Hello. I’m a writer and teacher from Edinburgh, interested in the history of religions, critical theory and conspiracy theories. I hold a PhD in Religious Studies from the University of Edinburgh, and I’m particularly interested in using critical theory in teaching. I’m Co-founding Editor of the Religious Studies Project and a committee member of the British Association for the Study of Religion.

Sometimes I write fiction too, when my children let me. And I was a musician, in another life. This site is where I promote my books, talk about my research and trying to live as a writer, and collect all the little bits of writing I do in other places. On the right you’ll find my most popular posts, and at the top my major publications. If you like my work, you can get regular updates and special offers if you sign up for my mailing list.

You can email me at d.g.robertson [at] ed.ac.uk.

Thoughts on Children in New Religions (reblogged)

By David G. Robertson As Susan Palmer argued in her opening keynote at the CenSAMM conference on Millenarianism and Violence in Bedford last week, children are often the focus of particular attention within millenarian groups. As Mary Douglas argued, this is because the child is conceived of as the embodiment of the group’s ideals. The…

via Thoughts on Children in New Religions — Contemporary religion in historical perspective

Pizzagate and the Luciferian Agenda

On 7th April, I presented a paper at the CenSAMM conference, Violence and Millenarian Movements, at the Panacea Trust in Bedford. My paper was entitled Pizzagate and the Luciferian Agenda, and you can watch the whole thing below. Here’s the abstract:

In November and December 2016, online accusations of a paedophile ring operating out of a Washington pizza restaurant led to the arrest of Edgar Welch (28) after threatening staff and firing several shots in an apparent attempt to liberate “child sex slaves”. This panic, known as pizzagate, began when leaked emails from Hillary Clinton’s aide, Mike Podesta, were suggested to contain coded language by a number of users on web forums, who began to elaborate upon the narrative until it was widely taken as evidence of a nationwide satanic paedophile ring involving numerous politicians and other power brokers. It is rare is for a conspiracy theory such as this to escalate into violence so quickly, but two things are of particular interest here. First, this ties into the satanic ritual abuse scare of the early 1990s – a phenomenon intimately tied to a Manichaean understanding of the world promoted by certain evangelical millenarian Christians. These ideas have been nurtured and promoted by high-profile independent broadcasters such as Alex Jones, for whom they are part of a sweeping millennial narrative in which a global (and sometimes cosmic) cabal of Luciferians seek to decimate the world’s population and enslave the remains.

I recorded three interviews which will appear on the Religious Studies Project in future, and a full report will appear in the BASR Bulletin next month.

[Updated 28/04/2017 – higher quality video added.]

The Month in Conspiracy

Alex Jones has publically apologised for his coverage of #PizzaGate, and specifically the allegations against James Alefantis. There is obviously considerable legal pressure being applied behind the scenes here, and it is at this point unclear how this relates to his close connections to the Trump White House. Video below, and a full transcript here.

Antarctica is a hot topic in alternative history narratives these days. Here’s David Wilcock and his latest “insider” Corey Goode on how “The Antarctic Atlantis” relates to the secret space program:

Want to know how it all fits together? This could only be improved if it was designed to look like an octopus. Or a squid, I suppose: http://laughingsquid.com/the-conspiracy-theory-flowchart-they-dont-want-you-to-see/?utm_source=feedly

Barth’s Notes on Westminster Attack conspiracy theories: http://barthsnotes.com/2017/03/24/westminster-terror-attack-the-troofers-emerge/

The autism caused by vaccination narrative gets another celebrity endorsement: https://nexusnewsfeed.com/article/human-rights/his-life-has-been-altered-forever-de-niro-finally-opens-up-about-his-son-s-autism-link-to-vaccines/

7 Questions for Sacred Matters

I was interviewed last year for Sacred Matters, a really interesting web magazine focussed on “public scholarship that undercuts conventional understandings of religion and reimagines the boundaries between religion and culture”. You can read the full thing here.

Most scholarship on conspiracy theories starts by attacking the rationality of their ideas. But to state that Jesus rose from the grave is obviously to challenge scientific knowledge too. Where are the scholars attacking the rationality of an idea that the majority of US citizens hold dear? In fact, much – if not most – of what we do as supposedly “secular” humans is not driven by the scientific method at all – including nationalism, political views, sport, even falling in love. As social scientists, our job is to describe, not prescribe, human social activity.

