Why in the world is our culture fascinated with conspiracy theories? I have my own conspiracy theory, or more to the point, I have a theory about conspiracies.
Too many people cannot accept things at face value. Sometimes things just happen, but that’s not enough for some folks. There has to be a hidden , secret reason behind this. And with that, a conspiracy theory is born: an explanation that sees some malevolent force or evil plan hiding in the background.
Need an example? Here’s a few of the more popular conspiracy theories.
- The moon landing was faked. In the middle of the Cold War, American pride was at stake after Kennedy declared we’d place a man on the moon before the end of the decade. Stanley Kubrick directed the fabulous footage. Unfortunately, the flag planted on the moon appears to wave—something that wouldn’t happen on the real moon but Kubrick got all the other details right.
- The FDA is withholding the cure for cancer. Considering the billions we’ve spent looking for a cure, it makes sense a cure has been found. But why should the pharmaceutical companies release it, since they make so much money now selling cancer-related drugs and treatments?
- Contrails are really chemtrails. You know those white trials behind a jet in the sky? They’re called contrails, and we’re told they come from a mixture of vapor from the engine and the low temperatures. We know better. They’re chemtrails: chemicals sprayed by the government to control the population.
- JFK was assassinated by ______________. This is probably the most popular conspiracy theory. Everybody knows one man couldn’t have planned and pulled off multiple shots, right? And it’s obvious the Mafia was behind it … no, the CIA … no the military-industrial complex … no, it was …
- A secret group controls the world. Who this secret group is will change names from time to time. It’s the Illuminati. The Jews. The Freemasons. A group of wealthy elite. Whoever they are this week, this secret group’s plan is to establish a one-world order—with themselves in charge.
I mention this theory last because it contains the heart and soul of all the others: there are others controlling the events we see. When we experience a crisis or an unexpected turn of events, we can feel fear, uncertainty, and a loss of control. We want to make sense of the situation, so we grasp for straws. A random event fuels uncertainty so we look for a cause that is not random. We want to be in control of our destiny, but when we feel like it’s taken away, we look for a cause: someone/something that is controlling things.
Have conspiracy theories always been around? Some would say they permeate history, but I disagree. Or at least conspiracy theories were not as prevalent, pervasive, and popular as they are today. And here’s where my theory on conspiracies comes in:
We’ve taken God out of the picture.
For much of the history of western civilization, we held to a belief in God—in particular, the belief in God as espoused by Christianity. God is the sovereign, all-powerful Creator and Ruler of the universe. Nothing escapes His notice. Nothing happens without His permission or direct hand. That’s not to say that, when evil men did evil things, God was behind it. But even when tragedy happened, society never lost sight that God was still God. We might not be able to explain all things, but we knew God was still on His throne.
The message of Revelation reminded us of this. Bad things happen—and things may even get worse—but God is in control. Those who trust Him may undergo the severest trials, but they will come out as victors.
Today, God is an afterthought—if He is a thought at all. Without God, who is in control? We want answers, and we don’t like the vacuum of an unanswered question, so we make up our own answers. There is a cause—an individual or group—behind what happened and we just naturally assume they’re up to no good.
When life feels out of control, Professor Adam Galinksy says people turn to conspiracies.
“The less control people have over their lives, the more likely they are to try and regain control through mental gymnastics…. Feelings of control are so important to people that a lack of control is inherently threatening. While some misperceptions can be bad or lead one astray, they’re extremely common and most likely satisfy a deep and enduring psychological need.” [Business Insider]
I’m not here to debate which conspiracy theories have merit, which have twisted the facts, and which are just plain stupid. Instead, I want to argue against our penchant for them. At the end of the day, I have to acknowledge there are some things I can’t fully explain. Was something nefarious behind what happened? Maybe, maybe not. Sometimes things just happen. Sometimes a lone Lee Harvey Oswald steps onto the world stage and does something evil… just because.
Sure, I want to know what happens—and I want to know why. But I don’t fear a loss of control. I gave up that control when I gave it to Jesus Christ. Regardless of what happens in the world, I look to Christ. There is nothing nefarious or malevolent about His control.
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38-39).
Thanks for sharing your thoughts this is a great reflection on what our ‘penchant’ for conspiracy theories might reveal about the human condition. I particularly liked your idea that perhaps our desire to subscribe actions to a malevolent force beyond our control is a corruption of our awareness of God’s providence at work in the world and logical consequence of the Secular West abandoning the biblical picture of God.
Your article gave me a lot to think about and be thankful for. God Bless.