Conspiracy Theories and the Logic of Religious Belief/Faith
My research concerns the assumption that human beings have an innate, universal, and mostly unconscious need that is traditionally satisfied by religious belief. This has often been referred to as “The God Shaped Hole.” I believe that this phenomenon stems from a desire to symbolize the unknown with something accessible such as a personal God’s will and promise of an afterlife. This project explores the possibility of a conspiracy theory serving that very purpose for those who have rejected religious belief and yet still seek something to serve as the infallible ultimate answer.
People who tend to hold a few unpopular ideas will not fit the profile for this study. I am interested in those who believe in a web of conspiracies that are meaningfully connected, and motivated by a malevolence that cannot be reduced to the sheer pursuit of profit–this is because a single or isolated few conspiracies do not take on the transcendent quality that I believe can satisfy this particular unconscious desire. In this case the all-knowing, all-powerful entity, does not have a plan for the possible salvation of the believer, nor is it available for loving communion, but it surely enjoys the unshakable faith and steadfast proselytizing of the conspiracy disciple. My goal is to tie the experience of the conspiracy theorist to that of the religious believer. The important difference is that the theorist is essentially worshiping his or her ideal epitome of evil.
I will use the Hindu God, Içvara as a bridge between the religious and the secular. Içvara is perhaps the deity most amenable to analysis as a technical apparatus or archetype, which may allow us to conceptually isolate God as a psychic phenomenon. The way in which the conspiracy theory hijacks this very same psychological software through which humanity relates to the concept of God or Gods will be expanded through the work of Mircea Eliade, C. G. Jung, William James, and others.
This project will not provide an exhaustive taxonomy of current conspiracy theories, nor will it seek to determine their viability. This is not an attempt to chastise radicals or to attempt to bring them back into the fold of normalcy. If there is a practical application to this project it will be to elucidate a way in which self-identified radical free thinkers can actually find themselves enslaved by an enemy that is deified by their own zealotry. My hope is that theorists can react to this and continue to contest power with an awareness of this reified deity’s unique power over them.
*This paper will be followed by commentary from Windsor's own
Dr. Brian MacPherson,
(Lecturer, Philosophy, University of Windsor)*