Conspiracies taking over where religion left off
It's tempting to think that as established religion fades away, it is being gradually replaced by clear, rational, thinking and the adoption of scientific values. Whilst it is true that there is a trend from theism towards atheism, what alarms me is the increasing trend of people abandoning religion only to take up material that is every bit as irrational.
One does not have to look far on the internet to find it packed with conspiracies, often bound up with 'new age' thinking. The Mayan prophecies, the Illuminati, Moth-man, alien hybrid scheming, the 'true' location of Atlantis off Ireland ... the list goes on, and more often than not there is a degree of connectivity between all these conspiratorial factions. Indeed, to such an extent that 'New Age Conspiratorialism' could itself almost be seen as a new religion.
The alarming thing is that all this irrational nonsense is not simply the domain of a handful of morons. There is an entire industry devoted to it (Jeff Rense is, for example, one of the most hit-on sites in the world), to the extent that I've even heard otherwise well educated friends and relatives cite such material as if it were 'true'. The internet is indoctrinating people with this nonsense as surely as any religion, and my estimate (based on the sheer number of people agreeing with the content of conspiracy videos or doing so on forums for such) is that we're dealing with something comparable in size with the smaller religions.
The worst aspect is just exactly how one fights this. Established religions at least have specific creeds that one can cite as irrational nonsense. New age conspiratorialism is all interconnected, yet diverse enough that there's no one set of ideas one can attack. Point out to someone that the planet Nibiru is utter codswallop, and they'll simply move on to the 'hoaxed' Moon landings.
And of course, when people disagree with such conspiratorialists, it merely re-inforces their mindset that there are people out to hide 'the truth'. If that's not the hallmark of religious thinking, especially the cult mentality, what is?
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