were not inclusive of every generation. Thus, even using the names provided in the Bible, one could not come up with a reasonable number of years. The young earthers also require the creation process to be 7 x 24 hour days, yet if you think about what was being created, the earth has to spin once for a day but there was no light. The only answer is that the Hebrew word translated as “day” can also be translated as a period of time – such as millions of years.

    So you see, these are not myths or conspiracy theories (look up the definition please) but interpretation of language that is far more simple than English. Your comparison falls apart quickly. Christianity can only be understood from the inside. There is scripture supporting that as well. Read several different translations and don’t take things out of context. The Bible is God’s plan for humanity and His creation. One portion cannot be surgically excised and used without considering the rest of that “plan.”

    Gpd’s blessing on you..

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    1. This article and I are talking about Christians that have beliefs that are extreme assumptions. I think you missed the point. What math did the Hebrews use to explain the wide ranges of ages found in the genealogy? Some lived and died hundreds of years apart from each other in the Old Testament. And while you are at it explaining the Young Earthers, which is an interesting context to bring into this, why do the stories resemble the Babylonian stories that preceded them. Stories like Noah’s Ark are identical in detail. Another timeline issue I guess. I think it goes well beyond Young Earthers. You are talking about a timeline that had limited text, and stories were passed on orally for generations, altered and changed numerous times. I think the “Plan” fails to mention this part of history.

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      1. I suspect that both Christian fundamentalists/youg-earthers AND ersatz critics of Christianity make the same mistake, i.e. of bringing the same set of anachronistic, modernist assumptions to the text of the Bible. The scientific method and even the idea of “objectivity” as we understand them didn’t exist in the world of the writers of Genesis. It’s as fundamental mistake to imagine that those writers were interested in the physical processes by which the world was created (in the sense in which those in the present-day natural sciences would imagine that question). They didn’t care a jot about that. If one reads Genesis as an entire book, it’s easy to see that those writers are concerned about questions of *who* and *why*, not *how*. They’re asking things like “who are we?”, “what does it mean to be the people of God?”, “What is our purpose in existing?” The creation story is talking about these questions, in these terms. To imagine that it’s supposed to be an objective account of trhe physical processes of creation is to make the same mistake one would make if one read a verse romance and critiqued it as a really terrible scientific paper, or read a scientific paper and critiqued it as a really terrible poem.

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  10. This is a hilarious article, or should I say opinion peace. The only one promoting a false statement is yourself Joe Forrest. Your article wreaks of liberal political bias and progressivism, as you claim to be a “progressive Christian”; the two terms are antithetical. You make broad assumptions based upon a few public events without any real research of Christians themselves. One important fact does come to mind though, since you mentioned Obama. Of course I know you absolutely adore him, but I will leave that alone for now. Obama claimed to be Christian, that’s his right to do so. However, his actions did NOT foster any belief in myself or countless others that he was indeed a Christian. One example was his overt affection for Islamic prayer, his pronouncing of Muslim names with exact annunciation. Obama also bowed before Muslim kings and leaders. Take how you will. Regarding his so called Christianity: Obama promoted homosexual unions; transgenderism; abortion which is murder, don’t try putting a clean label on it; and so on. So the fact is, Obama was judged by his actions not his words.

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      1. Thank you for making his point and proving his words to be completely true. You are so obvious that I had to laugh out loud.

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  11. Excellent piece. I would only have added a reference to 2 Timothy 4:3-4 (NIV):

    For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I used to think that pizzagate was a crazy conspiracy theory until I listened to an interview with a credible source discuss what it actually was about. I believe it was on NPR but I’m not sure. It turns out that from the Podesta emails, a bunch of messages discussed offering “pizza” in an odd way. Further analysis determined that these messages were discussing offering sex with minors but the code for that was “pizza.” They gave some examples of emails and yes, the wording made no sense if they were truly talking about pizza. And so many emails about pizza? I mean, I love pizza, but I don’t email all my friends about it. So, I’m not saying that I buy into the conspiracy theory, but I can see why some people do. And no, it’s not as outlandish as most media, including this article, make it seem. I agree with everything else stated here, though. Great content.

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    1. You are proving the author’s point. You are a textbook example of someone who has fallen into the conspiracy theory cesspool. Seek help.

      “Further analysis determined that these messages were discussing offering sex with minors but the code for that was “pizza.”

      Um, no. ‘Further analysis’ revealed no such thing, unless by analysis, you mean pandering to the fevered imaginations of weak-minded imbeciles.

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    2. Mr. Rivera, with all respect, please consider that what you wrote has much in common with the type of thinking that helps spread conspiracy theories. You listened to a “credible source.” Who? You think it was NPR, but you’re not sure. Some people would take what you said at face value and repeat it to another person. But remember that old game “Telephone”? That person would distort message bit. “My friend heard from Podesta’s secretary on NPR that . . . ”

      Also, did you actually read these emails to confirm that they talked about pizza in some nefarious or suspicious manner? I just did. Wiki Leaks has 59 that mention the word pizza. I sampled several and none seem suspicious to me.

      Here’s one:

      https://www.wikileaks.org/podesta-emails/emailid/59243

      Nothing too weird there. Friends discussing a dinner party in normal terms.

      Here’s one about a pizza party for HRC–again, there’s nothing weird there.

      https://www.wikileaks.org/podesta-emails/emailid/53745

      Here’s another–very mundane discussion about some people trying to get together for dinner. Pizza is one option:

      https://www.wikileaks.org/podesta-emails/emailid/52778

      Here’s another–Casa Podesta Pizza Party–it’s a note from a guest thanking Podesta for hosting a pizza party:

      https://www.wikileaks.org/podesta-emails/emailid/5716

      I could spend hours going through the emails, but if somebody tells me that there are emails with coded words for disguising a child sex ring operation and I think there might be a possibility that it is true, you know what I’m going to do? I’m going to ask for the exact text of the email and the date it was sent. And then I’m going to see if I can find it online.n

      Did you do this?

