On Conspiracy Theories as Gnosticism

Conspiracy theories are a lot like Gnosticism.

They claim that only an enlightened few know what is actually going on in the world and what almost everyone else knows is a lie; that the knowledge available to the average person on the street is unreliable

The true believer who spreads these conspiracies is like the member of a mystery cult: in the “know” no matter how disconnected from important events he or she may be, no matter how unreal their imagined scenarios are in the face of realities.

And by implication, most people trying to make their way in the world and care for their families, who have almost no time for anything but work, and precious little time for reflection, have not the first clue (again, according to the conspiratorially-obsessed).

Only the most centered and widely-informed persons can resist the temptation to superiority, false certainty, and preoccupation that often follows this phenomenon.

The theories prey on those who live in understandable apprehension (in moments like this one) and increase the every day anxiety of many. Conspiratorial whispers and broadcasts are a scourge, as destructive on human trust and brotherhood as a virus to the human body.

I cannot believe how many who trust in Christ are manipulated and misled in their daily lives by what is so often nonsense.

And obsession with wild speculations steals energy from the sort of practical imitation that the Spirit empowers in us when we take time to contemplate the life of Jesus: care for the stranger, the prisoner, the sick, the hungry and thirsty, the naked, the sex slave, the widow, and the orphan. It’s sexier to tell others about a fearsome secret cabal that controls everything and everyone.

The good news is that the Gospel — the things that God has done to make the world right again, what God has done to secure everyone’s future — is public information, available to everyone. And this Gospel, this Love, casts out fear.

• Kenneth Tanner, Love Rules the World, Not Conspiracy

130 thoughts on “On Conspiracy Theories as Gnosticism

  1. I would say rather that republican Comey and the FBI gift wrapped and handed the election to Trump with their October Surprise about reopening the Clinton email controversy a week before the election. Of course nothing new was found. As for removing him after the election? Trump did not have to agree to an investigation and it was republican Rod Rosenstein who appointed republican Robert Mueller.

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  2. dan, I have my suspicions but I would love to see a list of your go-to sources for coverage of all things Trump.

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  3. One of the best teachings I received from the woman who mentored me was to read through the book of Revelation in a spirit of worship. That made all the difference. Yes, read through to build knowledge, develop some vague and general ideas about Christ’s return, note the figurative language, connect Revelation to all the other books of the Bible, but more than anything, read through it while praying and worshiping the great I AM. It has brought me much comfort and joy to study Revelation in this way.

    And like my husband says, “Look at how much the Jews messed up in understanding what the prophets said about the coming Messiah. What makes us think we’ll do better?”

    Peace.

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  4. HUG, I’ve gotten myself behind on Wartburg discussions, but I did see the article about John Piper’s book Coronavirus and Christ. So these people can take comfort in Piper.

    I’m sticking with: “Who sinned, this man or his parents…”

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  5. I agree. I led a study in Isaiah a couple years ago and it is/was very clear that any nation that becomes a bit too prideful and arrogant is in danger — while I won’t necessarily say “of feeling God’s wrath” — of losing His protection. That was the way most of us in class saw it, anyway. The USA would seem to fit that bill at times, as do many other nations.

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  6. I agree. It is a timeless lesson in the ultimate triumph of God’s kingdom. In that sense it gives hope to all believers in any generation.

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  7. Never mind the faux conspiracy, the administration should worry about the outbreak of coronavirus among White House staffers that seems to be happening right now — even with all the preventative measures being taken by security staff there every day — and reflect on what that means for reopening the rest of the country.

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  8. The author of Revelation speaks of Rome, but Revelation is in the canon because it is also an archetype of how history treats great, arrogant nations that revel in luxury and power and think they will last for ever. If the shoe fits, wear it, but don’t be so vain as to think the book was written specially for you.

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  9. Was Lindsay a believer in “Project Blue Beam” (in which the government is said to be preparing to fake mass UFO landings, in order to pave the way for the one-world state of the antichrist)? He mentions something about demons masquerading as space aliens in “The 1980s: Countdown to Armageddon.”

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  10. While I assume the passages refer to ancient Rome, their message is an eternal one, which can apply to many times and places. The Bible deals in archetypes.

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  11. D.H. Lawrence wrote a nonfiction book called “Apocalypse” which, although is a bit dated and the work of an amateur, is still pretty sensible.

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  12. I don’t know that this speaks directly to the US, but to me it looks like the whole world’s economic system that is being judged in this passage. What we’re seeing now may not be the direct fulfillment of it, but we can surely get a taste of what it will be like when it comes by what we’re going through now.

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  13. But there is also another aspect to conspiracy theories that sustains them: they require a bad guy, an enemy, an Other who is doing the conspiring against us

    Like The Gay Agenda(TM) after your Christian Children?

    . And having a bad guy everyone agrees on is great for whipping up the masses, raising money, and manufacturing outrage.

