Chapter 2 Rational Enchantments: Conspiracy Theory between Secular Scepticism and Spiritual Salvation

In: Handbook of Conspiracy Theory and Contemporary Religion
Authors:
Stef Aupers
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Jaron Harambam
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In the social sciences, conspiracy theory is often morally debunked as pathological, irrational and dangerous and, essentially, considered a form of ‘religious superstition’. Arguing that this simplistic labelling of conspiracy theory as ‘religious belief’ is primarily a form of ‘boundary work’ to legitimate the epistemic authority of the social sciences, this chapter studies the hybrid character of contemporary conspiracy theory based on the self-understanding of its advocates. The analysis shows that conspiracy culture is an unstable, multi-faced phenomenon that is situated at the intersection of three discourses: secular scepticism, popular sociology, and spiritual salvation. Mixing up secular science and spiritual salvation and simultaneously assessing how the world ‘is’ and how it ‘ought’ to be, may be a horror to academics; for conspiracy theorists it is having the best of both worlds.

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