The Danger of Conspiracy Theories

Besides highlighting the word “Zion” or “Sion,” the two conspiracy theories [that of the ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion’ and that of The Da Vinci Code] share an understanding of how to deal with ideas you disagree with. Rather than taking traditional Christian beliefs at face value and arguing against them (as I do in my current book, by the way), Brown portrays the religion itself as resting upon a conscious deception. That excuses him from having to make arguments at all.

Anti-Semites do the same thing. Rather than coming out honestly against Darwinism or Marxism or modernity in general, they concoct a story about Judaism as a lie and a conspiracy. “Protocols” remains a global phenomenon of staggering popularity, especially in the Arab world.

I emphasize that Brown never intended to foment bigotry. Yet to the cause of conspiracy theorizing, he has done a wonderful favor, training his readers in the habits of paranoia and gullibility. For people committed to finding the truth through investigation and argumentation, that’s depressing.

As for Jews, we haven’t fared well when the culture we live in turns to entertaining fantasies and delusions at the expense of an unfashionable religion. The success of Brown’s book, now transformed into a movie blockbuster, is bad news indeed.

So argues David Klinghoffer.

After reading this article it occurred to me that modern conspiracy theories are simply the contemporary form of the scapegoat myths that Girard writes of. As I didn’t have the time to argue the case in full, I thought that I would Google and find someone else who makes my case for me. The popular thirst for Michael Moores and Dan Browns is a disturbing sign of the times. Such men are feeding a very dangerous appetite. This aspect of The Da Vinci Code concerns me far more than its direct attack upon the faith. Even if we answer all of the claims of the books of Dan Brown and others, their readers are increasingly likely to take refuge in some more elaborate conspiracy theory than to answer to the call of the truth.

I feel compelled to add that many Christians are gifted conspiracy theorists. Creationist claims of a scientific conspiracy, claims of the vast political conspiracies of liberalism, claims of theological conspiracies in our denominations: these are all popular within Christian circles. They are all means by which public debate retreats into the darkness. As those who are called to come into the light, we should know an awful lot better.

About Alastair Roberts

Alastair Roberts (PhD, Durham University) writes in the areas of biblical theology and ethics, but frequently trespasses beyond these bounds. He participates in the weekly Mere Fidelity podcast, blogs at Alastair’s Adversaria, and tweets at @zugzwanged.
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4 Responses to The Danger of Conspiracy Theories

  1. Mark Roberts says:

    very interesting read.

  2. Pingback: Sacred Journey » Blog Archive » The Danger of Conspiracy Theories - Blog of Mark Traphagen

  3. xdell says:

    Other than the obvious Anti-Semitism of “The Protocols,” you really don’t explain or survey any of the “dangers” of so-called ‘conspiracy theory.’ That would perhaps be acceptable if anti-Semitism made up the bulk of the conspiracy community, but it doesn’t. Nor does wanting an honest accounting of untoward events dangerous. In short, you seem to have embraced a stereotype of speculative journalists and historians.

    If people “have a thirst” for Michael Moore, Dan Brown and the like then they do so out of the growing distrust of mass media, and mass-mediated information sources. The tendency to put constant spin on things exacerbates this mistrust, obviously. Moreover, the increasing secrecy of government is a true cause for alarm.

    Ignoring these factors don’t give weight to legitimate activities of research, investigation, and testing hypothesies that actually constitute the bulk of conspiracy research. I would suggest that before you trash something, that you get to know it better than you apparently do.

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