    Look at Christian Culture War activism.
    False Prophets (corrupt religious system) delivering them gift-wrapped to The Beast (corrupt political system).

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  14. Lindsay’s Revealed TRVTH was that God showed John a “movie” of The End (1980s at the latest, including and especially Global Thermonuclear War) and left John to describe it as best he could.

    The result was a specific type of End Times Rapture Ready attitude I called “Christians For Nuclear War” (It’s Prophesied! It’s Prophesied!) Do I need to tell anyone just how dangerous an attitude that is?

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  15. Around a year ago I heard a partial Preterist interpretation where the Whore of Babylon represents a corrupt economic system, the Beast a corrupt political system, and the False Prophet a corrupt religious system, all in cahoots.

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  16. “SOUTHWEST RADIO CHURCH. TODAY’S NEWS IN LIGHT OF BIBLE PROPHECY.”
    — Famous End Times Ministry on local Christianese radio. Basically reading news items and PROVING from SCRIPTURE that they were signs of The Rapture Is Nigh. (Ay minute now… Any minute now… Any minute now…)

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  17. My question is do you really think every world leader, almost every doctor and nurse and health official in the world are in on it and are all keeping their mouth shut about it? Really?

    But of course, You Stupid Ignorant Sheeple. EVERYONE EXCEPT US IS PART OF THE CONSPIRACY.

    “If your Conspiracy Theory doesn’t fit the facts, INVENT A BIGGER CONSPIRACY.”
    — Kooks Magazine

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  18. COVID-19 = Global = Not God’s wrath against USA

    Too many ‘Muricans making this about ‘Murica.

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  19. As this winds down , I will inject this thought , does the current events happening in Washington D.C. where it appears the FBI and Justice Dept. were involved in a conspiracy to remove Trump as President or to weakened him politically. I am really surprised that the FBI and Justice Dept. acted in such a way, I honestly did not believe it but it appears there is fire where the smoke was. I know the majority here will pooh pooh the notion but it does appear there was a conspiracy by Comey and the gang. So maybe sometimes the conspiracy theory might have more than a grain of truth. It appears that they knew there was no Trump Russia collusion and still pursued investigation.

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  20. Couldn’t there be a sort of ‘mytho-historical’ pattern though? It’s not outlandish to compare the USA to the Roman empire from a purely historical standpoint. Couldn’t it be ‘applicable’ (to borrow a Tolkienian word) to apply aspects of Revelation to the USA, or even “the West” right now?

    Now, claiming a unique significance for the US in Biblical prophecy, I would completely agree.

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  21. Which again speaks to the gnostic arrogance of modern dispensationalist interpretations. The original context of both the authors and contemporary recipients are reduced to irrelevance.

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  22. Yep. One of the first steps in the ‘Dictator’s Playbook’ is to find a scapegoat, someone to blame for all the problems, a common enemy. Mussolini had the socialists (many of whom were not ‘real italians’), Hitler had the Jews, Idi Amin had the Indians the British settled in Ethiopia. Dictators often use conspiracies to manipulate and unify their followers.

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  23. On a somewhat related tangent, the Canadian literary critic and theorist Northrop Frye’s The Great Code: The Bible and Literature is a tour de force exploration of how the array of literary symbols, metaphors, and themes deployed throughout the Bible has influenced Western literature through the centuries. Oh, he dabbles in religious and mystical overlap with imaginative creativity, but with the hand of an interpretative master who intends to open up the literary horizons and connections between the Biblical canon and the wider universe of Western literature. Don’t let the word code scare you here either. I recommend the book.

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  24. Since Rev 1:1 says ‘these things are to take place soon’ (and ‘tachos’ means ‘soon’ as in ‘soon’, not 2000+ years later) most scholars today see that wealthy nation as the Roman Empire, though some preterists see it as Jerusalem. Either way, it’s not real likely that John would comfort first-century persecuted Christians by telling them about the fall of a nation 2000 years in the future. Not much immediate comfort in that.

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  25. The USA wasn’t a nation when Revelation was written. Why would we consider it special enough to be included in a prophecy? In the lifetime of nations ours is barely a blip.

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  26. Metzger’s ‘Breaking the Code’ refers to understanding the imagery the way the original readers would. He provides comparisons to other ancient apocalypses to show how the symbols were well-known to Jewish readers in the first century (and nothing like the sensationalist views of Lindsey, et al).. Metzger was a top-notch scholar, who was in charge of the translation team for the NRSV. He had a Ph.D. from Princeton and taught there for many years. It is a very good little book.

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  27. Good post and all sadly true. But there is also another aspect to conspiracy theories that sustains them: they require a bad guy, an enemy, an Other who is doing the conspiring against us. And having a bad guy everyone agrees on is great for whipping up the masses, raising money, and manufacturing outrage.

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  28. Dana, I trust your recommendations, but a book about Revelation titled “Breaking the Code” has sirens and warning lights flashing in my mind! Lol

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  29. Myra,

    I echo Dana’s suggestion of the For Everyone series, though I haven’t read the one on Revelation.

