Belief without evidence, empowerment through possession of revealed truths, and the surrendering of the ability to critically assess one's own convictions. What was once the hallmarks of the fledgling religious community today is the theme of the chat boards and online echo chambers that create and propagate conspiracy theory after conspiracy theory.
As Trump rallies become increasingly flooded with T-shirts referencing the “Q-Anon” persona, the rate at which the belief in the entirely implausible has become normalised is concerning, if not terrifying.
It is no coincidence that the new religion of conspiracy has found fertile grounds in the crowds of Trump supporters, for there is one symptom that has historically proven almost irresistible to ideology; disempowerment.
To the white uneducated man, no longer the inherited holder of knowledge or financial power, what greater comfort can he be offered than the assurance that his current state is due not to his own inadequacies but instead due to the mechanisations of a sinister global Zionist plot. Through centuries of Christendom the cruelties of one’s existence could be attributed to the manifestations of an interventionist God; now it is the Rothschilds or the Clintons whose omnipotent hands are the cause of social hierarchy.
Then by finding himself amongst an exclusive minority prescribed to this belief system he is suddenly ‘educated’ with a revealed truth that the majority of the population is too ‘blind’ or ‘brainwashed’ to see. Despite failing to commit himself to any serious academic endeavour throughout his life, he is the undeniable holder of knowledge, you must learn from him, the Clergyman of his creed.
Like the religious faithful, the conspiracy theorist is so invested in the veracity of his extraordinary claims that he demands the onus of proof be placed on you, the doubter, to prove his belief to be false. The insincerity of this exercise is clarified when you ask the religious or the conspiracy theorist the same question:
Suppose for a moment, that what you believe is incorrect. What evidence could I show you to convince you of that?
The answer will invariably highlight the fallacy of the construction of their belief system. The answer will prove that they have engaged in this reality never allowing for the possibility that they may have to doubt it. They have so emotionally invested themselves into their understanding of the world that any fact or truth, no matter how seemingly damaging to their argument, can instead be interpreted to reinforce their convictions. It is no longer an endeavour to understand the reality of the world in good faith; but a decision to occupy an alternate reality. Where proof is lacking, faith fills the gaps.
But what could be so terrifying about the delusions of the fringes of society, confined to the politically shunned and academically stigmatised? Those that discount the growing voice of this increasingly empowered fraternity clearly have little reverence for history. Every religion began on the fringes, deemed to be delusional and demented (with good reason), yet perpetually throughout human history these groups have grown to infest the human community, distorting the notions of truth and reality.
The internet has galvanised them, reinforced their community, and provided a vessel to prey on the susceptible in any corner of the globe. In the face of sensational drama, the antidote of reasoned understanding of complex nuance is seemingly impotent in this fight for the hearts and minds of our society's impressionable, but it is a fight that must be fought.
By underestimating the threat the religion of conspiracy poses to the human concept of truth, we invite it to grow. Whilst it is prudent to respect every person’s capacity to form beliefs there is no argument as to why any person’s beliefs should be regarded as sanctimonious. We should attack with incredulity any belief system that demands we accept extraordinary improbability without extraordinary evidence.
Humanity has always progressed upon the pursuit of truth and regressed when blinded by delusion. It is incumbent on any person who values the former to recognise, denounce, and dismantle the deluded religion of conspiracy at every turn. The cost of failure, is the loss of truth.