Religion and conspiracy theories in the time of the corona epidemic

© Unsplash/Grant Whitty, Smlg. Archäologie und Museum Baselland, wikimedia commons, unsplash/Tom Radetzki

Hardly had people in Germany realized that their lives would be fundamentally changed by the corona crisis than virologists and epidemiologists were on hand to inform us about the new situation and its challenges. Conspiracy theories also sprang up, offering comprehensive explanations for the crisis, providing deeper insights into the connections that lay below the surface, and revealing the true causes of the crisis to the uninitiated. This dossier explores the connection and difference between religion and conspiracy theories in the time of the pandemic.

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1. Religious interpretations of epidemics

The first part raises the question of how religious communities and their representatives interpret the epidemic, what patterns of interpretation they use, how these patterns differ from earlier religious and theological interpretations of pandemics, and how diverse religious interpretations are depending on the socio-historical context and religious self-understanding. Looking at the major churches in Germany, for example, we notice how carefully they formulate their interpretations of the crisis. But not all religious actors are so careful and sensitive, with some also seeing the crisis as an opportunity to proclaim their message loudly. More

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2. How individuals deal with the corona crisis – and what role does religion play in this?

The second part focuses on the attitudes and practices of individuals, and examines how they deal with the corona crisis and the extent to which religion plays a role in this. We investigate, for example, whether and for what reasons people use the alternative religious formats on offer, such as online services, to what extent they pursue spiritual or religious practices in the face of the crisis, and what significance their personal faith has in how they interpret and deal with the pandemic. More

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3. Conspiracy theories in competition with religion and science

Conspiracy theories seem like prophecies of doom, but do they also offer visions of redemption? They explain the crisis with seemingly rational constructions, but do they also allow themselves to be tested empirically? In the third part, we are interested in structural analogies between conspiracy theories, religion, science, and other interpretations of the world, but also in the differences between them. There are signs that conspiracy theories do indeed meet with interest on the fringes of religious communities. But it would also be interesting to examine what possible affinities exist between conspiracy theories and scientific analyses. More

“Between Divine Punishment and Conspiracy Theories”

Cover Between Divine Punishment and Conspiracy Theories
© Campus Verlag

The Cluster of Excellence’s research on epidemics from antiquity to the present has been brought together in a volume entitled Between Divine Punishment and Conspiracy Theories. The volume deals with conspiracy theories and alternative theological interpretations that emerge in times of epidemics both past and present. “What disturbed liberal milieus convinced of the evidence provided by medical-scientific expertise in the Corona pandemic is not new for times of epidemics”, underline the volume’s editors, historians Marcel Bubert and André Krischer. “Competing interpretations of epidemics have emerged time and again”. The volume is the first to shed light on such competing interpretations in an interdisciplinary and trans-epochal way. Read more