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. 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 Talib 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 Talib 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. From adults we trusted, we were given an implausible conspiratorial mindset from childhood, 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.

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 or a pretty website. 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

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.

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

  1. I found this piece cogent, and the observations on point. It is a tricky subject, and you laid it out pretty clearly and accurately. That is, until the statement that you didn’t know why Christians believed so many conspiracy theories. There, I think, is your blind spot. Perhaps being on the “inside” of Christianity, there is possibly an instance of cognitive dissonance on your part.

    Christians have been raised or taught to put on blinders to the facts and logic of a book that is illogical, self-contradictory, and downright hypocritical. They are taught to just have faith in what they are told and to suspend critical thinking when it comes to an analysis of the book that is central to their religion. Just pray, and believe what on the surface seems like magical thinking, and you will be accepted and part of a special group.

    Religion does not foster critical thinkers and good problem solvers by its very nature. If a person can be made to believe the hodge podge of inaccuracies, fallacies and outlandishness found in their holy books, then by comparison, a conspiracy is an easy leap. Proof becomes an irrelevant concept when one has taken to heart the concept that faith is all that is required. Intellect atrophies.

    My comments are not meant to detract from this piece as a whole though. It was (mostly) well thought out.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Christians, especially evangelical Christians who believe were are in the End of Days are primed for this. They are looking for which leader is the devil, the son of Satan. Then they are convinced they’ve found it and their belief can’ be shaken. Of course those End of Days fiction writers prey on these people, and the TV preachers… for a buck. It’s good business. Alex Jones has done the same thing.

      The problem is there are in fact real “conspiracies” going on at present, if you want to call them that. Are there groups of the elite gathering in meetings, planning and conspiring to take advantage of the public? Of course. Rich people get together and talk about things, share ideas, and make informal consensuses. They help each other to make deals and make money. They higher lawyers to advise them and they bankroll political campaigns…for their financial advantages. There’s the Builderberg group, a real thing. The IMF. The World Bank. These are not democratically run groups open to public oversight. It’s TMI for the average Jane and Joe.

      So, people like Alex Jones takes that, boils it down, sensationalises it with hyperbole, graphics, slick videos and great audio with some legitimate intellectuals such as Peter Dale Scott and others to lend his shit sandwich believability. Just because a BLT has a turd in it doesn’t mean is doesn’t have good, real and useful things in it. But you shouldn’t eat it. Then Jones throws his: “being a good Christian” and other B.S. to give himself cover as a “good Christian”.

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  2. Thank you Joe for a wonderful and timely blog. I am a Christian author (Your Life, Your Purpose, Your Path) and recently began Facebook postings (@yourlifeyourpurposeyourpath) and this week I am dealing with Christianity and Conspiracy Theories. I point out things like ‘Ever notice that flat earthers will accept that the sun and all other planets are spheres, but we live on a pancake?’
    I have added a link to your blog in my posting. Let me know if you want it removed and I will do so.
    I champion the use of ‘Common Sense’ in most of my posting, but end it with the following:

    The Christian author, C.S. Lewis, wrote about how Christianity requires not only dedication, but all the intelligence and mental acuity one can muster, and in first-class fighting trim. His Mere Christianity chapter on ‘The Cardinal Virtues’ expands and amplifies on this. A return to reasonableness in judgment, clarity of mind, and civility in debate can be reclaimed and common sense championed as a resurrected Christian virtue. And in this day and age, it is quite possible our Lord is charging us with this task to combat those who bear false witness.
    As for the howls of the fanatics and their common senseless followers, how are we to recognize them? A litmus test is to post back to their web sites asking for logical debate and consideration of the other side. The more venom in their reply and hatred for considering any alternative to their position, the more likely they are wrong and are only aiming to sicken our society and their followers. And all for their personal aggrandizement.
    As I ended my subchapter, they will hate you when you use common sense to learn and consider other ideas than what you are fed by them. So will satan.