    I read a protestant commentary on it called Triumph of the Lamb awhile back by Dennis Johnson, and it was decent. Some of it was only so-so.

    I’ve heard great things about Richard Bauckham’s Reading Revelation Responsibly. I’m guessing that’s pretty scholarly. Haven’t read it myslef but I tend to like Bauckham and the scholars he “runs with.”

    I used to read a lot of FF Bruce and loved him. He has an accessible book called “The Message of the New Testament” that includes Revelation, albeit a smaller section. Really good. Easy to read. The whole book was great, if I recall.

    In general, I think it’s best to get the gist of Revelation in broad outline, and maybe just hang out there for awhile, considering and contemplating from that vantage, rather than diving into the meaning of every weird little image and reference in it. I don’t know how far into your search you are. But that’s where I generally stay with Revelation.

    A vantage point that says something like: “This book is about the Victory of the Lamb over evil and the enemies of God, and the vindication of the suffering church.” I can’t trust anything that doesn’t use that or something like it as its starting point and main purpose.

    One thing I’m wary of is any interpretation that claims to know more about Jesus from Revelation than is revealed in the Gospels. As you say- we should be quoting from the Gospels most frequently to understand Jesus himself. Revelation and its events are merely application, or vindication, or instantiation, of what is already known about him in the Gospels, and through the cross and resurrection. E.g., Jesus isn’t a meek lamb conquering by dying in the Gospels, but then he comes back with vengeance and a sword to slaughter non-believers in Revelation. We don’t get to import any phantasmagorical madness into our portrait of Jesus, especially where it’s so hard to interpret Revelation in detail. We have 4 Gospels revealing one gospel, and one Apocalypse. Not 5 Gospels revealing 3-7 gospels and counter-gospels as the whim of the reader desires.

    -Nate

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  30. Find the commentaries by N.T. Wright and Eugene Peterson.

    And my opinion the number one best is “Reading Revelation Responsibly” by Michael Gorman.

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  31. Astounding how many want the rattle the Keys in your face despite their not having any access to them.

    “God will be glorified by your salvation or by your damnation, Mule”, I was told by a Reformed ‘brother’. “Tell me something that isn’t a tautology”, I replied, thereby manifesting my reprobation.

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  32. Touche’. One or the other is part of a conspiracy, we will soon know which one. Schiff should release the evidence he has been holding back about Trump collusion with Russia, Time is running out and now is the time to put a nail in Trump’s coffin with evidence Schiff has gathered.

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  33. I agree with those about the chips being implanted in the general public. Lays has cleverly concealed their chips in potatoes , who they thin and fry. To insure that all people are properly chipped there is another brand that appeals to the Wise. The gullible public willingly put these chips into their body. How clever to id your intent by boldly put the chip as part of the packaging. This is pure evil as they are addictive and they even make you pay for the chips.

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  34. Myra,

    I’d go to N.T. Wright’s “For Everyone” series – study guides for all the books of the New Testament – for solid scholarship and a healthy point of view. There is one for Revelation.

    Also, Bruce Metzger’s “Breaking the Code” was very helpful for me when I was a Protestant. There’s a revised edition that looks good.

    In the Orthodox Church, we hold Revelation to be part of Scripture, but we give weight only to the depictions of the Church therein, and the reality that Christ returns and makes everything right. The early Greek Christian theologians already (3rd – 5th centuries) basically said, “This book is full of figurative language, and we’re not going to make any guesses about what it means, because it’s a different thing than how the figurative language of the Scriptures (meaning the writings of the Jews, our OT.) works typologically to point us to Christ.”

    Hope you will check into the books by Wright and Metzger.

    Dana

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  35. Can any of you scholars on here suggest a writer who is a reliable teacher on the Book of Revelation?

    Perhaps Revelations: Visions, Prophecy, and Politics in the Book of Revelation by Elaine Pagels.

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  36. Yet the End Times Prophecy purveyors have turned the Bible into a book of coded secrets

    I think the one that drove me the most crazy were the supposed secret messages in Michael Drosnin’s The Bible Code. The fact that equidistant letter sequences could also be used to fine the names of all the US Presidents in Moby Dick seemed to make no impression on the “true believers.”

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  37. When I was a pastor people would often ask for a bible study. I always knew when this was on the table that someone would mention Revelation. I actually tried it once — not more than that! But interest seemed to wane when I pointed out what modern scholars and the easier to understand passages actually say to us.

    Now if I had come prepared with complicated charts showing the schemes of satan, the anti-christ, the horsemen, hellfire — then they may have loved it. But they would have left knowing absolutely nothing.

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  38. Thank you for your concern, Rick Ro.

    One day at a time.

    My son made it home from Alaska in time to say goodbye to his father, and for this I will always be eternally grateful to God and very grateful to the US Coast Guard. My son so dearly loved his father.