Conspiracy theories are a site of contestation as to how we understand the world. A conspiracy theory is not “a theory about a conspiracy” – I give lots of examples in the book – but rather something we are not permitted to think. That so many conspiracy theories relate to people in positions of power should make this even plainer. The important issue in conspiracy theories is not what is said, but whether we are allowed to say it. That scholars so often reinforce this good thinking/bad thinking dichotomy makes it clear that a properly critical and disinterested study of conspiracy theories is sorely needed.

 

 

The Week in Conspiracy, 20th Feb 2017

 

“Health Ranger” Mike Adams claims “I am being threatened with the ‘complete destruction’ of my reputation, my brand and my character by left-wing media operatives who have issued a new threat this week: ‘Destroy Alex Jones or we will destroy YOU.’” Poor snowflake – sounds like he’s been triggered.

https://nexusnewsfeed.com/article/geopolitics/threats-directed-towards-health-ranger-mike-adams/

Image result for growing up in the new world orderAn interesting graphic novel which wants to WAKE THE SHEEPLE. And no it’s not by you, it’s by Tom Hoover and Michael Lee:

https://www.bleedingcool.com/2017/02/19/baking-minds-growing-new-world-order/

 

Steve Bannon’s Apocalypticism:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/steve-bannon-apocalypse_us_5898f02ee4b040613138a951

 

Fake News is not a new phenomenon:

https://drdavidclarke.co.uk/2017/02/17/100-years-of-fake-news-the-german-corpse-factory/

 

Winston Churchill discusses alien life in newly-found 1939 essay:

http://www.space.com/35713-winston-churchill-discusses-search-for-alien-life.html?_ga=1.222001176.1057865260.1483620055

The Week in Conspiracy, 20 January 2017

By Mitch O’Connell, via BoingBoing

I haven’t done one of these in a while. That’s because all the wild conspiracy stuff I used to post is now our everyday reality, and the stuff of the regular news shows… So perhaps today is a good time to post.


John Carpenter publicly denies that They Live (1988) is an allegory for the secret Jewish control of the world:


Erich von Daniken appears on the Richie Allen Show. Yes, he’s still alive, and still promoting the Ancient Aliens thesis:


Delegates at the Contact in the Desert UFO conference see UFOs. A weird coincidence? Were these delegates more “ready” to see UFOs? Or were the ETs deliberately reaching out to them? Whichever reason, this sighting is by no means the only such example, and you might enjoy the Last Podcast on the Left’s take (but put the kids to bed first) – http://cavecomedyradio.com/podcast-episode/episode156-the-coronado-group-abduction/


The CIA have declassified 13 million documents and published them online. Most news outlets are focusing on a small number of inconclusive UFO reports. Sky news, however, focused on their tests on Uri Geller, something that Geller has claimed for a while, though not always being taken seriously. The papers provide evidence, however, stating that “As a result of Geller’s success in this experimental period, we consider that he has demonstrated his paranormal perception ability in a convincing and unambiguous manner.”

8 Thoughts about Alan Moore’s Jerusalem – Part 1

Alan Moore’s second novel, Jerusalem, was published in September 2016. It was ten years in the writing and weighs in at 1100 pages (allegedly making it the 10th longest English-language novel). Like his debut, The Voice of the Fire (highly recommended, by the way), Jerusalem again focuses on Moore’s hometown of Northampton, although this time the focus is tightened even further to the area in which he grew up, known as The Boroughs. The historical detail is all factual, and it would seem that many of the characters are drawn from Moore’s own family.

There is so much in this to talk about that I am going to follow the book’s tripartite structure, and write a post for each of Jerusalem’s three sections (it is actually available as a three-volume slipcase edition). This post is on Book 1, titled The Boroughs, and so probably won’t spoil much, as I haven’t read further yet myself.