    Once again, thank you for your excellent and timely blog.

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  3. Dear Joe, unappreciated you articulating your own viewpoints. Obviously a number of people are very upset by it because they feel you have been very condescending. I see you replying to people who have suggested corrections to your article, but I see no response from you to those who have been upset by it.
    Whilst I do believe that Christian’s should be less offended by what man says, I am sure you are aware of the biblical guidance to make it a priority to go to a brother who holds something against you, and put it right. I would love to see that command being obeyed here…

    Like

    1. That command was more personal in nature. Doing something directly to “a brother” (ie. saying something about them directly). You can’t possibly think that extends to every person who reads someone’s opinion and feels upset by it?!?! That would mean every time we share a position, we must then apologize to everyone who doesn’t like it. If a person feels this article applies to their actions, instead of feeling hurt/angry, they should take the time to assess the information presented, evaluate it for reasonableness and accuracy, then see if they can learn anything from it. If they disagree with the material presented and are unable to find reasonable arguments presented, then move on. No need to have direct interaction with the author, where little would be gained.

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      1. I believe what could be gained is that the author see how condescending he sounds in his ‘opinion’ pieces and Change the way he writes.

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  4. i’ve got a much simpler explanation for why theistic believers are so easily sucked into conspiracy theories. theistic belief ITSELF is a conspiracy theory. people who are conditioned since birth to believe in an all-powerful sky wizard, heaven, hell, and all the rest of that bullshit are fully primed to accept any and all similarly absurd, fantastical propositions without any evidence. there’s really no difference between the concept of “god” and the concept of “the illuminati”

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I appreciated the blog.

    The problem is exacerbated by the fact that religion itself contains a giant conspiracy theory that dictates billions of lives. If there is a unseen battle between good and evil playing out behind the scenes, involving a diabolical Lucifer undermining our freedom and a second coming apocalypse that involves a co-ordinated tyranny suppressing the righteous…. then its hard not to believe that events like Covid-19 are a mechanism to bring about the end. (as our forefathers felt about previous world wars)

    And on the other hand, history provides plenty of examples of where what was going on was hidden from the general public by calculated propaganda. i.e People warned against the Vietnam war as a government plot…. its only after 40 years that war notes released confirmed that American vessels were never attacked, and the US entered that war on false pretenses.

    So its really tricky to separate the fact from the fantasy!

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  6. Interesting article for me personally and timely, thank you. For some reason, and I suppose the heightened awareness/fear of the pandemic has not helped, I’ve been asked to “wake up” to 2 theories making waves right now, 5G kills and is actually helping spread the virus and the pandemic is a way of vaccinating everyone with a “controlling” vaccine, vaccines don’t work, Bill Gates is behind this… In both cases interesting information accompanied the requests. E.g. Look at where 5G is being installed and where the pandemic is raging, Wuhan, UK, major cities. Do you know there is a secret vaccine court that is nearly impossible to get into…? Vaccines do not work they kill and or cause autism just look at the data… After investigating both (I did not know there really was a vaccine court and had no idea people were blaming the 5G roll out) what I concluded was there was a lot of correlation but no proof of causation. It seems to me that a good conspiracy, one that has legs to last, needs strong correlation without proof of causation.

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    1. Your article states we are a democracy. That is false. We are a republic. Conspiracy does not need complicity with orchestration it merely needs people working in concert with the same motivations of power and money. The love of money is the root of all evil. JFK was not killed by Lee Harvey Oswald if you follow the massive piles of evidence and if you were a rifle shooter, as I am, you would know the impossibility of the narrative. The Murrah building was blown from the inside out not the outside in. If you had training in physics and examined the pictures of the damage you would know that low velocity explosives on the outside of the building do not cause massive steel reinforced concrete to go towards the source of the bomb. You would know that low velocity diesel prelled fertilizer is a low velocity explosive which is inherently unable to break up steel reinforced concrete. Engineers and architects of 911, a large group of professionals have stated the WTC was not collapsed by an airplane or two. It had to take more than one person to set the thermite and other destructive devices in place and let us not forget the building 7 dropped in it’s tracks, clearly a controlled demolition on a building that had very little damage from the twin towers. I will admit that getting facts is difficult in these days because there are many voices giving so many different narratives but conspiracies do exist or there would not be laws against them and facts that I have mentioned would have no other explanation.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Wish more had this info, maybe put it on your facebook. That was a condescending article without any supportive evidence and with the incidences you mentioned, there’s a lot of evidence as proof, not conspiracy.