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  39. And the second version of Gnosticism — belief in the centrality and all-importance of being well-informed to act rightly– is the one most prevalent among my own tribe, liberals.

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  40. I think Luther was right to keep Revelation at arms length, and suspect its canonicity (if only he’d kept a number of other things at arms length, referring to his readiness to give an imprimatur to the persecution of other kinds of Christians and Jews!). I think the Eastern Orthodox Church is also very careful and circumspect about its interpretation and use in public worship.

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  41. My apologies to the sheep. In my defense, I haven’t eaten many of them in my life, not being particularly fond of the way they taste.

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  42. Only the most centered and widely-informed persons can resist the temptation to superiority, false certainty, and preoccupation that often follows this phenomenon.

    What you say in your comment is why I don’t quite agree with the entire gist of the quotation above. One can be wrong about a good many matters of fact, even seriously wrong, and terribly misinformed rather than widely informed; yet, if one is centered in Jesus’ teaching, one will treat ones neighbors, ones enemies, and those in need the way God would have one treat them. Gnosticism — in the sense of being in the know — and conspiracy theory are related, yes, but so is Gnosticism and the belief that having enough of the right information — being widely informed — is necessary for one to act in a loving, just, and humble way.

    Damn it!

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  43. “and then there are those, not true believers themselves, who for recreation or money add fuel to the conspiracy theory fires to create social and political conflagrations that they profit from one way or another.”

    I think most right-wing media personalities fall into this category. I was having a discussion the other day with someone who believes officials are inflating covid death numbers (again, to make the president look bad). I noted that the head of emergency services in NYC thinks they are under-reported. He noted that they are seeing about 10 times the number of deaths they usually see and thinks many of those must be from people with covid who just didn’t go to the hospital and died at home. This person responded ‘and why should I believe him?’ My response was ‘what does he have to gain?’ Is he going to get a raise or make more money or get rich from lying about this?’ Now if you look at the right-wing media folks they have a LOT to gain from spreading false information. Their paycheck comes from selling outrage and conspiracy theories. That in itself is good enough reason for a rational person to question what they say, but conspiracies and rationality don’t go hand in hand. As the old saying goes, ‘follow the money’.

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  44. There is (or was) a guy over at Wartburg Watch who’s made exactly THAT his Litmus Test of your Salvation.

    What?! That is not in the Bible!

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  45. “Lack of evidence for The Conspiracy is PROOF The Conspiracy is so Vast They Can Silence Anybody/Everybody.”

    My main argument against conspiracies is just that – conspiracies by their very nature are secretive and you can’t have ‘VAST’ conspiracies for that reason (‘deep state’ or otherwise). You can’t get 3 guys robbing a bank to keep their mouths shut. One of them is going to run his mouth or flash some cash and blow the whole deal. How can you get a vast number of people to go along with a conspiracy, and keep their mouths shut?

    There are a scary number of people who think coronavirus is a vast conspiracy to undermine the president. My question is do you really think every world leader, almost every doctor and nurse and health official in the world are in on it and are all keeping their mouth shut about it? Really?

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  46. You’re right. It is CHEM trails. See how gullible and uninformed I am? I guess I am a sheeple 😉

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  47. Thanks, Seneca. We might not agree on much, but it’s nice to know that this is one thing we can approve together!

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  48. My favorite was a story about how Trump ended the ‘con-trails’ program (a conspiracy that the government has been spreading drugs to brainwash us in the air via con-trails from airliners).

    That’s CHEM-trails, not con-trails.

    That version just mixes in “TRUMP as Savior” to bring the Christians aboard.

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  49. I always find it interesting that so many believers seem to spend so much time and energy on end time prophecies. They always assume that every hardship or disaster means Jesus is returning tomorrow.
    There are many things in the Bible that are truly hard to understand or are just open to different interpretations by people who study and love the Bible. But, Jesus clearly said that no one knows when he’s returning. So why all the theories on it? My grandmother was very much into speculating. Every negative news story meant that the end was near. I used to tell her she needed to watch a different channel. (I did try to say that kindly:)

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  50. REVELATION does talk about the economic fall of a greatly wealthy nation

    Rev 18
    9 And the kings of the earth, who committed fornication and lived in luxury with her, will weep and wail over her when they see the smoke of her burning; 10 they will stand far off, in fear of her torment, and say,

    “Alas, alas, the great city,
    Babylon, the mighty city!
    For in one hour your judgment has come.”

    11 And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn for her, since no one buys their cargo anymore, 12 cargo of gold, silver, jewels and pearls, fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet, all kinds of scented wood, all articles of ivory, all articles of costly wood, bronze, iron, and marble, 13 cinnamon, spice, incense, myrrh, frankincense, wine, olive oil, choice flour and wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, slaves—and human lives.[d]

    14
    “The fruit for which your soul longed
    has gone from you,
    and all your dainties and your splendor
    are lost to you,
    never to be found again!”

