Conspiracists and religion

In my experience, it feels like ninety percent (or more) of people who do a pretty good job explaining and criticizing nutty rightwing conspiratorial movements or figures all eventually do the same really annoying thing.

“Wow, these terrible people are also really religious, aren’t they? They really take their religion seriously, don’t they? They really let their religion inform the way they perceive and interact with the world, huh? They actually pray, and they think God talks to them and tells them what to do, like absolute lunatics, you know?”

I’m laying it on a bit thick, but this is the move. The big unveiling of how terrible and stupid the people are has to do with the conspiracists’ faith.

Now, it’s true that there’s a big correlation between conspiratorial thinking and some kind of religious faith, and probably even some sort of (undoubtedly complicated) causal relationship as well.

It’s true that the conspiracy theorists are wacky, often somewhat dangerous, and always quite sad to behold.

But it’s not in virtue of their religiosity that they are wacky and awful. And when that is the big punchline, a religious audience of non-conspiracy theorists (which is, to be clear, most religious people) are going to feel sympathy for and solidarity with the conspiracy people. We do not need more of that.

Debunker people, I appreciate you. I get that you’re not religious and that you don’t have respect for people who are, and I’m okay with that. I disagree, but you can do what you want. But please, if you want to do your job well, stop making religion part of the reason why conspiracy theory people are bad, and especially, especially never make it the top item on that list. Just don’t do it.

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