How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
Conspiracy and Religion
Conspiracy has a surprisingly close relationship with religions and other forms of belief.
We all have a need to believe. Whatever our attitudes towards science, religion, conspiracies, magic or whatever, in the end we must believe in something.
Voltaire said ‘If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him’. This highlights the way we will create beliefs to satisfy our deep needs. Likewise, conspiracy theorists need conspiracies to help give their lives meaning. Without the conspiracy to believe in, they would feel less invigorated and more bored.
By definition, conspiracies are secret, with much that is unknown and usually every aspect of the conspiracy being denied by those who are accused of conspiring. Without confession or clear evidence, the conspiracy in general and specific details of it are left in an uncertain state.
Conspiracy theorists take denial as proof, yet this in itself requires belief. In fact the whole uncertainty of conspiracies means only those who are prepared to believe will join the theorists in their activism.
Uncertainty creates doubt, which necessitates belief. The more a thing cannot be proved, the more important it is that people must have faith in the tenets of the theory. Which of course it is: a theory, though its followers assume it is true rather than theory.
Science assumes all of its laws are theory, and openly calls them so, though scientists treat them as facts, as much from convenience as faith, which they still have.
The more you doubt, the more you have to believe if you are to retain the faith. In this way religious zealots often have a core doubt which they deny and cover up with loud preaching as they seek to convert others whose faith will shore up their own.
Goethe understood the zeal of strong believers when he said ‘We are so constituted that we believe the most incredible things; and, once they are engraved upon the memory, woe to him who would endeavour to erase them!’
In the end, while doubts may nag, belief can be self-healing, especially when it is designed to be so. Disasters that you might think a loving God would avoid are explained by tenets such as 'God moves in mysterious ways'. Conspiracy theorists likewise have stock phrases such as 'They would say that, wouldn't they'.
As with religions, conspiracy theories tend to have something equivalent to a priesthood. Priests are teachers and guardians of the faith, working to sustain a common understanding and ardent faith.
Priests are organized, with a hierarchy of knowledge and faith, such that the inner circle are almost like gods themselves, where their word is taken as absolute truth that cannot be challenged.
Priests are human and often enjoy the power that priesthood brings. This can lead to dysfunctional ways of behaving, such as holding in 'secret knowledge' and exaggerating the theory in order to increase their personal status as well as that as the theory.