Is God a conspiracy theory?

Religious beliefs have a lot in common with paranoid “conspiracy theory” beliefs. It’s worth taking a look, and asking the question: Is God just one big conspiracy theory?

First, let’s look at some of the superficial similarities between the most common religious beliefs and paranoid “conspiracy theory” types of beliefs.

1) There is something that has extraordinary powers that knows the intimate details of your life, your mind, and your intentions even before you act.

2) This thing with extraordinary powers has a specific agenda, and will punish you if you do not comply with that agenda.

3) There is no direct evidence (only indirect evidence) that this thing with extraordinary powers exists and acts within the world.

When this “something” is the Illuminati or “The Jews” or a top-secret government cabal that nobody has ever heard of, we refer to these beliefs as a “conspiracy theory”. But when the “something” is God, we refer to the exact same set of beliefs simply as “religion”.

And that is just the surface similarity.

But above and beyond that, there is also a similarity in the way these beliefs are treated by people when they are thinking.

Psychologists and anthropologists who study religious belief have long recognized that religious beliefs operate in a manner that is different from “regular beliefs”. Religious beliefs are constructed in a way that is inherently non-falsifiable. There exists no experiment that can falsify the existence of angels, or of an afterlife, or of a God that answers all prayers. Even events that might appear on their face to deny the belief can be interpreted in a way that is not threatening to the core belief itself (e.g. “God works in mysterious ways” or “God answers all prayers, but sometimes the answer is ‘no’.”)

This is different from your normal day-to-day beliefs about the world. You believe that your friend is home, but if you go to your friend’s house and see that it is empty, you do not construct an elaborate explanation that allows you to continue the belief in the face of this new evidence: you simply stop believing that your friend is home.

Conspiracy theories, on the other hand, function exactly like religious beliefs. Any evidence that can be interpreted as consistent with the theory will be seen as supporting evidence, whereas any evidence that is inconsistent will be seen as part of the “great plan” that is obfuscating the truth.  Moreover, the belief itself is taken as a given that need not be proved.  On the contrary, the believer in a conspiracy theory (much like a believer in God) will ask a person who does not believe to prove that the theory is false.

 


 

So this raises an interesting question: Are “conspiracy theories” and “religion” just similar and overlapping mental constructs, that maybe draw on some of the same underlying elements?

Or is it more simple than that?

Is belief in God just an example of the biggest, most popular, most widely-accepted conspiracy theory in all of human history?

Religious Conspiracy



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  1. Nicole says:

    I was just thinking this same thing so I did a search & found your article. I appreciate your breakdown and can clearly see the similarities of religion and conspiracy theories.

    Might I also add that religion (at the very least Christianity) is also a Multi Level Marketing business as well. Better known as an MLM.

    In an MLM if you share the opportunity with others and they ‘buy’ into your down line p, then you move up the line. Of course in religion it’s all about your spiritual bank account, how much you believe and how much your willing to share that belief. So translation in the religious world would be the more people you convince to believe in your God, the more you move up to the higher levels of spirituality, eventually finding yourself a space, limited number of the strongest of faith, of course, into the pearly gates. The highest level achievable for a mere mortal.

    I find it so interesting that the average person doesn’t see these similarities. Although I myself am just noticing the clarity of coincidence. Whereas before I just simply saw the ignorance and rudeness and cocky attitude of blind faith of many believers.

    This is not to say that all believers are extreme but for those that are I would hope we could achieve a world where we do allow others to believe what they believe without trying to convince them to believe as we do. You know that old awesome ‘diversity’ that enriches all of our lives.

    So if God is a conspiracy theory you believe in then great. let’s just leave the recruitment out of it because then we begin to have no tolerance for others beliefs then we begin to create a world that is full of hate and frankly a scary place.

    FYI – I believe in my share of conspiracy theories I just don’t expect everyone else to believe in them too.

    Thanks again for the article Greg.

  2. Kris Nelson says:

    Wow I had this same thought on my own . Not all the exact details but the general idea.

  3. Hummer says:

    Lets treat religion as any other conspiracy theory,

    Was there at anytime a conspiracy theory that time proved to be true?

    Take for example there are alot of people who believe “The US government is spying on its citizens in a mass scale level”

    It was just “a conspiracy theory” till 2013 when evidences were presented to the public about various mass surveillance operation were happening.

    In nutshell, some conspiracy theory turned out to be evidently true.

  4. Amanda Zellers says:

    Well yeah. It totally makes sense. There’s no way adam & eve populated the earth. They would’ve had to inbred. The result of that would be children with birth defects. God, if exists wouldn’t be human or a man it would be who know..something magical. I don’t think so. So for this do called god to be reborn into Jesus it would have to be a man, but god isn’t, couldn’t be. There is no mention of dinosaurs in the book because when it was written, he had no clue. Scientists have found evidence to fill in the gaps that we evolved. So many are so tripped up in believing in Jesus being magical because in the bible it is said he gave a blind man sight with a wave of his hand. The truth that makes human possibility more sense is Jesus had a powerful mind and gave great words such as our presidents and psychiatrics to the point he was godlike. So some dude decided to write about him in a journal (for thats all the bible is to me) and fill it with guesses for he had no clue dinosaur bones were under his feet. The word god and the definition was created by man to help those to grasp something they had no clue about and it became a power higher ups used to control people with less power. One of the hidden truths about churches is they were first initaly used as a place for advice and they add god to it and look at what they became. Money makers. They say its free but then if you don’t give, you sin. The phrase you better do gods will or you will be damed for all eternity is no different than if you don’t behave santa will not give you presents. It’s control. Like the matrix. Well I took the pill, my eyes opened up and I see how far the rabbit hole goes.

  5. Carl Wayne says:

    There is indirect evidence for “God”??

    • Greg Stevens says:

      Well…. see how I get myself in trouble with wording. 😉

      “evidence” in only the weakest sense, I probably should have said.

      For a moment, instead of talking about God, let’s think about scientific theories. Suppose there is some concrete and measurable data set S. Now, you have a theory T that can explain data set S. Are you justified in saying that data set S is “evidence” for the theory?

      Welllllllll….. lots of people act that way, and it’s true in some weak sense. At minimum, dataset S has the property of NOT DISCONFIRMING theory T.

      But suppose we also have competing theories U, V and W, which are all also consistent with dataset S. Now, do we consider dataset S to be “evidence for” theory T? Sure, kinda, maybe…. but of course it’s also “evidence for” all of the other theories as well, so it’s not like it helps you decide between theory T and the others.

      Using this idea of “weak support”, many theists see much of the world as “supporting evidence” for God. The fact that there is beauty in the universe is CONSISTENT with the hypothesis that there is a God : certainly, the existence of beauty does not DISCONFIRM the God hypothesis. The fact that human beings are intelligent is CONSISTENT with the hypothesis that there is a God. And so on.

      Is this a good way to use the idea of “evidence”? Well, I don’t know. It certainly isn’t STRONG evidence… but it’s the kind of “evidence” that theists feel supports their belief.

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