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  7. “To be honest, I don’t know why evangelical Christians are so easily fooled by conspiracy theories.” – Well, I’d argue that skepticism is not a value in evangelical Christian circles. Skepticism it is actively suppressed all the time. Growing up, every time I expressed healthy skepticism in response to Christian magical thinking, I was encouraged by countless Christian leaders to do away with that skepticism entirely. If you purge yourself of skepticism as a part of your religious belief, you will obviously be more prone to conspiracy theories.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’m pretty sure skepticism drives people TO conspiracy theories not away from them. Unwillingness to engage with unpopular opinions and evidence keeps most people away. I think Christians have gravitated towards alternative sources of information during this pandemic because mainstream news has been lying and we are people of truth.

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      1. Of course your statement still raises the same questions of credibility. How do you know “mainstream” sources are lying? How do you know these “alternative” sources aren’t? I have to admit I keep seeing the phrase/idea “I don’t trust the mainstream media” as though it’s some kind of magical incantation that automatically invalidates any opposing argument, but the problem is that it’s not an argument at all, it’s a description of an emotional state.

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  8. Given the leftist generated massive Russia collusion conspiracy, and the malfeasance of the DNC and top brass of the FBI and DOJ, as well as the corruption of the fake news MSM, in support of it, plus their ongoing efforts to unseat Donald Trump as President via a phony impeachment exercise and any and all other means they can employ, it would seem if Christians are being fooled by conspiracy theories, they are in good company with all the non Christian conspiracy believers.This article begs the question why would Christians not be fooled either less or more than the rest of the population? Perhaps on some issues Christians are more likely to be fooled and on other issues non Christians are more likely to be fooled but I am puzzled why the author bothered to write this ‘analysis/opinion piece.’ Further, I suspect that within the Christian population there is a much smaller % that may potentially be fooled on some particular falsehood than in the general population. I also wonder how the author has defined Christians in order to arrive at these general conclusions? Nancy Pelosi claims she is a Catholic, but is she really ‘Christian’ given she is front and centre promoting the conspiracy against Trump she knows perfectly well is false. The article is interesting and I think is a worthy call and reminder to all who claim the name of Jesus Christ to be alert to false testimony/fake news/conspiracies/lies and the like and to the extent they can, test everything and be careful about being a party to ongoing dissemination of falsehoods. Otherwise, I don’t see this article as having any particular merit.

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    1. I think I had a similar realization. I am also a Christian, not an atheist, but, umm…

      #1: Religion Makes Us Feel Special.
      #2: Religion Helps Us Make Sense of a Chaotic and Complicated World.
      #3: Religion Makes Our Reality Seem More Exciting.

      Those seem like true statements. And if belief in one conspiracy theory makes you more likely to believe in others, well, there you go, I guess?

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  9. Anybody can be fooled from any group. Singling out a specific group is an opinion. Everyone has been fooled about something sometime in their life. There are some things you believe right now that are wrong that you still are convinced are true. There is only one source of absolute truth and that is Jesus Christ and His Word – the Bible!

