Most critiques of conspiracy theories assume there is no truth to them. I disagree. Much of it consists of little more than wishful thinking and speculation, but I still believe some of it could be true. The real problem with conspiracy theories is not whether or not they are true, but the way they can become an obsession for those, who believe them, often with destructive consequences. As the title suggest, I am particularly concerned with Christians who believe in conspiracy theories. I am not suggesting that belief in conspiracy theories, in itself, is wrong or sinful. The belief becomes sin when Christians make their belief in conspiracy theories into an idol which is more important to them than their relationship with God and their responsibilities as Christians, leading them to disobey the Bible’s commandments.
One of the characteristics of a cult is, “Any religious movement which claims the backing of Christ or the Bible, but distorts the central message of Christianity by 1) an additional revelation, and 2) by displacing a fundamental tenet of the faith with a secondary matter”. This definition applies to many Christians who promote conspiracy theories which, even if they are true, are a “secondary matter.
As Christians, we are supposed to preach the Gospel and make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20, Mark 16:15), grow in the knowledge of God (Colossians 1:9-12, Philippians 1:3-11), live godly and moral lives (Romans 12:1-21, Colossians 3:12-17, Ephesians 5:1-7), love other Christians (John 15:9-17, I John 3:23). Christians, who believe in conspiracy theories, tend to be fundamentalists, in that they believe in the literal truth of the Bible and they know they must obey its commands and preach the Gospel. They usually pay lip service to the Gospel. However, in practice, many of them become more interested in telling people about the Bad News of Conspiracy Theories than the Good News of Jesus Christ. Their belief in conspiracy theories is basically “another gospel”, about which Paul said;
“But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:8-9)
Jesus said that the truth would set us free (John 8:32). Belief in conspiracy theories often has the opposite effect and enslaves its adherents, distracting them from what is really important, causing them to break the Bible’s commands, and becoming obsessed and ruining their lives. Conspiracy theories become their religion.
Like members of a cult, conspiracy theorists often become paranoid and isolated from the rest of society which they believe is under the control of the conspiracy. People, who believe in conspiracy theories, usually lack the organisation, structure and control of a cult. (An exception is the Lyndon LaRouche network which operates as the Citizens Electoral Council in Australia and has been described as a cult.) Nevertheless, those, who promote conspiracy theories, often behave like cult gurus. They believe that they have the “truth”. Anyone, who disagrees with them, usually gets accused of being part of the conspiracy.
Knowledge can make us proud (1 Corinthians 8:1). Many conspiracy theorists, like cultists, believe their supposed knowledge makes part of an elite, separate from ordinary people. They think they know how the world really works. Gary North has compared this attitude to the ancient Gnostic heresy;
“The ancient gnostics believed that man is saved by secret knowledge. They believed that man needs to be liberated from this world of matter and elevated, through secret initiation and certain ascetic techniques, into the realm of the spirit. Certain groups of contemporary “New Age” humanist hold a very similar viewpoint. Unfortunately, there are a lot of Christians and far too many “we must reveal the truth” fanatics who have adopted a variation of this ancient heresy. Their “secret initiation” into knowledge about their enemies, whether the enemy is the devil (in the case of Christian investigators) or the conspiracy (in the case of radical conservatives or leftists) serves them as a psychological justification for doing nothing. They think that just knowing more and more about “the conspiracy” relieves them from doing anything about it. Their endless studying is an excuse for their inactivity. They send their time with other similarly minded people, enjoying the impotent luxury of exchanging secret phrases and knowledge of secret things. They have imitated their enemies; they have created their won inner ring – a secret ring which knows all about their enemy’s secret ring. They became hypnotized with “circles within circles”. Their great spiritual enemy thereby removes them from the real fight.” (Gary North, Conspiracy: A Biblical View, Crossway Books, Illinois, 1986, p 137-138)
And no, I am not a reconstructionist just because I quote Gary North.
In a similar that the original Gnostics looked down on the early Christians, Christian conspiracy theorists see themselves as superior to ordinary Christians who are only concerned with evangelism, worship, prayer and discipleship, not conspiracy theories. Like the Gnostics, they are proud of their special knowledge.
Pride and failing to preach the Gospel are not the only sins of conspiracy theorists. I do not know of any Christian conspiracy theorist who attends church regularly in violation of Hebrews 10:25.
