America has been gripped by delusional paranoia in which conspiracy theories not only flourish, they’re embraced as cold, hard fact. We must make no mistake — the people who spread these absurd conspiracy theories are intentionally creating strife and that is a grave sin.
Sadly, the people who fall for these conspiracy theories are being used, because it not only corrupts them, but they then corrupt others by spreading the lies out even further.
What is a Conspiracy Theory?
The definition of a conspiracy theory is basically this:
1 a theory that rejects the standard explanation for an event and instead credits a covert group or organization with carrying out a secret plot; 2 a belief that a particular unexplained event was caused by such a covert group; 3 the idea that many important political events or economic and social trends are the products of deceptive plots that are largely unknown to the general public
A conspiracy theory is typically a fabrication to explain away the truth and facts of a given event, story, etc. In every sense of the word, it’s a lie that becomes more exaggerated as its shared, because each person hearing the conspiracy theory, tends to add their own spin on it.
This is a brief list of some of the more common conspiracy theories being spread in recent months, despite overwhelming investigative, eyewitness, expert and recorded evidence to the contrary:
- The majority of protests that occurred this summer were violent
- COVID-19 was created in a lab in China
- The death rate from COVID-19 has been “deliberately and greatly exaggerated”
- The global COVID pandemic is a hoax
- Vaccines for COVID-19 will be used to implant tracking chips in Americans
- Donald Trump won the election, but the deep-state stole it from him
- The core of QAnon’s false theories center on a lie that Trump was elected to root out a secret child-sex trafficking ring run by Satanic, cannibalistic Democratic politicians and celebrities.
- Humans do not play a significant role in climate change and liberal environmentalist are intentionally causing climate change
- Several mass shootings in recent years were staged hoaxes and the victims were actors
“Widespread belief in conspiracy theories is cause for concern, because research links support in such theories to prejudice, violence, and terrorism. Several followers of QAnon have been charged with violent crimes, prompting the FBI to label the group a potential domestic terrorist threat in May.” – Karen Douglas, PhD, American Psychological Association
Many experts believe that people fall for conspiracy theories because they’re scared and unable to process and accept events. Often, the people who are most susceptible to the most outlandish conspiracy theories, live in a bubble of misinformation and half-truths — called “confirmation bias,” they don’t seek out fact and truth, but instead, seek out only information that may support their bias, no matter how inaccurate that bias is.
From Tom Nichols’s book, The Death of Expertise.
“Conspiracy theories are deeply attractive to people who have a hard time making sense of a complicated world and who have no patience for less dramatic explanations. Such 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.
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.”
“People do not come to the Internet so that their bad information can be corrected or their cherished theories disproven. Rather, they ask the electronic oracle to confirm them in their ignorance. In 2015 a Washington Post writer, Caitlin Dewey, worried that fact-checking could never defeat myths and hoaxes because “no one has the time or cognitive capacity to reason all the apparent nuances and discrepancies out.”3 In the end, she sighed, “debunking them doesn’t do a darn thing.”
For many conspiracy theorists, piecing together bits and pieces of innuendo, half-truths and outright lies to form a plausible explanation for events brings them a sense of comfort. For example, unable to accept Hillary Clinton as a potential president of the U.S., the conspiracy theory that she is part of a satanic cult selling and eating children out of the back of a pizza parlor, gives life to their hatred and bias. (yes, that really is one of the conspiracy theories by the way).
Good vs. Evil
Many who create, spread and fall for conspiracy theories also tend to have a very skewed view of “good vs. evil.” For them, they are champions of good and are helping to root out evil — ironically however, they’re actually confusing what is good with what is evil and vice versa. We know for example that bearing false witness, which encompasses all forms of lying, is breaking one of God’s Commandments, so how does one rationalize this when the conspiracy theory is one giant lie and often bears false witness against others?