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  10. If you think the Coronavirus began in a meat market, you aren’t up on the facts that have already been discovered. And if you can’t see that we are being treated more like prisoners than free Americans under the guise of saving lives from a virus, you must have your head in the sand. The epidemic will end when our God-given immune systems bring it under control. Social distancing is merely slowing the natural immune response giving ” the powers that be time to develop or introduce a vaccine for the purpose of controlling people. Requiring testing, tracing (tracking) and vaccines gives globalists an excuse to run our lives. The new normal they are talking about is totalitarianism. Many of the things going on have been fulfilling Biblical prophecies. Bible minded people can see that. The rest of the world lies under the sway (deception) of the evil one. And, yes, he works through people in high places. Watergate was based on Nixon’s paranoia. Obamagate (which includes the firing of Flynn, the Russian Hoax, the impeachment, and now the Coronavirus) involves a broad based high level conspiracy to prevent a Trump presidency or at least make it ineffective because his policies slow the implementation of the NWO. Globalism and Agenda 21 are not a secret. Maybe you should try explaining the Georgia Guide Stones. They didn’t spring up on their own. One glaring problem with your well-written article is the focus on Christians. Many Christians do not believe in the “conspiracies” you mentioned. And many secular people do believe in them. Why are you demeaning Christians? What’s your agenda? The government is only as good as the people within it. The loss of moral values in this country has brought many unscrupulous people into powerful positions. It’s on display among governors who are oppressing their states and causing economic ruin which will kill more people than the inflated numbers representing those dying from the virus.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Before you recommend those fact checking companies, you might want to do more research on them. Where they receive funding from and Some of the controversies they are involved in is quite fascinating. (One even has alleged ties to Capone! ) However, I would question their reliability because of their funding.

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  12. Great Article. Well-written and timely. The term “Black Swan” was coined by Edward Lorenz in 1973. It was popularized by Nassim Taleb. This distinction makes your article more accurate.
    Thanks for caring about God’s Church. May the Lord bless you and keep you.

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  13. The biggest problem with conspiracy theories is that you can’t prove hardly any of them in a 15 minute conversation around the water cooler at work or the thanksgiving dinner table at home. And even if you could, most people won’t believe you if it isn’t corroborated by a “credible” source like NBC, or CNN. I can bore you with numerous examples of how TV and newspaper reporters are some of the biggest liars out there if you wish.
    15 minutes is about the limit of people’s attention spans.

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  14. Interesting article, but it seems to me you missed the biggest reason which is that once you accept the biggest conspiracy theory of all, aka the idea that a higher power created and directs the world and everything in it, you are far more susceptible to falling for other conspiracy theories. In fact, you could go back and apply many of these arguments to the idea that there is a god, which if you look at it logically is really just a conspiracy theory to make sense of things that man and science have not yet explained. Even if you feel that you can prove the existence of god, far too many evangelicals have rejected centuries of church teaching and reverted to a infantile understanding of their faith with their insistence that in the literal truth of the Bible and interpretations of faith based solely on current political debates. It’s no shock at all that these Christians specifically would fall for these lies. Anything is easier than thinking for themselves.

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  15. I thought this was so well put together. Thank you. First time here, I’ll read more. I’m disheartened that immediately I see people commenting to argue and defend conspiracy (which leads me to think you should put more pictures in because I don’t think they read the text…… /sigh)

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  16. I think you might be overlooking a significant factor that is just cultural. I think the article is mostly talking about evangelicals, who are, for the most part, adherents to a political culture that has become much more enamored with fringe politics and conspiracy theories.

    Despite some “both sides” talk but there simply is no equivalent to Fox News/Hannity/Breitbart/Ingraham/Carlson/Limbaugh/Levin etc on the Left (no one who is both a conspiracy theorist and popular). NPR and the Atlantic may be cosmopolitan leaning, but they’re not conspiracy nuts. The nuts on the Left have no influence, the nuts on the Right run the party.

    Point being, of course I think Christians should stop posting conspiracy theories, but my take is we are mostly referring to a specific political culture and because people are first and foremost cultural adherents(not religious), and this particular political culture has been captured by wing nuts.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Thank you for writing this!! I have been left unsatisfied with some of the articles on this topic. Yours is respectful, understanding, and well-supported with evidence and scripture. Well done!