Their belief usually results in the believers being afraid of the all-powerful conspiracy which controls everything. Paul Coughlin writes,
“During one New World Order seminar in southern Oregon, attendees stared straight ahead like deer caught in the headlights. Says one observer, “People just sat there with eyes glued on the information they were given, they were stuck in their seats” – stuck there by fear.” (Paul Coughlin, Secret Plots and Hidden Agendas, IVP, Illinois, 1999, p 148)
In contrast, the Bible commands us not to be afraid of any conspiracy,
“Do not say, ‘A conspiracy,’ concerning all that this people call a conspiracy, nor be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled. The Lord of hosts, Him you shall hallow; Let Him be your fear, and let Him be your dread.” (Isaiah 8:12-13)
God, not a human conspiracy, is in control of everything. The conspiracy can do nothing if God does not allow it (Psalms 2:1-9). Even the Antichrist can only act with God’s permission (Revelation 13:5-7). We are supposed to trust God, not be afraid or anxious (Philippians 4:6-7).
The Bible tells us that all governments are appointed by God and we must obey their laws, except when those laws conflict with God’s commands (Acts 5:29). Paul writes;
“Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God, therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist bring judgement on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due; taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honour to whom honour.” (Romans 13:1-7)
Peter made similar statements in 1 Peter 2:13-17.
Many conspiracy theorists refuse to obey these commands. They believe that government is evil and part of the conspiracy. Even if it is, God knows this and still commands us to obey. Paul and Peter were executed by the Roman government, but they still told us to obey the government. Some do not obey the Bible’s command to pay taxes, such as Kent Hovind, an American creation scientist and conspiracy theorist, who was sentenced to 10 years for 58 tax offences in 2007.
Another Christian conspiracy theorist, whose beliefs led to disobedience and its consequences, was Fritz Springmeier, author of Bloodlines of the Illuminati and The Illuminati Formula Used to Create an Undetectable Total Mind Control Slave. During 1993-1995 Springmeier was counselling a woman, Cisco Wheeler (a.k.a. Linda Johnson and Linda Anderson) who was supposed to have been a victim of Illuminati mind control. In 1995 while he was still married to someone else, Springmeier attended a mind control symposium and introduced Cisco as Mrs Springmeier. In 1997 Springmeier was involved in an armed robbery of a bank in Damascus, Oregon. In March 2001 police raided the house of Springmeier and his third wife and found 50 marijuana plants, weapons and material from a militia group called the Army of God. He was convicted in February 2003.
Springmeier was an extreme case. Not every Christian, who gets involved with conspiracy theories, becomes a bank robber. Nevertheless, he is an example of what happens when Christians’ beliefs in conspiracy theories causes them to lose focus, become obsessed with an idol and think their special knowledge makes them think they are exempt from having to obey the Bible.
The Bible commands us “to speak evil of no one” (Titus 3:2). Many Christian conspiracy theorists ignore this command, as evident in these quotes from Texe Marrs which Richard Abanes compiled;
“Hilary and Bill [Clinton] have surrounded themselves with the most wicked and demon-possessed people imaginable.”
“[Clinton is] a heartless New Age occultist – an occultist who has relentlessly used the full resources of the White House to slander, defame, persecute, and kill true Christians and American patriots.”
“Is President Bill Clinton a practicing Satan worshipper? … [Are the Clintons] demonically charged to perform hideous and barbaric acts unimaginable to decent and trusting Americans? What are the true religious beliefs of Bill and Hilary Clinton? Are they lovers of the Father of Lies – Lucifer himself? Order this exclusive Special Report … [Y]ou may just conclude that Bill and Hilary Clinton are the most wicked witchcraft-evil couple ever to reside at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue!”
“Arrogant and anti-Christian lesbian, homosexuals and paedophile advocates now hold the reigns of political power, and the ‘D.C.’ in Washington D.C. has become the ‘District of Corruption.'” (Richard Abanes, American Militias, IVP, Illinois, 1996, p 206)
Even if any of this were true, so what? The Bible does not say we are allowed to speak evil of others if it is true.
We are commanded to “test all things” (I Thess. 5:21). Although I believe there is some truth to conspiracy theories, much of it is speculation and wishful thinking. A conspiracy is, by definition, secret. We should not know about it. If the evidence for a conspiracy is easily available and anyone can read about it in books or on the Internet, then it is not really a conspiracy. Many conspiracy theories are not so much based on evidence, which should not be there, but on wishful thinking, what the conspiracy theorist believes the conspiracy is doing.
For example, within a few hours of the death of Princess Diana in 1997, conspiracy theories were appearing on the Internet about how she was really murdered. Even if they were true, the people, who wrote them, had not had time to have done any research. They were simply writing what they wanted to believe had happened. This is not the same thing as evidence.