      I’ve read about a dozen of these emails now and the only way the “code word” thing makes any sense is if you already assume that these evil democrats are up to something demonic or sinful or illegal.

      I don’t have time to read more. But if there is a real suspicious email, somebody could easily provide the link to it, so that we can all read it ourselves.

      Also, may I suggest that you consider: Instead of repeating what you think you heard on NPR, try to find some evidence online that NPR actually broadcast such a show. And when you do, find out who the person was NPR interviewed. And then listen to the interview again to confirm what you think you might have heard. We often misremember things. It iis common. I do it all the time.

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  13. When someone sends you a video or a meme or an article, just use the “trust but verify” rule (if it was good enough for Reagan & Gorbachev, it should be good enough for you). You may have no reason to doubt the friend that sent the information to you but ask your friend where it came from. Do your research (Re-Search). If your friend saw they got it from another person, ask them where they got it from. Do this before you post.

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  14. What’s the purpose of this? The idiot fails to grasp how to think logically and break up groups within groups. The type of Christian’s who want to rodr Jesus to heaven w/o exhausting all they can do are defeated and believe in conspiracies easily, duh. Real Christian’s are savvy

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  15. I am currently an apostate and atheist who still appreciates the structure, support, and belief system that Christianity provided me when I needed them.

    I just want to thank you for this article–sometimes I need a reminder that not all Christians are nut-jobs who have forgotten what the Bible and Jesus teach about love, truth, integrity, and character. Please excuse me if this comment results in flames. But I can tell you have the strength to endure them.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Thank you for your thoughtful and well written article. I wish I had a solution fo this problem and have tried hard to reason but to no avail. Ignoring it works best, albeit a mere bandage on a hole in the soul. And, yes, this confusing belief about liberals drinking baby blood and assorted world wide QAnon conspiracies is extremely damaging to Christian marriage and families. It draws everybody away from the important things in life and brings out the worse in humanity. My wife—a devout Christian all of her life—has embraced QAnon conspiracies at the most gory level and it has wounded our family terribly (all friends have long fled). I’m near the end of my rope on this but I can’t imagine it getting any worse.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I feel like those who truly need to receive and consider the message of this article will be turned off by it. And I’m not sure a forward or share would be done with good faith intentions in mind, based on what the title communicates.

    I believe this article’s title to be an unfortunate blanket-statement mischaracterization, and also believe it to be divisive, so maybe that’s why. The title should instead read, IMO, “Why *Some of* Your Christian Friends and Family Members *Might Be* Easily Fooled by Conspiracy Theories”

    The article’s title says that if you’re Christian, you’re easily fooled, gullible, and not capable of critical thought or of discerning truth from conspiracy. Thereby amplifying an already unfortunate and inaccurate stereotype. That’s about as judgmental and wrong (factually and ideologically) as saying that blacks are easily fooled, women are easily fooled, you fill in the blank. I’m not sure what it’s called, or if it has a name, but hating on Christians should be an “ism”, too.

    So despite what this article suggests (again let’s face it, most who see this and share this on social media won’t read it but will judge the book by its cover) there are plenty of intelligent, critically-thinking, non-conspiracy-believing Christians out there.

    As far as the meat of the content of the article and the message itself, some outside of the target audience will read it and agree, but I’m not sure that’s tackling the problem or influencing the thoughts and behaviors of the subjects of the article. As a matter of fact, I’m quite sure it’s not.

    In the past 4 years of being active in this heated and divided political landscape, I have come across some conspiracy-believing Christians. In each one, there are a few things I notice:
    1) there is a lack of open mindedness, a lack of the ability to see things from others’ perspective, which is primarily fueled by the news sources they access, namely, Fox News and other right-wing, conspiracy-spreading sources, a lack of considering any info sources outside of those, and
    2) in my opinion, based on my observations of who they are and how they carry on with their lives, it’s hard to believe they have an authentic relationship with the God of the Bible. This is based largely on how they treat and regard other human beings, and the lack of caring, concern, and empathy they have, among other things. One of these people in particular told me they believed that Democrats were the antichrist. They were serious. I mention this because they see the label “Democrat” first, with hate in their eyes, and see “human being created by God” second, or not at all, because that hate is palpable, perpetuated by those right-wing info sources. They don’t represent Christianity.

    In a political climate that has put the most unsavory of those who identify as Christians front and center, delighting those who love to see that happen, I as a Christian was encouraged when I discovered the following groups and movements:

    https://www.facebook.com/againsttrumpismandextremism

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/christiansagainsttrump

    Seems to me the problem needs a love-based, well-intentioned Christian think tank, and resulting targeted campaign, to effectively address it and create real change. But I do know that coming at it from a position of being intellectually superior, or morally damning, or ultimately saying “you’re embarrassing me” as the last quote does, will not get the result that this article seems to want to achieve. And I’m not saying necessarily that the author and agreeing readers believe they’re intellectually superior, but what I am saying is that it’s often an insecurity of the subjects of this article. These kinds of things need to be considered if someone purports to *truly* want to see change in the matter addressed here.

    I don’t know what the answer is, other than prayer. I pray often in these times for wisdom and discernment for us all, and I trust God with the rest, knowing full well that it could be part of the plan that some stay just the way they are. Lean not on your own understanding… Proverbs 3:5-6

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