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  18. Agree with few things here.. but …. Thre are few places where I would differ…. And this is the main part…
    To know where to focus our attention, we Christians need to be good students of Bible prophecies of the end time, especially the prophecies surrounding the second coming of Christ.Biblical prophecy should be the pattern that should help us decide
    1)Whether the conspiracy theory fits the pattern…Why not have a healthy discussion if it fits the pattern???
    2) News / News media whether fits the pattern .
    3) Otherwise how do you differentiate between so called facts and truth because It’s not facts but the truth that will really set us free.
    Also the Bible is a very interesting book not at all boring ….So be it news, be it conspiracy theories if boring will mostly not fit the pattern…
    We are to eagerly wait for Christ’s return, not just passively wait around (Hebrews 9:28). Jesus was emphatic that His followers should hope for His return, expect His return and pray for His return. In addition, our enthusiastic anticipation and excitement will intensify as we see more and more world events fulfilling Bible prophecies—especially those that point to the increasing nearness of Christ’s return….
    Children Of Issachar had the knowledge of the times unlike many of us who has no knowledge of what time we are living in because we ignorantly tend to ignore the clear pattern set by study of biblical prophecy.

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  19. Interesting article – and the comments are equally illuminating. One person seemed to attempt to justify their position (before even stating that position) by pointing at a bunch of conspiracy theories. They cited left-wing positions as evidence of conspiracy and asked why you would not believe them – since, of course, the people behind them are clearly evil and conspiring. Nonsense. But the question as to whether Christians are are actually more open to such stories is a good one – I would like to see some numbers.
    Anecdotally, though, I would conclude that they are. To me the reason is simple. Christianity (among other religions) paints a picture of a fight between Good and Evil. It encourages us to divide people and actions into 2 camps. If I find myself on the wrong side of a popular position (climate change, vaccinations, healthcare for all, gun rights, sexual equality, income equality, moon landings, flat earth, Jeff Besos, Nancy Pelosi, wearing a freaking mask, etc.) then it must be because those in opposition to me must be evil. It does not allow for the position that people are acting off their own knowledge, experience, judgement, and needs in the perceived best interests of themselves and everyone else. The Christian Bible )and the Jewish) is full of terrible examples where people were required to defend their positions or accept subjugation or worse. There are good guys and bad guys. For the most part, this is not how the World works. Few people are actually “out to get you”.

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  20. The headline is itself misleading, because it, and the entire article, implies the majority of Christians believe conspiracy “theories,” when the truth is that the majority of Christians, and the vast majority of the world, dismiss the idea of conspiracies with scorn. Nearly everyone buys into some kinds of lies, and there are certain lies which are used to deceive the whole world.

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  21. Good article, but allow me to share another reason from the culture of evangelicalism. It is closely related to revivalism which is known for being anti-intellectual because it is more focused on experience and emotions. The further right you go the more this is true. Not enough evangelicals have found how to combine vital piety (religious experience) with knowledge (reason) which for way too long have been divided. Jesus calls us to love God with all of our mind as well as with all of our hearts.

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  22. Dear Joe: If you see a video of President Obama giving a public address and during that address he of his own accord states ” He was born in Kenya”. Now when people begin to start the so called conspiracy launch that he was not born in the United States you want to say it is a bad thing. When David Rockefeller was interviewed and made the statement that he personally believed in a one world government do the people just ignore that and not look at the many people and organizations he supports and helps push that agenda. Joe your ideology is flawed and you like the lost children of Israel have been blinded from the truth. Real truth is not a conspiracy but the unveiling of facts. Jimmy Carter is a card carrying member of the Trilateral Commission Founded by Zbigniew Brzezinski, Alexander Haig and David Rockefeller. Carter implemented the GLOBAL PLAN 2000 based upon Brzezinski’s thesis written for the Trilateral Commission. Facts not conspiracy. Look at Carter’s policies with respect to Africa and Central America. All based upon Global Plan 2000. Conspiracy ? If you believe JFK was shot by a single shooter you are without hope. Scientifically impossible. Do the Christians a favor open your eyes and pray every day for GOD to reveal the truth to you and see how quickly your opinion of the real world we live in will evolve.