    15 The merchants of these wares, who gained wealth from her, will stand far off, in fear of her torment, weeping and mourning aloud,

    16
    “Alas, alas, the great city,
    clothed in fine linen,
    in purple and scarlet,
    adorned with gold,
    with jewels, and with pearls!

    17
    For in one hour all this wealth has been laid waste!”
    [ Just saw an article noting we’ve added a trillion dollars in debt in the last TWENTY-EIGHT DAYS.]

    [ More than a few scholar/theologians over the years have alikened the U.S.A. to Babylon. Nations have a lifespan; perhaps we have reached ours. ]

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  51. “If you want to know what God is like, you better know what Jesus is like. If you want to know what Jesus is like, you better read the Gospels.”

    A very hearty amen to that suggestion Rick. Read and re-read.

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  52. The ability to predict the future accurately bestows the predictor with a measure of power. Primates like this. It allows them to survive in adverse environments. Now, science does this very well, but best with inanimate objects. The more agency the object has, the less accurately science can predict the outcome.

    Occultism and magic stem from the same impulse. They claim to predict the outcome when highly agentive objects are evaluated. The track record for occultism and magic has been nowhere near as successful as that of science, but the higher payoff ensures that it will never be lacking for defenders or practitioners.

    Now, a highly symbolic and suggestive religious text swarming with archtypes? Bingo, jackpot!

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  53. Robert F. You should not have brought Adam Schiff into the conversation, he has enough on his plate now.

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  54. Agree. People can do some weird stuff with the Sermon On The Mount, but the twisting gets rather obvious pretty quickly.

    It is difficult to construct a really good conspiracy around: “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.”

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  55. > Why is this book talked about as if we really have any inkling of what it will be like?

    Shorter version: Why is this book talked about SO MUCH?

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  56. > Can any of you scholars on here suggest a writer who is a reliable teacher on the Book of Revelation?

    No.

    > There are so many teachers out there who seem to have all the answers.

    No.

    > Do we really think we have any understanding of it in present-day terms?

    No.

    And it should always be a primary question: What answers do you need, and WHY do you need them? To do what?

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  57. > They’re not sheep

    Correct. Calling them sheep is an insult to honest livestock which are just quietly living their day to day lives.

    What these people are is rabid. Sheep don’t go rabid.

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  58. Or, to put it another way… You can read Revelation just about any way you choose. The words of Jesus are far less twistable.

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  59. “Why is this book talked about as if we really have any inkling of what it will be like?
    Why are the four Gospels, the words of Jesus, quoted so rarely?”

    The cynic in me thinks that it’s because it’s a lot more fun to speculate on how God is going to smack down our enemies than it is to meditate on the fact that His Incarnate Son commanded us to love those enemies.

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  60. They’re not sheep – they’re BSers. (Reference Harry Frankfurt’s seminal work on the subject.) They don’t care about the actual, external reality truth – it’s about whatever belief makes them feel good and/or enrages their supposed enemies. The fact that the conspiracies advocated contradict each other goes a long way towards proving that point.

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  61. > The social and political ramifications of such play are staggering and destructive.

    Hell yes.

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  62. –> “Why are the four Gospels, the words of Jesus, quoted so rarely?”

    My mantra over the past several years has been, Every Christian should read a gospel account at least once a year to be reminded of what was important to Jesus and how he approached things. After all…

    “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being…” (Hebrews 1:3a)

    If you want to know what God is like, you better know what Jesus is like. If you want to know what Jesus is like, you better read the Gospels.

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  63. Can any of you scholars on here suggest a writer who is a reliable teacher on the Book of Revelation?
    There are so many teachers out there who seem to have all the answers.
    Do we really think we have any understanding of it in present-day terms?
    Will a blond haired blue eyed Christ appear, etc.
    Why is this book talked about as if we really have any inkling of what it will be like?
    Why are the four Gospels, the words of Jesus, quoted so rarely?

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  64. I have a relative that is openly preaching the prophecy that Bill Gates, along with Doctor Fauci is preparing a chip that everyone will be forced to have implanted.

    “SIX-SIXTY-SIX!!!!! DON’T TAKE THE MARK!!!!!”
    (Just wear the MAGA hat — Mark of the Trump — on your forehead instead…)

    That is everyone who are left after the rapture occurs — which she expects just any moment.

    Any Minute Now… Any Minute Now… Any Minute Now…

    This is just the Rapture Ready crowd hooking up with the latest headlines. Nothing like reading 50+ year old End Times books which point to now-forgotten headlines as PROOF! THIS IS IT!!!!! Proof texts and all.

    And they are contemplating this rapturously.

    “They are living in the prologue to Left Behind and find it all Very Exciting.”

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  65. Yet the End Times Prophecy purveyors have turned the Bible into a book of coded secrets that must be correctly decoded so that the Christian is not deceived by the antichrist into taking the Mark of the Beast and ending up in hell as a result of not having the right information. Gnosticism 101.

    Survivor of The Gospel According to Hal Lindsay here.
    Over 40 years later and the damage is still there.

    P.S. Not “right information” — SPESHUL SEKRIT KNOWLEDGE (“Occult Gnosis”), claimed as Direct Special Revelation.
    “Occult” means “hidden” or “secret”.
    “Gnosis” means “knowledge”.
    “Gnostic” means “He Who KNOWS Things”.

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  66. I look back at myself when I was affiliated with Evangelicalism. The weird stuff I never believed but just went along with; assuming that was just part of the trappings of being “in”. How far away from conspiratorialism was that?

    Not much.
    Christians are especially prone to Conspiracy Theories — remember The Satanic Panic of the Seventies and Eighties?

    American Evangelical culture oozes and breeds Conspiracy Crackheads. Especially the Culture War branch. Not much distance to adopting Conspiracies from outside the Bubble such as Political Conspiracy.

    When The Enemy is hiding in every closet and under every bed (like WITCHES during the Burning Times), every Enemy of the Enemy becomes My Friend. Us Or Them.

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  67. And they are essentially unteachable, as for them there is nothing left to learn. Anything that confronts them is either proof of the conspiracy, or “fake news for the sheeple”. Their minds are welded shut.

    All proofs there is no Conspiracy is “Fake News” planted by The Conspiracy.
    Lack of evidence for The Conspiracy is PROOF The Conspiracy is so Vast They Can Silence Anybody/Everybody.
    All who doubt the existence of The Conspiracy are part of The Conspiracy.

    The Dwarfs are for The Dwarfs, and Won’t Be Taken In.

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  68. This pandemic is not sent by God.

    Too late, Susan.
    There is (or was) a guy over at Wartburg Watch who’s made exactly THAT his Litmus Test of your Salvation. Haven’t seen any of his long-winded Gish Gallops of OT verses in a couple weeks; either he shook the dust of all us “Scoffers” off his feet and left us to Satan or he’s been put on permanent moderation.

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  69. there was always something ‘Gnostic’ about the beliefs that ‘only those who knew of Christ and accepted Him’ were saved;
    and all the others in the world were ‘the lost’

    Again, the Gospel of Personal Salvation and Only Personal Salvation.
    At its core a Highly Selfish Gospel worthy of Ayn Rand.

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  70. I know, I know. And they even revel in these doomsday scenarios that, if they were actually true, would bring fear and despair into almost any heart.

    When I was in-country during the Age of Hal Lindsay, it was Inevitable Global Thermonuclear War as Prophesied in the Book of Revelation and revealed in the Speshul Sekrit Knowledge of Late Great Planet Earth.

    For example, I know a gal who thrills in telling us all how Bill Gates is going to make billions off the fake Covid-19 vaccine he has pre-prepared for this fake virus while simultaneously using that to inject us with tracking chips and self-replicating nanobots to control us.

    iMplanted Tracking chips?
    “SIX SIXTY SIX!!!!! DON’T TAKE THE MARK!!!!!”

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  71. I am sending a hug, Susan. Sometimes words fail us when trying to comfort others. These are difficult times for many reasons, and when the difficulties begin to compound sometimes the pain is all we can see for a while.

    Peace of Christ, give us shelter

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  72. There would be no hucksters if the marks weren’t so willing to be misled. IOW, you can’t con an honest person.

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  73. What’s especially sad and troubling is that conspiracy theorists aren’t accountable to anyone. As I’ve mentioned before, they can simply flit from one conspiracy to another to another — sometimes even doubling back on an earlier one — without any sort of accountability or “feet being held to the fire.”

    The exact same is true for End Times scenario prognosticators. How prescient Jesus was in warning against listening to such prognosticators, he knew they were coming fast on his heels with their fancy footwork. So much money to be made, so many sheep to fleece.

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  74. What’s especially sad and troubling is that conspiracy theorists aren’t accountable to anyone. As I’ve mentioned before, they can simply flit from one conspiracy to another to another — sometimes even doubling back on an earlier one — without any sort of accountability or “feet being held to the fire.” For instance, the whole Covid-19/5G thing…. that was huge just a few weeks back, now nary a peep. I truly want to take a list and wave it at them and demand they pick one and stick to it.

    But it’ll never happen. Just sheep following the voice of the next good conspiracy.

    So many of these people are Christians, too. How are their accusations against Gates and Fauci et al any different than the Pharisees’ accusations against our Lord way back when? Not a whole lot. Like I said, sad and troubling.

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  75. Even if the Jooz ran everything, and had me so pinned down under their synoptikon that they knew what brand of underwear I was wearing on any given day, it wouldn’t change my responsibility to love and support my neighbor one iota.

    Damn it!

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  76. Yep, for many of these Christians Jesus has already left the building. Perhaps some of them will get a special “talking to” upon getting to heaven.

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  77. That may be part of it, but the deleterious social and political effect is that the playing, if it is playing as you say, plays out into to serious social and political issues, like trust in science and expertise. Like David Cornwell below, I know someone, a coworker, who hates Bill Gates because he believes Gates in involved in a conspiracy to use technology to control the global population. I guarantee that my coworker would not cooperate in any nationwide project to use such technology to test and track coronavirus — he would do whatever he could to quietly sabotage it in his own orbit — and I guarantee he would not be alone in acting that way. The social and political ramifications of such play are staggering and destructive.

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  78. Yes. Unteachable. I have a close relative who would buy anything if it was wrapped in a conspiracy theory. No matter how many times I post something that clearly rebuts something silly they post on facebook it doesn’t make any difference. My favorite was a story about how Trump ended the ‘con-trails’ program (a conspiracy that the government has been spreading drugs to brainwash us in the air via con-trails from airliners). The story showed the president walking through an aircraft factory and announcing the end of this secret program. I followed the links on the post and it was posted by a site that say ‘we are a satirical site that makes fun of conspiracy theories’. Did that make any difference? None at all! it’s hopeless. A simple google search will debunk every one of these conspiracies but you can’t trust big tech, ya know.

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  79. “They know it will be soon, but it may depend partly on how quickly Gates and Fauci finish their work and have it prepared.”

    God is waiting on Gates and Fauci. Lol!

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  80. We are all having bad days, weeks, and months at present, Susan, that’s for sure. But that doesn’t minimize or neutralize what you’re feeling right now, or will be feeling tomorrow.

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  81. ” While we may despise Gates — or not — the is not doing the work of the anti-christ.”

    While we may agree with what Gates is doing or not (full disclosure: I agree with it) , he is not doing the work of the antichrist.

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  82. I have a relative that is openly preaching the prophecy that Bill Gates, along with Doctor Fauci is preparing a chip that everyone will be forced to have implanted. That is everyone who are left after the rapture occurs — which she expects just any moment. And they are contemplating this rapturously. They know it will be soon, but it may depend partly on how quickly Gates and Fauci finish their work and have it prepared. The anti-christ is involved, but I’ve forgotten the complicated details of how this works out.

    To me, this is depressing — a sideshow for those in on the prophecy — while the work of the Gospel of Jesus is ignored and mostly cast aside. We must prepare to be suddenly lifted out of this mess — and they are working to scare family, neighbors, and anyone who will listen.

    The entire story gains strength from the actual work Gates and some others may be doing to help track this virus. While we may despise Gates — or not — the is not doing the work of the anti-christ.

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  83. I think there are bona fide conspiracy believers, who buy it lock stock and barrel — and then there are those, not true believers themselves, who for recreation or money add fuel to the conspiracy theory fires to create social and political conflagrations that they profit from one way or another.

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  84. Have you ever had a dream where you’re reasoning through something logical (e.g. a mathematical proof or a theological argument) and then when you wake up you realize that the dream-logic didn’t make any sense? It’s like there’s a part of our brain that knows what the structure of a logical argument ought to be (gathering evidence, drawing conclusions, etc.) and can mimic that structure in the same way that an infant can make speech-like noises before they are old enough to speak actual words.

    Maybe conspiracy theorists are just people whose waking brains (at least when they’re being lazy) think in dream-logic – mimicking the shape of logical thought without it actually making sense…

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  85. sorry about my spelling,
    Having a bad day.
    Don’t we all have bad days at present.
    I am sure tomowrrow will be worse.

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  86. It doesn’t help when leading political figure, and the leading political figure, in the country subscribe to and endorse conspiracy theories, either. We now have a culture of conspiracy belief in the US.

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  87. > Yet the End Times Prophecy purveyors have turned the Bible into a book of coded secrets

    See my (moderated) comment on conspiracies as LARPing

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  88. A small focused/devoted group is more powerful than a larger more diffuse group.

    If one studies activism/advocacy the general theme is that once ~3-4% of a population wants ONE thing bad enough to SHOW-UP, that thing becomes nearly inevitable.

    Understanding that, many things make much more sense. Politics (of which Religion is a **SUBSET**) is a competition for the ~10% who can be moved into/out-of that ~3-4%.

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  89. The good news is that the Gospel — the things that God has done to make the world right again, what God has done to secure everyone’s future — is public information, available to everyone. And this Gospel, this Love, casts out fear.

    Yet the End Times Prophecy purveyors have turned the Bible into a book of coded secrets that must be correctly decoded so that the Christian is not deceived by the antichrist into taking the Mark of the Beast and ending up in hell as a result of not having the right information. Gnosticism 101. I’ve told people who try to engage me in these theories at work that it’s a waste of time to worry about figuring out the Bible’s supposed secrets, and if they are going to worry about something, it should be about how their lives are in accord or not in accord with Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount, in the Beatitudes, and other places in the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament. That usually doesn’t go over too well.

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  90. That’s the way politics is practiced all along the political spectrum. But what does it have to do with conspiracy theories?

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  91. And the true believers are having a widespread effect on those who are not true believers, yet susceptible to the pervasive social media presence of the true believers’ conspiracy theories.

