Conspiracy theories in competition with religion and science

Dossier “Religion and conspiracy theories in the time of the corona epidemic”

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.

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The intrusion of reality into discourse. By sociologist of religion Detlef Pollack

Thinking scientifically consists in challenging what we take to be our natural perception of reality. It may be that most of us agree that the coronavirus is dangerous. But to deny its effects is perfectly in keeping with a scientific worldview. Science does not repeat what everyone thinks, but places what we assume to be the normal understanding of reality in a different light, and science is in this respect closer than we think to conspiracy theories, which we judge to be alien and remote. Both conspiracy theories and scientific analyses participate in the basic problem of epistemology: that we cannot know with certainty what is really the case. More

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Conspiracy theories as narratives. By literary scholar Christian Sieg

Conspiracy theorists know more. What they know is a secret agenda that explains events or situations. At the moment they know that the reactions of the world community to the corona pandemic are based on misinformation that is part of a political or economic plan hatched by conspirators. We speak of conspiracy theories because, by their own claim, such statements try to explain something. But it might be more appropriate to speak of conspiracy narratives, since the knowledge that they provide is of a narrative nature. More

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Conspiracy theories as criticism of elites: on the long history of a current phenomenon. By historians Dr. Marcel Bubert, Prof. Dr. Wolfram Drews and PD Dr. André Krischer

During the ‘hygiene demonstrations’ that took place in various German cities in May 2020, notorious conspiracy theorists claimed that political and social elites were using the pandemic to implement secret, long-planned goals. Such goals were imagined as the establishment of a world government or the transformation of German democracy into a dictatorship, which the demonstrators protested against with the slogan, ‘We are the people’. The vaccination programme of the Gates Foundation is denounced as a deceitful means of making people compliant, and Bill Gates is seen as the mastermind and secret profiteer of the ‘corona conspiracy’. More

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The Joker of conspiracy – conspiracy theories as negative belief. By sociologist of religion Prof. Dr. Levent Tezcan

Ken Jebsen has painted himself a Joker face. “What kind of shitty fear have we got here!” is how he opens his manifesto. Sometimes whispering conspiratorially, sometimes firing furious word salvos; ironic, sarcastic, militantly revolutionary – he reels off a range of themes, and then brings them all together in a simple conspiracy that pits the ‘system’ against ‘society’, against ‘us’. This 45-minute talk displaying a high level of thespian ability shows the boundless creativity of the mind when it comes to linking everything with everything else. I am interested in the character of the Joker here because it expresses a pervasive condition of our present: conspiracy theories as negative belief. More