An Outlet for Fear and Anger
As experts have concluded, people who create, spread and believe conspiracy theories are often filled with fear. Thus, desperate to grapple with their deep-seeded fear and anger, conspiracy theorists need a way to explain why this event happened, what it means, or why this person is gaining power, while someone else is not. For them, the simplest, most agreed upon logic/conclusion/evidence is not enough, because it usually doesn’t fit with their irrational bias — why accept the truth, when one can simply invent a lie? A lie that they then spread so as to attract more believers and hence, create a whole sub-group of people who all believe the lie — as the saying does, “misery loves company.”
“No, the bigger problem is that we’re proud of not knowing things. Americans have reached a point where ignorance, especially of anything related to public policy, is an actual virtue. To reject the advice of experts is to assert autonomy, a way for Americans to insulate their increasingly fragile egos from ever being told they’re wrong about anything.” – Tom Nichols, author of The Death of Expertise.
America is gripped with an unhealthy obsession with politics. We’ve allowed ourselves to be divided in to two categories: left and right. This divide was created by the news media, which has also become obsessed with politics — CNN and Fox News seem to have abandoned world news and now air political news 24 x 7. But the politicians themselves created the divide, because they no longer run on what they have an will accomplish, but instead, spend their entire campaigns demonizing their opponent. The political divide has spilled over onto the people, who consume politics at a dangerous level — many of the conspiracy theories we now see are borne out of extreme political ideology, with each side creating more and more outlandish lies to smear the other. For many, they see it as a battle between good and evil, but also, as a way to express their fear and anger. This political battle of course, makes the divide even worse and its become a vicious cycle of petty retaliation.
“These are dangerous times. Never have so many people had so much access to so much knowledge and yet have been so resistant to learning anything.” – Tom Nichols, author of The Death of Expertise
I wish we could say that there is some truth within these conspiracy theories, but given how absurd they have become, I doubt there is even a granule of truth in them. That fact alone is just one reason why conspiracy theories are toxic. The lies have become so dark and grotesque, that we’re literally spreading evil.
Obviously, not everyone is a Christian, so how other faiths deal with conspiracy theories varies. However, Christians are taught that lying (bearing false witness), is a sin and breaks one of God’s clearly issued Commandments. After all, when someone claims that Hillary Clinton is leader of a satanic cult that sells and eats children out of a pizza parlor in Washington DC, there is no doubt that is not only bearing false witness, but it’s also sowing discord.
“These six things the Lord hates, yes, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren” – Proverbs 6:16-19
In Matthew 10:16, Christ says to His disciples: “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”
Christ is calling us to be wise and innocent. Why then are Christians creating and spreading such unproven, heinous gossip and lies? Worse, why are they spreading them as if they are truths, when in fact, they are sinister lies? We are to be wise in our discerning of truth or lie and we are to be innocent in nature — creating and spreading lies is anything but innocent.
Christians should play no part in spreading gossip and lies or bearing false witness. The Bible is clear that as Christians, we have nothing to fear from this world. God is almighty and if we have true faith in Him, then the dysfunction of our earthly politics should be of no real concern to us. While conspiracies do exist, the dramatic rise in the dreadful conspiracy theories we are witnessing today, is of grave concern. Our obligation is to investigate, research and consider facts — it is not to spread darkness by propagating evil lies and innuendo. Just as no Christian should allow themselves to be led astray, we in turn should never lead anyone astray.
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” – Matthew 7:15-20
“So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” – 1 Peter 2:1-25
We’re very fortunate to live in a country in which we can voice our opinion and influence the political and cultural direction of our nation. If more people would exercise their right to reach out to their elected representatives to express their views and concerns rationally, conspiracy theories would start to fade away. Rather than spreading malicious gossip and destructive lies, the American people should become active, valuable participants in Democracy.
More from Tom Nichols, author of The Death of Expertise
“The growth of this kind of stubborn ignorance in the midst of the Information Age cannot be explained away as merely the result of rank ignorance. Many of the people who campaign against established knowledge are otherwise adept and successful in their daily lives. In some ways, it is all worse than ignorance: it is unfounded arrogance, the outrage of an increasingly narcissistic culture that cannot endure even the slightest hint of inequality of any kind.”