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  23. Hi Joe
    Good article.
    Fake news has got a lot to answer for.
    When world leaders find that they can successfully manipulate people to accept just about anything and then bully anybody who is professionally responsible for questioning it, small wonder the world is confused.
    The truth is what’s at stake.
    Science is the method by which we can arrive at the truth.
    Scientism is the religion that science can answer every question even though it can’t.
    I’ve been reading John C Lennox lately and its struck me that just because there is a commitment to science, it doesn’t mean we have the truth.
    Everything is a hypothesis and the straw man hypothesis we adopt as “fact,” is just the best there is until it’s credibly disproven.
    But we should be cautious about when to classify a hypothesis as fact.
    Some hypotheses can be re-classified as fact because it’s well proven and is classed as reliable.
    But others are not and should remain hypotheses.
    Most conspiracy theories are just hypotheses with little supporting evidence. Sometimes they are just supported by other hypotheses masquerading as facts but are actually hypotheses unproven.
    Conspiracy theorists jump to conclusions too quickly.
    And in so doing, they cause great harm, to others as well as themselves.
    The recent and tragic death of the flat earth “researcher” in his home-made rocket is a salient example.
    I totally agree that Christians should be committed to the truth, and so if the scientific method is the best way we can investigate a matter to find the truth, then we need to be good scientists, curious, open-minded, cautious, methodical and not quick to jump to conclusions, confident to call it either way i.e. if there is insufficient evidence then we say its unproven; if there is sufficient evidence then we say its either proven or disproved.
    If John 14:6 is true, then when we seek the truth, we seek Jesus, and through Him, God.
    What’s not to like about that?

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  24. Do you realize that to be a Christian you sound the like one of the biggest nut jobs out there? A man rising from the dead? Talking donkeys, water turned to wine, an evil serpent who was thrown from heaven? The entire Bible sounds like a conspiracy theory! Most conspiracies are really just doing your own research and connecting dots, instead of blindly believing the naarative you’re told. As Christians we should be the first to question and test the spirits instead of being so naive as to blindly believe that those in government and science are exempt from corruption. Labeling someone a conspiracy theorist for daring to question naaratives given by a corrupt and wordly system is an insult and lacks any critical thought on your part. Satan is the master deceiver and yet most Christians gullibly swallow whatever their worldly establishments tell them. I suppose they find it wild to believe a sinister evil is out there to deceive and corrupt the souls of as many people as he can and that using greedy, power hungry people who have no love for God or truth would ever be capable of such evil. I suppose they also not honest with themselves on their own selfish, sinful corrupt nature, other wise it wouldn’t be so hard to imagine. I suppose they also are narsasistic and naive enough to believe that “the government wouldn’t do that” otherwise it would shatter their little bubble they live in, in the privileged life they lead. I suspect if you ask those who have not had such a privileged life they would not be so quick to believe official naaratives. You could start with our African American brothers and sisters.

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  25. Mt 28:11-15
    11While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. 12When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, 13telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.

    If this isn’t a conspiracy, then I don’t know what is. If believing the Bible makes me a conspiracy theorist, then so be it.

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      1. As I understood it he’s saying the story the chief priests and elders concocted that Jesus’ body had been stolen during the night was a conspiracy to discount the resurrection.

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  26. The question to a conspiracy theorist is, “What facts would disprove your theory?” If there aren’t any, the theory is meaningless. A theory that explains everything explains nothing.

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  27. Very good article. But unless I missed it you left out the most important reason people support conspiracy theories: They support them when their view of reality is threatened by the real facts, so they have to invent or embrace a conspiracy in order to avoid having to face facts they don’t want to face.

