Are Conspiracy Theories a Surrogate for God?

In: Handbook of Conspiracy Theory and Contemporary Religion

The decline of traditional religion in the West has been matched by a rise in the visibility of conspiracy theories. Are conspiracy theories therefore a replacement for religious belief in an increasingly secular society? Conspiracy theories seem to fulfil some of the psychological needs addressed by religion, such as imposing a sense of order and agency upon the world, and the two seem to share some of the same psychological predispositions. Many conspiracy beliefs have parallels in content and structure to religious beliefs: some propose an Edenic existence that was corrupted by a conspiracy, while others anticipate an apocalypse that will be either brought about or welcomed by a conspiracy. In this chapter, we take a psychological perspective on the parallels between religion and conspiracy theory, and discussing how the two types of belief systems complement and contradict one another.

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