1. Short Story Structure

As with Voice of the Fire, the first section of Jerusalem is essentially a collection of short stories. These are apparently self-contained – at least at first. The historical sweep is not so grand; Voice of the Fire starts in 10,000 BCE whereas Jerusalem only goes back to the early Medieval period, with a pilgrim arriving at the centre of England carrying a cross from Jerusalem. Here, the characters are more recent: we meet an 18th-century painter restoring the roof of St. Paul’s; a drug-addicted teenage prostitute; a black American immigrant with a bicycle with rope for tyres; and hinting at things to come, a ghost. As it progresses, it becomes clear that many of the characters are members of two families, the Warrens and the Vernalls.

2. Stylistic Experimentation

This first section is relatively free of the kind of stylistic experimentation which was a part of Voice of the FireThe Black Dossier and the latter parts of Promethea. There are clearly different voices, but on the whole, the prose is very accessible. If anything, the progression is from a very plain, contemporary mode towards more stylised chapters like Snowy Vernall’s rooftop soliloquy, but nowhere do we have the dense ‘adventures in style’ that punctuated The Black Dossier.

3. Alan is Alma

It seems that much of the historical material in Jerusalem are drawn from Moore’s family, and indeed the central events of the overall narrative – four-year-old Michael Warren’s several minutes of lifelessness after choking on a cough sweet – happened to Moore’s brother Michael. But in Jerusalem, Michael’s elder sibling is a girl named Alma. Nevertheless, Alma is clearly Alan (and the caption on the photograph on the dust jacket tells you so), and he paints quite a coruscating portrait of himself, downplaying his success, and frequently mocking his physical appearance.

Ironically, gender-swapping characters has become a feature of the mainstream comics and superhero movies of which Moore is famously ‘less than keen’.

4. Leitmotif

There are the usual vocal tics (think of Rorschach’s “hurm” or William Gull’s “I just made a little sound”), the most obvious being the drunk’s “Ah ha ha ha ha!” There is also a sort of meta-language mentioned several places, described as “unfolding” in the brain once heard (ironically, something which Grant Morrison also played with in The Invisibles). But here the most obvious use of leitmotif is visual. The image of the arms being raised, the various uses of “corner”, the repeating circular pattern of the Bedlam Jennies, and so on. This reminds us that Moore was an artist first – and drew the book’s cover – and despite the lack of illustration here, Jerusalem is still a very visual piece.

5. Leave it to the Prose

Moore’s comics of the 1980s were famed for their long captions of purple prose, and while this feature disappeared from his comics in the 1990s, his descriptive skill is very much in evidence here. As with the previous point, these are often visual, but there is also a playful and sometimes course sense of humour at play. A couple of random examples… “She’d loitered, liminal, in libraries, skulked spectrally in sitting rooms and crept, crepuscular, through classes”; “the grat majority of men found Alma to be ‘generally alarming’ in the words of one aquaintance, or ‘a fucking menopausal nightmare’ in the blunter phrasing of another, although even this was said in what seemed almost an admiring tone”; “all the world with its shining marble hours, its lichen centuries and fanny-sucking moments all at once, his every waking second constantly exploded to a thousand years of incident and fanfare, an eternal conflagration of the senses where stood Snowy Vernall, wide-eyed and unflinching at the bright carnival heart of his own endless fire”.

6. Time is a Dimension

As suggested by that last quote, Moore is again playing with the idea of time as a dimension. Characters like Snowy Vernall and the Deathmonger seem aware of past and future, and the chronological sprawl of the chapters seems to link all times together with hints of some grander narrative. As with Watchmen‘s wonderful Dr Manhattan sequence, Moore suggests that all of time is as set as space, completely demolishing the idea of Free Will. This will become even more apparent in the second book, however.

7. When Narratives Collide

Despite the numerous narrators across several centuries, there are nevertheless hints that those set in the present day will come together in some event. Indeed, it seems that they all take place on the evening of Alma’s exhibition, anticipated in the prologue, and which is also mentioned by other characters. For example, Marla, a teenage prostitute and addict is mentioned at least three times in later chapters, being seen by other characters and being mentioned in a conversation between four angels. It seems likely that these characters will come back into play in the third and final book.

8. A Plot!

Only in the final chapter of this part does the de facto plot begin, although it was discussed in the prologue – Michael Warren’s choking on a cough sweet, aged four, his subsequent several minutes of apparent death, and the memories of where he went during those minutes, newly recovered following a bump on the head in his 50s. And so we move into Book 2…