This problem is further apparent in the way that different conspiracy theorists with different agendas look at the same events, talk about the same organisations, such as the Council on Foreign Relations and the Bilderbergers, but then they that a different group, which just happens to be the one they do not like, is behind the event, such as the Jews, the British Royal Family, the New Agers, the Roman Catholic Church or human-alien hybrids.
It looks like which group people end up blaming for the conspiracy depends largely upon which conspiracy theory they came across first. They decide that this particular conspiracy theory is right and all the others are wrong. Worse, they can come to believe that those, who promote alternative conspiracy theories, are disinformation agents of the conspiracy, distracting people from the “truth”.
Conspiracy theories are based on the assumption that “nothing happens by accident”. Therefore, everything must be part of the conspiracy and have some sinister purpose. Assuming there is a conspiracy, it cannot control everything. If it did, it would control what is published in books and on the Internet or spoken on talk-back radio. We would know that it existed. The fact the conspiracy theories exist proves that the conspiracy does not control everything. Some things must still happen by accident.
Instead, because they assume that nothing happens by accident, but every significant event is part of the conspiracy’s plans, then some of the events, which they assume are part of the conspiracy, must be nothing of the sort. They are genuine historical accidents with no sinister purpose.
There is a sense of hopelessness. They cannot change or reform anything because the conspiracy is too powerful and controls everything. If something good does happen, they assume it is part of the conspiracy and there must be some evil purpose behind it.
Conspiracy theories are not completely lacking in evidence. Unfortunately, some of it is fabricated. The most famous example is the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion which was first published in 1905. It is supposed to be the minutes of a meeting of Jews outlining their plans for world domination. However, as early as 1921 it was proved that parts of these proceedings were copied from an anti-Napoleon III pamphlet, Dialogue in Hell Between Montesquieu and Machiavelli, written by Maurice Joly in 1864. Nevertheless, anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists, even Christian ones, such as Kent Hovind, still believe the Protocols are authentic .
Anti-Semitism is the dark side of the conspiracy theory movement. Some critics like to portray everyone, who believes in conspiracy theories, as rabidly anti-Semitic. This is not true. Gary Allen, author of one of the most influential conspiracy theory books, None Dare Call It Conspiracy, has written,
“One major reason for the historical blackout on the role of international bankers in political history is that the Rothschilds were Jewish. Anti-Semites have played into the hands of the conspiracy by trying to portray the entire conspiracy as Jewish. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The traditionally Anglo-Saxon J.P. Morgan and Rockefeller international banking institutions have played a key role in the conspiracy. But there is no denying the importance of the Rothschilds and their satellites. However, it is just as unreasonable and immoral to blame all Jews for the crimes of the Rothschilds as it is to hold all Baptists accountable for the crimes of the Rockefellers.” (Gary Allen, None Dare Call It Conspiracy, Concord Press, California, 1971, p 39)
There is even a Jewish conspiracy theorist, Barry Chamish, who believes the Jews are victims of the conspiracy, rather than being behind it.
Nevertheless, the conspiracy theory subculture is filled with anti-Semites. Anybody, who becomes interested in conspiracy theories, will soon come across claims that the “evil” Jews are behind everything. I have seen people, who start out with legitimate concerns about globalisation, banks or what really happened on September 11, 2001. The mainstream media and major political parties will not address these issues, so they turn to conspiracy theories which purport to have the truth. They end up getting involved with anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial.
Another hoax is the Report from Iron Mountain which is supposed to be a secret American think-tank report from 1966. Among other things, it suggests faking an alien invasion in order to unite the world. In 1972 Leonard Lewin, who had been the editor of a political satire magazine Monocle, admitted he had written the whole thing. Just like the Protocols, many conspiracy theorists ignore the facts and still believe the Report from Iron Mountain is authentic.
I have mentioned two conspiracy hoaxes in other articles here and here. The UFO conspiracy theories about MJ-12, Area 51, secret treaties with aliens and an underground base at Dulce, New Mexico, were invented by the Air force Office of Special Investigations and the National Security Agency to distract UFO researchers who were getting too close to classified military projects.
Likewise, books such as The Da Vinci Code and The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail claimed there is a 900 year old secret society, the Priory of Sion, which believes the Merovingian kings were descendants of Jesus Christ.
