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by Frank Paynter on September 28, 2006

Here’s a hypothesis based on two data points. I left it as a comment at Loose Poodle and I re-present it here:

During drive time I had an insight that I’d like to share. I think those of us who don’t believe in god have a higher likelihood of believing in conspiracy theories. It would be interesting to rake together the data around this theory, to prove it or disprove it. I know I am quite likely to identify connections here in this life, and I think it might have something to do with not having that metaphysical stuff tying things together in a different way.

The data:

  1. In one brief conversation a brilliant friend revealed both that he is “born again,” which is to say he experienced a life changing conversion experience; and, that he doesn’t have much time for conspiracy theories.
  2. I have never had a conversion experience nor do I expect to have one; and, my world view is framed by a sensitivity to the dynamics of power relationships in society and how those relationships support a structure of social classes.

My friend is carefree, neither seeing nor crediting “the doomsday stuff,” as tristero calls it.

…the very thought that the US government is seriously broken - that the Executive is beyond the control of anyone and everyone in the world - is such a truly awesome and terrifying thought that it can never be publicly acknowledged. If ever it is, if the American crisis gets outed and Congress and the Supremes openly assert that the Executive has run completely amok and is beyond control, the world consequences are staggering. It is the stuff of doomsday novels.

Juke Moran says, “Moral centers, in a Velikovskian geometric, have Onanist characteristics.” I wouldn’t know about that of course, because my nose is stuck so deep in my own navel that I’m suffocating. But I like my little social science thought experiment:

Answer these two questions, and please don’t mess with me, just tell the truth…

  1. Do you believe in god and how would you qualify that belief?
  2. Do you see conspiracies where the media and others around you see none, and give an example please?

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On God and Conspiracy and My Mother-in-Law - Orbit Now! Troy Worman’s Weblog
09.29.06 at 9:57

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

William "Papa" Meloney 09.29.06 at 2:19

I believe God. Not ‘in God’ which carries with it the implication of ‘out [of] God’. Can I cite the authoratative voice or state of God? No, I am a compromised and falable human being who does not have the ability to define or qualify God.

I do not subscribe to conspiracies. I do believe, and have faith, that our world society is self-correcting. I believe that such self-correction occurs in a time scale that is beyond the scope of most people. As evidence of this I cite the rises and subsequent falls of empires.

I do not attribute such rises and falls to the suggestion that man rose and God corrected. Rather only that our world society is self correcting and that God just “Is”.

J. Alva Scruggs 09.29.06 at 3:29

The media sees and promotes conspiracy theories all the time. Some of them have enough evidence to support them as being true. For example, it’s clear that the plan to take the country into a war and occupation of Iraq was conceived in a conspiratorial fashion and carried out in the same way. It’s also clear that that most senior management claims to be virtuously pursuing profit are conceived as PR spin to cover a careerist agenda. Neither of these things find their way into journalism on a regular basis. The conclusions to be drawn from the reality of them require a response, which would affect the business model of the journals. Rather, you get rationales of how these things are lesser evils, just the way things are, nothing to be done, etc. . . Those rationales require no conspiracy to explain.

There is also the paranoid rationalism form of conspiracism: conceiving of something as plausible and then assembling everything around it in a way that fits. The defenses of torture take that form -Dershowitz’s ticking time bomb and the thwarting of it with the blowtorch and pliers of liberty. People have been tortured. Therefore, mirabile dictu, liberty has been preserved.

Talk of God can take the form of paranoid rationalism. These life forms are complex and elegantly suited to living. The odds of such complexity emerging on its own are slim. The simpler answer is that they were designed. Occam’s Razor, woo hoo! Please leave your donation with the bursar.

But the pursuit of the divine is another story. That takes questions, not top down answers, and it takes Papa’s rejection of the easy authoritative.

Winston 09.29.06 at 5:32

Of course, you recognize that your “yes” or “no” questions are far to intricate and complex for such binary answers, even with qualifications allowed. But I’ll give it a go…

Q: Do you believe in god and how would you qualify that belief?
A: For me, the question is irrelevant. However, in a more traditional interpretation of the query, most people regardless of their state in that binary world, or more appropriately, along the bell curve, would award me with a “no” tag.

Q: Do you see conspiracies where the media and others around you see none, and give an example please?
A: Yes, I believe strongly in conspiracies. e.g. - the entire selection process that put Bush into office in the first place. And the decision making, execution and continuation of invading/occupying Iraq. And the entire ongoing Gitmo saga…

But I am not imaginative or resourceful enough to “see conspiracies where the media and others … see none.” Is there ANY possible conspiracy that has NOT been suggested by the media? Short of total delusionary paranoia, of course…

Bruce 09.29.06 at 8:39

I think many people have little patience for conspiracy theory for the same reason they feel uncomfortable with God-talk.

