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

The Week in Conspiracy, 30 August 2016

A review of Holy Hell, a documentary by Will Allen about his years in the Buddhafield, a Californian group led by hypnotherapist Michel. It seems like the tone is relatively even-handed, which means that this will be of interest to scholars like me, as well as the use of archival footage. I say “relatively even-handed” however as I have yet to see it, and there is certainly a slightly sensationalist tone to the trailer. Ideas of sexual misconduct are, of course, the standard accusation in the construction of malevolent Otherness, and has been since the Classical world, and financial misconduct is another. Nevertheless, they do happen, and there have been a number of recent documentaries (“Going Clear”, “The Family”) which trade on the “corrupt leader and his brainwashed stooges” model, which is worrying. As religious identities become more polarised, are we seeing a return to the media universally constructing new religions as dangerous cults?

Richard Bartholomew has an interesting piece of the growing presence of the more outlandish conspiracy theories in American evangelism, entitled “Jim Bakker and the David Ickeization of Christianity”:

Pentecostalism has a strong sense of the other-worldly, and its emphasis on spiritual forces sometimes means a readiness to accept claims about “occult” and Satanic conspiracies. Sometimes, pop-culture science-fiction elements may be incorporated, such as the idea that UFOs are visions of demons. However, the extravagance of the conspiracy theories now being promoted by Bakker are closer to the realms of David Icke’s imaginings than the exhortations of old-time religion or even the old conspiracy theories that were dusted off and made less overtly anti-semitic by Bakker’s old employer Pat Robertson in 1991.

James Carrion has new evidence suggesting a larger role in the UFO story for the Joint Security Control, a strategic deception unit formed during WW2 and answerable directly to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. A revised charter allowing them to operate in peacetime, as well as wartime, come into operation in May 1947, immediately preceding the original wave of “flying saucer” sightings. A long, very detailed, but fascinating read for anyone interested in the historical development of the UFO narrative, and its origins. At

The week in conspiracy

Via – Thanks Krittika


Donald Trump says he will attempt to release redacted information on 9-11 if elected – “Americans deserve answers and I would definitely request a new investigation so that this horrible tragedy never happens again”.

David Icke appears on the Richie Allen Show – a show that he funds – and gets a positive response. He talks mostly about his new book, The Phantom Self. Then, again, the next week, following Terry Wogan’s death. 

Meanwhile, the first episode of the new series of the X-Files uses Icke’s “problem-reaction-solution”, coming from the mouth of a character based on Alex Jones and Glenn Beck. Which is ironic as Glenn Beck is essentially a character based on Alex Jones.

The Week in Conspiracies

My New Year’s resolution is to get my blog back on track. So let’s do it! What’s been happening in the conspiracist world?

Well, for one,  published an unusually balanced piece in the Guardian, entitled The truth is rushing out there: why conspiracy theories spread faster than ever. It is strongly from the psychological angle – which is to say, conspiracy theories are a way of thinking, but at least it is not presented here as a necessarily aberrant way of thinking. Because if it is, then psychology and religion and many other ways of thinking that posit unprovable primum mobiles are aberrant too:

For Ryan… [a] world that pitted him against the forces of evil had all the appeal of a spy drama. But real life was less like a story – and in some ways more depressing. What does he think are the forces that really shape things? “Most of what is wrong in the world nowadays – well, I would put it down to incompetence and greed. A lack of compassion.”

A more typical report at Epiphenom, which argues that people make more appeals to conspiracy theories when they feel they have less control of their environment. Which almost certainly applies to much more than just CTs – millennialism, for one, and jingoism for another, and ‘religion’, whatever it is. The problem is, as with much psychological work on CTs, is that it assumes we know what a CT is. We might as well say “People are prepared to accept different evidence the more desperate they get.” Which is obviously true, but doesn’t tell us a great deal.

This blog post explores the connections between CTs and religious ideas. Not academic, but good to see this idea spreading beyond the academy.

The conspiracy theory label: Not as powerful as you might think

An interesting post from Mike Wood. The rhetorical function of the term “Conspiracy Theory” may be more complex than many scholars (myself included) have considered. Perhaps the “stigma” is only effective in those who haven’t constructed an identity which is in opposition to certain “norms”. What do you think?

The Psychology of Conspiracy Theories

Calling something a conspiracy theory is basically an intellectual scarlet letter. It’s a way of dismissing something you don’t like, of placing something outside the bounds of reasonable discourse. “That’s just a conspiracy theory” is a depressingly effective way of getting someone to plug their ears and turn their brains off. Right?

Wrong, apparently!

A series of experiments I did last year came up with an interesting little finding – labeling something a conspiracy theory doesn’t make someone believe it any less than if you call it something more neutral. This goes against conventional wisdom that I’ve heard repeated quite a few times online and among people who study conspiracy theories. The journal Political Psychology has just published a paper describing these studies – you can read the whole thing free here (the article is open-access thanks to a generous payment by the University of Winchester).

It’s not like I…

View original post 746 more words

IAHR 2015 Congress in Erfurt

iahr2015Some money has come through, and I’m very pleased to be confirming I’ll be going to the 2015 World Congress of the International Association for the History of Religions in Erfurt, Germany, this August. The full line-up has just been announced, and I’m giving papers in two panels.