The Priory of Sion has been exposed as a modern hoax. Moreover, those, who created the hoax, never claimed the Merovingians were descendants of Jesus. This was simply made up by the authors of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail. However, some Christian conspiracy theorists would rather believe in a conspiracy than the truth and accept the claims of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail at face value, such as J. R. Church and Fritz Springmeier who have written that the Priory of Sion is a real secret society. I once read an article which claimed that Prince Charles is the Antichrist because he believes he is a descendant of Jesus and Mary Magdalene through the Merovingians.
The Merovingians never claimed to be descendants of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. This was made up by the authors of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail in 1982. These Christian conspiracy theorists would rather believe in a conspiracy than in the truth and are just uncritically accepting these claims and building on them.
One way of knowing the truth about the Illuminati would be if a former member were to come forward and reveal their plans. John Todd, Doc Marquis and Bill Schnoebelen have claimed that they were Illuminati members who became Christians. The trouble is anyone can claim to have been a member of the Illuminati or some other secret society. I could say I was a member of the Illuminati. They are not going to issue a press release denying it. Moreover, the claims of Todd, Marquis and Schnoebelen are very dubious.
During the 1970s John Todd claimed to have been a Satanic high priest and Illuminati member. Todd claimed to have been a Satanist during the 1960s until he became a Christian in 1972, however he was part of a Pentecostal church in Oregon in 1968. In 1969-1970 he was in the army. He claimed to have been a Green Beret when he was only a clerk. Todd’s army medical records say that he suffered from “emotional instability with pseudologia phantastica” (compulsive lying) and he “finds it difficult to tell reality from fantasy.” They recommended his discharge.
In 1973 while he was working in a Christian coffee house, Todd was caught trying to recruit teenage girls to join a witches’ coven. He started telling Pentecostal churches about his involvement in the Illuminati and claimed that John F. Kennedy was still alive and that he was his personal warlock. He left Pentecostal circles when he was accused of mixing witchcraft and Christianity and seducing teenage girls.
In 1974 Todd was operating an occult store in Dayton, where he was again accused of seducing teenage girls.
In 1978 Todd, who was now part of an independent Baptist church, began touring the United States talking about his involvement in the Illuminati and their plans. He said they were going to take over the world in 1979 and that Jimmy carter was the Antichrist. He accused many Christian leaders, especially those who challenged his claims, of being part of the Illuminati.
Around 1980 Todd dropped out of sight. In fact, in 1982 someone told me he had been killed. In 1987 he was arrested for the rape of several college students in South Carolina and sentenced to 30 years in prison. Of course, he claimed the Illuminati had framed him. He died in prison in 2007. However Fritz Springmeier wrote that he was released from prison and picked up by a helicopter and killed in 1994.
Like Todd, Doc Marquis also claimed that he joined the army, which the Illuminati was infiltrating, in order to set up covens. He appears to be copying Todd’s claims. My only direct knowledge of Doc Marquis comes from a DVD, Arrival of the Antichrist, a lecture recorded at the Prophecy Club.
Instead of revealing some insider information about the Illuminati, which a real member would know, Marquis relied on already published material, such as Nesta Webster’s books and books on Freemasonry like Pike’s Morals and Dogmas. Then, for about 1½ hours he quoted passages from the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, which he claimed was “a coded Illuminati document” to show how the Antichrist would supposedly come to power. A real member of the Illuminati, or whatever they call themselves, would know that the Protocols are a forgery.
There used to be a good article on Wikipedia exposing Bill Schnoebelen, but it has disappeared. The biggest problem with Schnoebelen’s credibility is that he has claimed to have been so many things. He says that he has studied to be a Catholic priest, completed two Masters degrees, been a Wiccan priest, a Spiritualist minister, a Druid high priest, an Old Roman Catholic Church priest, an Illuminati member, a Freemason, a Satanist, a Knights Templar, a voodoo high priest, a Gnostic priest, a Naturopathic doctor, a Mormon and a vampire. It is hard to see how he could have found the time.
In a DVD, The Sons of God and the Antichrist, filmed at a Prophecy Club meeting, Schnoebelen says he is also a UFO expert. He claims that during his occult phase, he was taken by a UFO to one of the moons of Saturn, where his “third eye” was marked by Satan, and returned to Earth.