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  28. This is a thoughtful, thought-provoking article that addresses issues at the core of the division evident among citizens of not only the United States but of the world.
    In support of being accurate I would like to tweak a couple of statements.
    The man guilty of shooting innocent people in the DC pizza restaurant did so because he was convinced (by a conspiracy theory) that the establishment was filled with adults guilty of egregious sexual abuse of children, not that he thought it was filled with those children.
    Also, it would be offensive to anyone to be described as not having enough intelligence to understand the underlying reasons for the existence of a conspiracy theory or the workings of entities creating such theories. People usually believe what they believe based on what their own life experiences and/or education have convinced them of. Minimal intellectual curiosity and time to study (not lack of inability to comprehend when given facts, I.e. intelligence ) mixed with fear allows them to be open to falsehoods. Truth mixed with love – acceptance of the individual as an equal, a person of worth – is the only antidote to this pandemic of division we are experiencing.

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  29. Thank you. It is very difficult to generalize to all Christians, or even American Christians, due to huge difference in the faith – both across geography and time. Christianity in America has already birthed some very unusual sects with some very unusual beliefs – take for example, Mormonism. Lack of belief in a virgin birth, multiple celestial heavens, God’s residence on a planet near the star name Kolob – let’s just say that these things are not recognizably Christian in the historical understanding of that faith. It seems to me like Mormons have evolved a newer, post-Christian, but Christian adjacent faith. American evangelicals, in my opinion, seem to have gone down a similar path. Important tenants of their faith appear to be free market capitalism, the supremacy of some aspects of Northern-European culture (although not necessarily skin color, at least to all of them), and the complete rejection of traditional any social responsibility to those outside their community (or considering joining their community). I think there is a danger to Christianity itself in this fracturing of belief, because it seems that growing numbers of people, especially younger people, are deciding that if that is what Christianity is, they want nothing to do with it. I was raised in an evangelical family in the Deep South, and have rejected evangelicalism entirely and believe it is truly evil. I think it is far past time that the christian community places bounds around what is, and is not, considered to be “Christianity” or the religion will pass into the dustbin of history.

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    1. Hear, hear. Which is why the bible, freedom of speech, discussion and debate is so important as a filter for testing such ideas.

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  30. Just a reminder. You use the word “Christian” to write about common traits of Evangelical Fundamentalist Christian believers/church members. Those of us Christians, who are just as entitled to the description but belong to churches that do not revile science but see the real, factual world as part of God’s wonderful Creation, find your use deeply insulting. In fact, the cooptation of the word Christian by a crowd of believers who, in polls, suffer from belief in white supremacy in inordinately high numbers and, in blatant attraction to raw power, support a President who, by his actions, is anti-Christ, deeply corrupt and immoral, and subject to a vast catalogue of public, admitted and non-atoned sin, is in itself sinful. Do the truth a favor and stop using Christian to describe the virtual opposite.

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  31. Thanks for your very helpful analysis. Maybe you edited the post after some people criticized you for saying you “don’t know” why Christians fall for conspiracy theories. I can’t find that quotation in what you wrote, and the most helpful part of the piece to me is the last section in which you, in fact, put forth some pretty good theories on why Christians tend to be gullible. As for the commenter who said that religion quashes critical thinking and problem solving, perhaps he’s forgetting Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, al-Khwarizmi, Pascal, Newton, Bach, Dostoevsky, and many others like them. Thanks again.

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  32. University of Alaska has recently proven the theory that at least one building (WTC7) was demolished in the events on 9/11/2001 New York. Things like this that get no mention in any media platform but are anything but a theory anymore while information like this is force-fed to us and recommended is like putting explosives on the fire of conspiracy theorists. This is why we have an idiot for a president, he knew how to appeal to people’s ignorance and a veil has been thrown over current events in our modern time. People who refuse to look through the lens of manipulation put forth by corporate media will stumble lost through the darkness.

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