In other words, I think the official explanation for, say assassinations of John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, is analogous to traditional religions such as Christianity. They both offer the comfort of crowd-backed certainty without any real effort to get to the truth (for most). They both use fear — ridicule, damnation — to keep the flock from wandering, or from wondering, for that matter.

There is much to wonder about, in either case. Breaking from the crowd and seeking truth doesn’t lead to any hard and fast answers, but there is the benefit of adventure, discovery, and understanding.

I haven’t answered the question: I believe there is some point in existence, not to existence, that is balance and harmony, and that said point is miraculous, beautiful and cannot be adequately presented by words, though possibly by Van Gogh’s paintings, paradoxically, considering his imbalances. The letter’s g, o, and d are far from adequate.

As for conspiracies, they occur naturally as a result of rule by deception and manipulation. Mass media provides the tools and the cover for same.

Peter (the other) 09.29.06 at 9:21

I would have to agree with Winston’s carefully stated belief. I imagine there could be a god, but most would say I mean “no I don’t believe”.

Yet, I rarely see conspiracy other then god’s conspiracy, of which I can only ponder, and wait for more to be revealed. It is the conspiracy of a chaotic system.

Frank Paynter 09.29.06 at 9:29

Good stuff so far! I hope others check in with some answers. There’s a lot of stuff here worth stealing already. My dawkins reading has been slow going this week, but tying your thoughtful observations into what I glean from “The God Delusion” ought to be the stuff of some good blog posts! I think.

Troy Worman 09.29.06 at 9:41

On God… I do believe in God. I think it is absurd to believe that the complexities of the human body, our planet, solar system, universe, and their interaction are the results of mere chance. The miracle of birth. The mystery of death. The power of love. Wireless communications. The iPod. I think to not believe in God is a little silly.

Regarding conspiracies… My short answer is Yes, I believe conspiracies happen, but I like to think that more often than not, they spontaneouisly combust into being rather than result by intelligent design. That is, I like to believe that conspiracies are largely the result of chance smiling on an opportunist or two. But I do not profess to have any more insight into current or historical events than anyone else and I certainly do not have any interest in proving true or false any such random thoughts that pop into my head.

This all said, Lay et al conspired. Organize crime families conspire, obviously. The Bush Administration conspires. And of course, my mother-in-law conspires.

Such broad strokes surely warrant expounding, and so, I will.

My mother-in-law conspires lovingly.

jr 09.29.06 at 10:08

First question requires an absolute, the second question requires a generalization.

Whether I believe in God or not has no relevence to some actually committing a conspiracy.

And a conspiracy is just a theory until someone gets caught. Then God doesn’t exist.

McD 09.29.06 at 11:37

Frank,

Such essential questions… for the core of Philosophy:

Is there a God?
Is there evil?

I’m stuck with “not sure… no proof yet” and “definately” since good is a scale that accepts negative values.

But the key beyond these “context” inquiries is:

“Why are we here?” and
“What should we do while we are?”

You can navigate these without requiring fixed answers regarding God and Evil. For me… focusing on the “Unanswerable Questions” (your 1 and 2) is a poor answer for #4.

Carry on. Reading your views after reflection IS a good use of my time… sitting at the feet of deep thinkers is a good investment: you may stumble upon some clues to “What should we do…” that are worth following.

WWFD?

bmo 09.29.06 at 1:17

1. No. My qualification: I’ve run across no defintion of God that is not a qualification of man’s inability to know all while attempting to explain it all. Therefore God is forever an excuse for our own inherent ignorance and limitations. In other words: shift blame. Get over it and get on with it.

2. Yes. God is the mother of all conspiracies. The media, her narcissistic bastard child. Money, the dim-witted yet pussy-struck lord. Getting on with it, but never getting over themselves.

Winston 09.29.06 at 3:30

bmo gets 3 gold stars for his answer on #1. He nailed it.

But I’ll temporarily take back one of them for his #2 answer, which I’m too linear to comprehend, considering that it is in direct conflict with #1. But Brian does that to us sometimes to make sure we’re paying attention…

Hmmmm…

elsie 09.30.06 at 7:38

#1. Still not sure if I believe in God, but I want to, if only because I find comfort in the possibility that perhaps one day I will be reunited with all those I’ve loved and lost. And I saw how sharing that hope with my child, whose best friend died at age 9, brought comfort to him. I’m not comfortable with the fire and brimstone god I grew up with, so I try to believe in a benevolent god. And I wonder, too, if there’s no god, what’s the point?

#2. Just the opposite. I usually don’t see conspiracies where everyone else does. Of course there are exceptions, but I generally wonder why the world is so paranoid all the time. I believe that most people are good (vs. evil) and that makes most conspiracies hard to stomach. Then again, I’ll admit to being simple that way. Works for me.

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