I am a bit of a UFO expert and some of his claims in this talk suggest that he does not really know much about UFOs. He claims the Grey aliens, who supposedly carry out UFO abductions, started showing up in the 1960s, when the typical Grey with its all-black eyes did not appear in UFO reports until the 1980s. Other Christian UFO researchers have concluded that UFO abductions are not physically real. Abductees are not taken aboard UFOs. Their experiences are implanted and there are no credible reports of a witness seeing someone being taken aboard a UFO. However, Schnoebelen claims to know of a case where a Baptist minister witnessed a member of his congregation being taken out of their house up into a UFO. A UFO abduction, which was witnessed by a minister, would be one of the most important UFO abduction cases ever, but Schnoeleblen is the only person who has heard of it.
While even New Age UFO researcher John Mack acknowledges that there is no physical evidence for the human-alien hybrids which are supposedly produced from UFO abductions and doubted they were real, Schnoebelen says he has met “several young people” who are the offspring of humans and fallen angels masquerading as aliens. Again, I do know of any other UFO researcher who knows this.
This means that Schnoebelen is the greatest UFO researcher ever and has uncovered things which no one else has, or he is making it up. If he were the greatest UFO researcher ever, he would know that the stories about an underground base at Dulce, New Mexico, populated by aliens, secret treaties and battles with aliens, which are popular on the Internet, were disinformation which was made up by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations in the 1980s. Instead, he believes it is true.
In this DVD Schnoebeln also claims to have summoned up Cthulu out of Lake Michigan. Cthulu was a fictional monster made up by the horror writer H.P. Lovecraft.
As far as I could tell, his supposedly Christian audience just sat there and uncritically believed everything he said about having been a vampire, calling up fictional monsters and meeting children of fallen angels. There was no discernment and the Bible’s command to “test all things” (1 Thessalonians 5:21) was ignored. Christian conspiracy theorists are usually fundamentalists and are rightly concerned with heresy and false teaching in the church, but they show little concern about false teachers and deceivers in their own circles. Someone just has to say, “It’s a conspiracy” and they get a free pass. Their claims are uncritically accepted.
Although “it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret” (Ephesians 5:12), the Christian audience at the Prophecy Club meetings sat there listening to Marquis and Schnoebelen talk about occult symbolism and rituals, vampirism and other sordid details. In contrast, the Bible says, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – mediate on these things.” (Philippians 4:8)
Something is wrong here. It is a fascination with evil, which could be described as “conspiracy porn”.
Like porn, conspiracy theories seem to be becoming more extreme. A simple conspiracy theory no longer satisfies. This is evident in the 2012 Sandy Hook shootings and the 2013 Boston Bombing. A few years earlier conspiracy theorists would have said that the perpetrators were framed and some secret hit team really carried out the crimes. Now, conspiracy theorists are not simply saying someone else carried out the crimes. They are saying the crimes never even happened. They are hoaxes. It is like they need something more extreme to satisfy their addictive beliefs.
There have been other cases of Christians fabricating stories of their past involvement with Satanism. Mike Warnke is a Christian comedian and author of The Satan Seller who claimed to have been a former Satanist until he was exposed as a fraud in 1992.
Lauren Wilson was born in the United States in 1941. She wrote three books as Lauren Stratford, claiming to have been a victim of Satanic ritual abuse before she became a Christian. After she was exposed as a fraud, she changed her name to Laura Grabowski and said she was a Polish Jew who had been a child inmate in Auschwitz, where she was experimented in by Joseph Mengele. She even claimed to remember Binjamin Wilkomirski, author of Fragments. He also claimed to have been a child in Auschwitz until he was exposed as a fraud.
These people say the right things about Jesus and salvation, but what they say about their experiences with the Illuminati and Satanism is clearly not true. They may be deliberate deceivers (Matthew 24:24). However, when I described them to a Christian psychologist, he suggested they were delusional.
After writing this, I came across a series of posts on Swallowing the Camel which covered these apparent imposters and more in much more detail.
I used to like those little evangelistic tracts Chick Comics. Although they were simplistic, I admired Jack Chick’s forthright proclamation of the Gospel with its emphasis on repentance which is often lacking in modern evangelism. Chick has also published the claims of Alberto Rivera, John Todd, Bill Schnoebelen and Rebecca Brown. They have all made claims of involvement in conspiracies or Satanism and they are all believed to be frauds. Chick clearly has a heart for truth, but his desire to believe in conspiracy theories has led him astray into promoting falsehood.
I believe that many people are attracted to conspiracy theories with good intentions. They are looking for meaning and explanation and want to know what is really going on in the world. However, belief in conspiracy theories does not give Christians an exemption from having to obey the Bible’s commands. As Christians, we are supposed to bring all aspects of our lives under the Lordship of Christ. This includes our conspiracy theories and the attitudes and actions which result from them.