3/2022 English Summary – conspiracy

Zuzana M. Kostićová
Conspiracy as a rebellion against feeling of guilt

The article interprets the contemporary movement of conspiracy as the result of about fifteen years of gradual increase of millennial and conspiratorial content in public discourse. It began with the economic crisis in 2008 and the subsequent millennial “2012 phenomenon”, which, however, al­ready had its conspiracy position. This was followed by the migration crisis and later the ecological crisis, where the strong millennial content began to give way to an increasing conspiratorial content. Finally, the pandemic represented a real boom in conspiracy themes, but their intensity is difficult to understand without the context of the two previous decades.

Christopher Partridge
Alien demonology
The Christian roots of the malevolent extraterrestrial in UFO religions and abduction spiritualities

Initially, the sacralisation of the extraterrestrial led to an understanding of the alien as a fundamentally benevolent, messianic figure – a “technological angel”. This was largely because of the Cold War environment in which much UFO religion arose. Those attracted to the myth looked beyond a politically and militarily unstable planet to extraterrestrial saviours. Furthermore, because UFO religions have their roots in the Theosophical tradition, the religious understanding of the extraterrestrial tended to be fundamentally indebted to the concept of the wise and benevolent ascended master. The aim of this article is to examine the technological angel’s foil. The central thesis is that, in their construction of the malevolent alien, UFO religionists and abductees turn not to Theosophy and Eastern religious traditions but to the myths and symbols of Christian demonology. Moreover, in exploring the origins and nature of the demonologies of contemporary UFO religions and abduction spiritualities, the article also draws attention to the importance of popular culture in the West, which, itself influenced by the Christian tradition, contributes to the formation of both popular demonology and also UFO mythology, which are in turn synthesised in UFO demonologies.

Egil Asprem – Asbjørn Dyrendal
Conspiracy Reconsidered:
How surprising and how new is the confluence of spirituality and conspiracy theory?

Those who have followed the development of online new religiosity over the past decade will not have failed to notice that conspiracy theories and “New Age” ideas are thriving together. But how new and how surprising is the phenomenon of “conspiracy”? In the present article, we challenge the thesis put forward by Charlotte Ward and David Voas (2011) that a confluence of spirituality and conspiracy has emerged in the past two decades as a form of New Age theodicy. Instead, we argue on theoretical grounds that conspirituality can be viewed as a predictable result of structural elements in the cultic milieu, and on historical grounds that its roots stretch deep into the history of Western esotericism. Together, these two considerations allow us not only to suggest that conspirituality is old and predictable, but also to identify a large potential for further research to contribute to the study of conspiracy culture and to enable a new line of comparative research in religious studies.

Ivana Noble
Why conspiracy theories are not innocent

In her text, the Czech ecumenical theologian and pastor of the Czechoslovak Hussite Church addresses the issue of how to understand conspiracy theories in contemporary discourse and why those types of conspiracy theories that are under the umbrella of Christianity or another religion pose a special problem. It describes the relationship between conspiracy theories and violence, the process of forming the “enemy” and the danger of misusing Christian symbolism for these purposes. It shows how conspiracy theories can lead to and serve as justification for violent action, and how they encourage the creation of vicarious victims and their persecution. It looks in detail at two examples of conspiracy theories and their violent consequences in our own time: the protests against covid restrictions and vaccination, which grew into the intimidation of “enemies”; and the formation of the “enemy” in the Russian ideology of “traditional values”, which became a significant part of the anti-Western conspiracy theory justifying the war in Ukraine. It shows that conspiracy theories are not innocent, reflects on the possibilities of preventing and overcoming the consequences of conspiracy theories, and emphasizes the need to seek and find traces of the common good that actively counteract the increasing polarization of the world.

James Alan Patterson
Changing Images of the Beast
Apocalyptic Conspiracy Theories in American History

The classic study of apocalyptic conspiracy theories in American history shows that the search for and identification of external antichrists is one of the chronic preoccupations of American apocalyptic, who traditionally label religious institutions, nation-states, foreign ideologies, and even specific individuals as such. The author illustrates this tendency from the Revolutionary War through the 19th century and up to the Cold War. He shows how conspiratorial approaches are historically conditioned and therefore tend to lose credibility as time passes. Moreover, they have so far always been proven wrong. He concludes that history simply does not fit the neat and tidy parameters of conspiracy theories. Conspiracy models trivialize the richness of biblical prophecy because ­while apocalyptic texts of Scripture employ symbols and often veiled language, conspiracy theorists attempt detailed and highly speculative applications of these texts to contemporary events. In so doing, the Bible’s prophetic message loses some of its impact and may even become captive to political and national agendas.

Kateřina Hlaváčová
QAnon Conspiracy Theory and the Conservative Protestant Milieu in the USA

The study focuses on the QAnon conspiracy theory and explains it in the background of contemporary American conspiracy theories, specifically in relation to the environment of American conservative Protestants, which gives it some specific features shared with similar conspiracy narratives. These have their culturally conditioned character on the one hand, but they have an equally strong influence on the whole Western conspiracy culture.

Victor Shnirelman
The Russian Orthodoxy and a Conspiracy Theory
A Contemporary Discourse

The article discusses an eschatological background of conspiracy using the Russian Orthodox conspiracy as a case study. The contemporary Russian Orthodox conspiracy focuses on a concept of the “end of time”, which is imagined as a triumphal arrival of the Antichrist, assisted by the Jews and Freemasons. Thus a function, rather than any attribute (rootless, rationalist, liberal, materialist, treachery), forms the basis for the development of religious stereotyping, shared by some priests and the conservative public intellectuals. In fact, the Jews are held responsible for preparing the way for the arrival of their close relative, the Antichrist, and this goal is viewed as a prime mover for all their actions. Russia is considered the last fortress of true Christianity, playing the role of the Biblical “restrainer” (katechon), resisting Satan with the Antichrist and banishing them from the world. The main themes of the discourse are, firstly, a “ritual murder” of the Russian emperor, secondly, the current globalization accompanied by the digital economy and allegedly triggering the “mark of Satan”, and thirdly, a construction of the Third Temple. All these developments are viewed as the strategic, treacherous activities of the Jews and the Freemasons.

“Run a state like the KGB”
An Interview with Tomáš Glanc about the current Russian conspiracy teories

A leading Czech Russian scholar and semiotician answers questions about the place of Russian conspiracy thinking in the context of the ongoing war in Ukraine. It examines the roots of anti-Western attitudes in both society and the Orthodox Church and their current manifestations. It examines the personality of Alexander Dugin and the roots of his ideological engagement, and discusses contemporary Russian critical reflection on conspiracy theories.