This isn’t the first time that I and other scholars in religious studies have turned our attention to anti-vaccination stances, QAnon, and other conspiracy theories, all of which have lots of religious connections and religious aspects. There’s more to be said about that in relation to some recent news items.
Let me begin with a brief CBS documentary on the connection between rejection of mainstream knowledge in the Yoga/New Age/crystals sorts of communities and embrace of QAnon, anti-vaccination and other conspiracy theories. This is important to know about and take into consideration, lest anyone think all of that is only or primarily connected with Evangelical Christianity. The QAnon shaman ought to have shown that not to be the case all along, but this aspect of conspiracy thinking hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves. Watch the documentary here on the CBS website.
It has also been disturbing to see Romanians sharing misinformation about the pandemic. One Baptist pastor, Daniel Branzai, has a blog, YouTube channel, and Facebook accounts where he does more than just repeat misinformation in a manner that could be considered merely misguided or mistaken. He insists “you can trust me” and “I have this from completely reliable sources.” That makes him not merely in error, but a liar. And unfortunately he’s just one of many such preachers of falsehood.
This is the heart of the problem. People are mistaking the feeling of certainty with having a belief justified by evidence. Religious, political, and other motivations may make us feel certain about things that we have never actually researched adequately. And when someone says “do your research” and you ask them for the results of their research, they either go silent or share fringe sources with clear ideological biases.
We all have a desire for certainty. Within the Bible, it’s the desire for reassurance of God’s presence that leads the Israelites to make a Golden Calf. Every single one of the people who places false trust in a fallible or deceptive source as an authority is not only guilty of breaking the commandment prohibiting falsehood. They are committing idolatry, breaking the second commandment and typically the first right along with it, since that false confidence is not ultimately in God but in themselves, or a pastor who falsely reassures them, or a website, or a political party, or some other human source.
For any Romanian readers, here is a more trustworthy perspective on this topic:
The results of a recent study of conspiracy theorists’ critical thinking skills (or lack thereof) is important.
John Squires shared this guest post on his blog:
Also related to the discussion of misguided extremism, Richard Beck said he thinks Star Wars fans are one step away from being suicide bombers. I strongly disagree, not just on the characterization but even more so the sweeping generalization. I suspect he would not make such generalizations about Muslims. Beck ought to know better, and to do better.
For English speakers this video is relevant: