Sunday, March 26, 2017

Is Conspiracy Theory America's New Religion?

A crowd of #pizzagate protesters descended on Washington D.C. They were calling, of course, for an investigation that will never, can never, come--to find the innocents that Hillary and her malefactors have been abusing in the privacy of a pizza-compound. Their evidence for this are symbols with arcane meanings, riddles in hacked emails, and a chain of dots of information that paints a picture of unspeakable evils.

Never mind that, legally speaking, there's zero evidence, that investigators have yet to turn up anything that isn't on the Internet, and that the scenario, whatever it might be, makes no sense. These people have faith. Serious, serious faith.

This . . . reminds The Omnivore of something.

Church-Going In America is Declining

There are a lot of reasons for this (not the least of which is that modernity has made a hash of every-day life's scheduling and a lot of people are working weekends or flat out on their backs for their 6 AM Monday). People have conflicting cultural signals. The Church, as an entity, has had some . . . problems (The Omnivore is looking at the Catholic Church scandals--but there are others). Women--who traditionally represent a backbone of unpaid volunteer organizing--are in the workforce in greater numbers than ever. And so on.

There are plenty of full-on bad reasons too--but this article isn't about bashing (a) modern society or (b) the church*.

The fact is that there's a gap in the American spirit and it looks an awful lot to The Omnivore like conspiracy is vying to fill it.

That would be a very, very, very bad thing.

We Are Spiritual Creatures

Even athiests admit we're wired for spirituality (they may argue that's why the Church is a lie, of course). The fact is that, like social relations, if we lack spirituality in our lives, we feel a void. We seek to fill it. The Omnivore listened to a pod-cast yesterday about how middle-aged men are lacking in friends--this has nothing to do with spirituality--modern-life had created a cadence that had kids, the job, the wife--but no guys. They lost touch. They drifted away. It was too hard to maintain the friendships.

The objective health of these men suffers greatly. It may be more dangerous than obesity. More dangerous than smoking.

The Omnivore suspects that a Spiritual Need exists as well. It may not be as well defined--but the evidence for it is simply overwhelming (every human society has religion. Full stop.)

If we aren't getting our spirituality from church, what if other things are vying for it--marketing themselves--hitting all the key markers.

Conspiracy As Religion: The Worst of all Possible Worlds

The pattern is pretty straightforward:

  1. Conspiracy Theory requires faith--but provides "evidence."
  2. There is a doctrine and a scripture.
  3. There is an in-group. If you question it--if you have a crisis of faith--you can be exiled.
  4. It promises special knowledge. Gnosis.
  5. It provides a good and an evil. The evil may be men--but they are men of numinous power and influence.
  6. Conspiracy provides for quests (investigators). It provides prophets (leakers, people on YouTube).
  7. It makes money: you can vend to Conspiracy Theorists.
  8. Perhaps, some say, it even provides comfort ("No Children Died At Sandy Hook").
  9. It provides righteousness--not just "self righteousness"--but actual "objective" righteousness.
Of course it doesn't deliver any of those things: Conspiracy is decay. Conspiracy theory is toxic dysfunction. It plays to the worst aspects of any religious impulse you can think of--it teaches your fellow men are predators or prey--and that the prey, most of them, are asking-for-it-sheeple. 

It provides self-righteousness but without any morality or responsibility. It encourages selfish behavior--it promotes evangelizing by means of mockery and insult.

If conspiracy is gathering hold as a religion, the country is in big trouble.

:: Looks Around ::

We appear to be in big trouble.

A Couple of Notes

Firstly, let's not lose our history here--America has always had a superstitious under-current. There have always been cults (read about Joseph Smith's beginnings hucking magical stones before his founding of Mormonism). There have always been conspiracy theories. This isn't new.

What is new, if this is new, is that the theory has reached the operational level of government. A couple of years ago the Governor of Texas called out the National Guard to address concerns that the US Military was going to take over.

Today Alex Jones has a White House press presence.

What makes The Omnivore uncomfortable here is that the line between real and fake has been attacked and actively torn down by the organs we once counted on to protect us from it (government, media--the right wing media--and even mainstream religion in its inexplicable trust of Donald Trump). The enduring atrocity of #pizzagate now seems to have children (at leas a few) being "raised" in it--as some kind of central facet of their lives.

Surely this is an outlier--but in 2015 the Texas National Guard was an outlier.

Secondly, if you are a person who distrusts "organized religion," The Omnivore fucking assures you that if religion is going to happen with or without you--and it is--then you want traditional organized religion 100 times out of 100 over Conspiracy-Theory-Religion. No matter what you think of "the Church" it's not the psychic industrial waste of conspiracy theory.

If True, Then What?

The Conspiracy Theory Church may not exist--it may just be a few points of data jumping out to The Omnivore--but if it does--if it can be shown to--then mainstream churches need to stand together against it. Conspiracy Theory and positive spirituality are not, ultimately, compatible--and while many people compartmentalize them in various ways--and we are not talking about a few strange speculative beliefs here--we are talking about people acting strongly in ways driven by a deeply adopted identity that is based on things like #pizzagate--the promotion of these things by the "mainstream" (which, today, includes the Trumpist-Media-Sphere--that is friendly to #pizzagate and other damaging beliefs) will grow and spread.

A spiritual disease, if you will.

That is all.

* Someone one explained going to Church to The Omnivore like going to the gym--but to work on your spirituality instead of your muscles. Mainstream Churches, if they are doing their job, provide vegetables (morality, an uncompromising position on right and wrong), along with meat and desert. Conspiracy is the opposite: it provides all the bad stuff and none of the good stuff. It just feels good.

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