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  92. Just a minute ago, before I came here to iMonk, I was reading a news story about how discouraging it is for an ER doctor dealing with the coronavirus at his hospital to then also have to deal with the pervasive conspiracy theories on his Facebook page, that claim it’s all a hoax, that no one is dying from the virus, and that he’s not a real doctor. He tries to counter-argue in good faith, to reach them as human beings, but the conspiracy believers have one improvisational response after another to keep their theories in place and to deny the truth he’s telling them.

    It may be that the hard core believers are few in number, nobody really knows because it’s impossible to get a bead on real numbers based on clicks on conspiracy sites. But the theories, or elements of them, are disseminating widely to “people trying to make their way in the world and care for their families, who have almost no time for anything but work, and precious little time for reflection”. These regular people click on their Facebook page and other social media a few times of day, and there they encounter endless conspiracy disinformation written by the true believers — however few or great they are in number — and these average people are tremendously effected by the social media pervasiveness of these views, though they are not true believers or fanatics themselves. The fact that the most powerful political figure in this country is a regular subscriber to and promoter of conspiracy theories amplifies this effect beyond calculation. A culture of conspiracy belief has pervaded American society, dangerously distorting the views of average Americans who themselves are not true believers. And it’s only getting worse.

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  93. You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.

    Rahm Emanuel

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  94. Hmmm. Maybe. I am more inclined to view it as LARPing. The times I’ve seen someone leap, effortlessly, unencumbered, from one conspiratorial frame to another. Conspiracies are fun – and perhaps addictive. Being in a conspiratorial frame automatically gives one an in-group, a crew. Do people “believe” them, really? I don’t know. I more suspect that the theories veracity is irrelevant to those within the frame – it is a sociological more than a psychological phenomenon.

    Conspiracies clearly relate to social isolation. They cure it! Kinda.

    I look back at myself when I was affiliated with Evangelicalism. The weird stuff I never believed but just went along with; assuming that was just part of the trappings of being “in”. How far away from conspiratorialism was that? And when I hear the passive-defense, by many, of the people who “go too far” – like entering the Michigan capital building with assault rifles – didn’t I do much the same thing? Participate in much the same kind of Reputational Laundering? A difference of Kind or Degree? Why did I do that, when I never ‘really’ believed?

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  95. “They claim that only an enlightened few know what is actually going on in the world and what almost everyone else knows is a lie; that the knowledge available to the average person on the street is unreliable”

    And they are essentially unteachable, as for them there is nothing left to learn. Anything that confronts them is either proof of the conspiracy, or “fake news for the sheeple”. Their minds are welded shut.

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  96. I wheep, I cry , in deadly pain.
    It was ever thus
    In Australia restrictrictions being tenerfully lifted.
    No celebrtations for our Monthers day. tomorrow.
    I shrink, I cry in deadly pain

    This pandemic is not sent by God.
    Don’t take another perspection on this massive pandemic.

    I am of simple mind but God did not send this affiction upon us..
    I am not so very simple of mind that I can’t focus the attention on the lack of persuvatie evitence that it is not so,

    I live a long way away and struggle with other even more rudimentanry theological scriptures.
    I need today’s healing. I feel cast ashore.
    I should have sen my daughte ,my husband and two grandchildren children here tomorrow. No go. I weep I sigh in deadly pain.
    Susan.

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  97. “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (from the Holy Gospel of St. Luke)

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  98. there was always something ‘Gnostic’ about the beliefs that ‘only those who knew of Christ and accepted Him’ were saved;
    and all the others in the world were ‘the lost’

    as though some were ‘favored’ above others in Creation as more to God than ‘the lost’;
    but then that back-fired on the ‘saved’ who grew to become like the Pharisee in the temple, proud and contemptuous of ‘that other sinner’, a person who saw themselves as superior to others, and paraded this before God in the guise of being ‘thank you, God, that I am not like that other’

    yeah, we know the type, sometimes we are the type, too often we are the type

    no grace comes to us from this hubris and pride, no . . . the ‘gnostic’ way is from the Fall, from that pride that brought us to be wounded

    so much better to BE ABLE to pray the ancient prayer of the tax-collector: ‘Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner’

    then comes grace upon grace

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  99. I know, I know. And they even revel in these doomsday scenarios that, if they were actually true, would bring fear and despair into almost any heart. For example, I know a gal who thrills in telling us all how Bill gates is going to make billions off the fake Covid-19 vaccine he has pre-prepared for this fake virus while simultaneously using that to inject us with tracking chips and self-replicating nanobots to control us.

    While that one is wild and easily dismissed there are others that being less extreme fool and entice more people and these are becoming quite dangerous. They seem to travel widely among my many church friends unfortunately. And it is not just in the churches either, seems like anti-vaxers are everywhere now.

    Sometimes it is like the new mantra is “Don’t drink the KoolAid – drink the Bleach instead.” These folks actually think they are “woke.” Geez 😦

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