“Trust Me, You Can’t Trust Them”: Stigmatised Knowledge in Cults and Conspiracies

In: Handbook of Conspiracy Theory and Contemporary Religion

This chapter explores the sociology of conspiracy theory in areas of the contemporary cultic milieu, identifying rational social reasons for allegiance to a particular theory as often being more compelling for individuals than the apparent ‘empirical’ truth or falsity of the theory itself. Those who hold non-mainstream theories often work actively to reinforce these beliefs with bonds of social identity. From the perspective of marginal religious groups, belief in conspiracy theories might be very rational and come with social benefits of group solidarity, as well as identification with a clear moral and belief-based community. The point of the theory is not necessarily about its truth – but about the effects of the belief for individuals within socially marginalized networks.

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