First, Conspiracy Theories in Contemporary Religious Discourse, with Mattias Gardell, Asbjorn Dyrendal and Beth Singler (and although I’m listed as Chair, Egil Asprem will actually be doing the honours):

Academic interest in conspiracy theories has grown in recent years, as it has become apparent that they are a central locus for contemporary debates over power, democracy and rationality. Some scholars have noted the intersection between conspiracy theories and contemporary religious narratives (Goodrick-Clarke 2002; Barkun 2003), but there has been no sustained critical analysis of the field, nor theoretical models through which to interpret the multiple and complex interrelations. This panel is intended to help define the boundaries of this developing field and outline avenues for future research. How is conspiracy discourse promoted and/or combated within religious communities? Which resources are drawn upon in such struggles over meaning and influence? What are the common epistemological features of religion and conspiracism, e.g. belief in occluded agencies? Might we usefully analyse conspiracy theories as a modality of religious thought and practice, e.g. as soteriology, theodicy or esoteric hermeneutics?

Second, After World Religions, with Chris Cotter, Craig Martin, Teemu Taira and Russell McCutcheon:

The World Religions Paradigm (WRP) has been subjected to sustained and rigorous critique in the academic study of religion for many years. However, in spite of this critique becoming an established part of the Religious Studies (RS) corpus, one area in which the WRP has proven especially resilient is in pedagogy, and in particular in introductory courses on ‘religion’. This panel brings together the editors and three contributing authors of the forthcoming volume After ‘World Religions’: Reconstructing Religious Studies (Routledge 2015), to operationalize this critique and offer concrete, practical alternatives for use in pedagogical contexts. In addition to presenting viable approaches which avoid, problematize and subvert the WRP, these papers offer a broad range of innovative theoretical and methodological strategies, and directly address the pedagogical challenges presented in different departmental, institutional and geographical contexts.

On top of that, I’ll be recording interviews and taking part in all sorts of other activities for the Religious Studies Project, and other things which I’ve yet to finalise. But most exciting is the chance too socialise with people I’ve only met online, and to present my research to the global academic community.

BREAKING NEWS: What’s this…?


Benjamin Fulford: Do top Western leaders work for hostile aliens or are they just evil?

Benjamin Fulford addresses the Reptilian hypothesis – and rejects it. “However, while invoking otherworldly reasons for the nasty situation we find ourselves in is fascinating, it will not solve the problems we face. We need to start with what we can actually see and do.”


Benjamin Fulford 10-13-2014

What passes as the leadership of the Western world, especially the United States, is acting in such a stupid and downright evil manner that we have to ask the question of who they really work for. As this article is being written, the secret government of the West is continuing to spread bio-weapons, yet again threatening nuclear terror, trying to start World War 3 in the Middle East or Europe and otherwise behaving like a bunch of psychopaths.

Then there is what appears to be some sort of secret weather warfare going on. As this story goes to press, supposed super typhoon Vongfong

is directly over Tokyo and yet it is hardly even raining and there is no wind. A look at the Japanese infrared and visual weather satellite photographs of this typhoon over the past 48 hours show some very unnatural goings on. On the…

View original post 1,047 more words

Cameron tells UN conspiracy theories are “extremism”

In a speech before the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York last week (24/9/2014), David Cameron stated that he intends to defeat not only violent “extremists”, but “all extremism”, in which he includes alternative narratives about the cause of 9-11 and 7-7. Although he does not use the term “conspiracy theory”, in this, deliberately or not – echoed George W. Bush’s famous quote following 9-11, “Let us not tolerate absurd conspiracy theories”, underlining that “conspiracy theory” is a rhetorical term employed by those with power to silence dissent from the “official line”.

As evidence emerges about the backgrounds of those convicted of terrorist offences, it is clear that many of them were initially influenced by preachers who claim not to encourage violence, but whose world view can be used as a justification for it.

The peddling of lies: that 9/11 was a Jewish plot and the 7/7 London attacks were staged.

The idea that Muslims are persecuted all over the world as a deliberate act of Western policy.

The concept of an inevitable clash of civilisations.

We must be clear: to defeat the ideology of extremism we need to deal with all forms of extremism – not just violent extremism.

For governments, there are some obvious ways we can do this.

We must ban preachers of hate from coming to our countries.

We must proscribe organisations that incite terrorism against people at home and abroad.

We must work together to take down illegal online material like the recent videos of Isil murdering hostages.

And we must stop so called non-violent extremists from inciting hatred and intolerance in our schools, universities and prisons.

Of course some will argue that this is not compatible with free speech and intellectual inquiry.

But I say: would we sit back and allow right-wing extremists, Nazis or Klu Klux Klansmen to recruit on our university campuses?

So we shouldn’t stand by and just allow any form of non-violent extremism.

We need to argue that prophecies of a global war of religion pitting Muslims against the rest of the world are nonsense.

We need Muslims and their governments around the world to reclaim their religion from these sick terrorists.

We all need to help them with programmes that channel young people away from these poisonous ideologues.

And we need the strongest possible international focus on tackling this ideology… which is why here at the United Nations, the UK is calling for a new Special Representative on extremism.

Watch further, however, and you will see Paul Joseph Watson, Alex Jones’ UK representative, relate this clip to Jones’ larger narrative of the immanent takeover of the West by the New World Order. While I agree with Watson’s questioning how Cameron’s words can be reconciled with the freedom of speech enshrined by democracies, I think the claim that he is criminalising all dissension is a bit of a stretch.

Footage of Jim Jones preaching

Some interesting footage of Jim Jones preaching at the People’s Temple in Redwood, California, in the 1970s. I’m presuming that, as you’re reading this blog, you’re aware of Jim Jones. Or the Jonestown Massacre, at least.

Some interesting things here; that god is socialism, and the God of the Christians is a sky god; the open admission that he is using religion to destroy religion; and an obvious and somewhat contrary deification of Jones himself. But the singing is great – he’s like a young Marxist brainwashy Johnny Cash.