Have Our Minds Been Highjacked? Mental Health in an Era of Conspiracy Theories

On April 24, I had the pleasure to moderate a stellar panel, courtesy of Sligo Women’s Ministry, to discuss Christian intellectual health and the power of conspiracy theories. As the final session of the Wellness Wheel, a multi-dimensional mental wellness model, this event explored intellectual wellness during the time of COVID-19.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/11212
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This is what Walter Veith is been doing through his amazing conspiracy theories. He is misleading many Adventists through his subtle theories.

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veith is definitely good at what he does…he came to my church some yrs ago and was totally riveting…he even had pictures that looked like what he claimed: vestige remains of noah’s ark on top of a mountain in turkey…

i don’t think there’s any way to verify or refute his claims…

but speaking of being mentally hijacked, i definitely think american conservatives need to take a careful look in the mirror…almost everything that has broad support in the GOP is a false conspiracy…

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Merriam-Webster defines “conspiracy” as (1) the act of conspiring together; (2) an agreement among conspirators; (3) a group of conspirators. “Conspiring” means to plot or contrive.

I’m intrigued by the way “conspiracy” and “conspiracy theory” have come into such widespread use in the past few years. The terms seem to have become a synonym for “deceptive fiction” or even a lazy way to “refute” the beliefs of those with whom we disagree. The problem with this word-hack is that historically there HAVE been real conspiracies, and there continue to be. But instead of investigating whether a conspiracy “theory” (story) is true or not, it is too easy to just slap the label “conspiracy theory” on it and everyone shakes their heads and wonders how anyone can believe such falsehoods. Rather than doing the hard work of investigation and refutation with facts, we just label it.

While it seems to me that use (misuse) of the term “conspiracy theory” has exploded recently, this approach is certainly not new. 2000 years ago, a resurrection rumor circulating in Jerusalem was “refuted” by simply noting that there was a conspiracy by Jesus’ disciples to steal his body and hide it. I suppose the prudent thing for a rational first century Jew to have done would have been to recognize that was probably what happened, and get on with life. Only the unhinged fringe would investigate whether the theory had any truth to it, or if there might be “alternative facts” refuting the priestly account.

I’m not suggesting that all the ideas circulating today, whether by QAnon or others, are worth even spending time investigating. But I am saying that I think we have gotten lazy with our use of the term, and we are also using it to avoid investigating some phenomena that perhaps we SHOULD investigate.

Edward Snowden recently said that the most dangerous conspiracies are the ones in plain sight. Anyone who 20 years ago suggested that the government and big corporations were tracking everything you said on your phone and recording and storing all your movements would have been accused of promulgating wild conspiracy theories. Now we know it’s true.

Within the denomination, and within the pages of Spectrum, there has been a long-running discussion of a coordinated effort to prevent women’s ordination to gospel ministry. If I call it a “conspiracy theory” does that mean it isn’t real?

Within the COVID-19 context, where the label is widely used and social media platforms are censoring content falling under the label, the misuse of the label has damaged honest discussion, including among doctors and scientists, in the midst of a health crisis when global communication is essential. For an example, see the FLCCC alliance’s recent discussion by Dr. Kory on the role of the pharmaceutical industry and its capture of health agencies in the suppression of alternatives to expensive patent medications. This is a legitimate concern and shouldn’t be dismissed as mere “conspiracy theory” even though it indeed resembles a conspiracy.

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Have (Christian/SDA) minds been highjacked?

Does believing in the conspiracy theory that there’s an invisible devil with legions of imps roaming the cosmos whose only goal is the ingestion of sinful souls–as well as an omniscient but unknowable creator who willingly abets their carnivorous ways–lead to mental health issues?

Are those who insist that religion has all the characteristics of a virus, and that any system which values faith over facts is essentially a conspiratorial attack on justifiable respect for human decency, intellect and achievement, correct?

Easy answer in all three cases (and spoiler alert): Yes.

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This was an excellent forum. You moderated it very well and the comments by the different panel members were very balanced and I appreciated very much how the subject was presented. Good questions were presented at the end and I very much appreciated how they were answered. I would recommend any and all to watch and listen and learn if the video of the event is available!!

Have you watched his What’s up prof? no. 8, 24 & 59? You’ll know what I am talking about.

Thank you for watching. The discussion was much richer than what I described in this brief article. I encourage all to listen.

i actually don’t follow veith, so no, i haven’t watched these…

didn’t most new age and modernists go mental and have mental issues
and doesn’t the bible prove this ? those that where stubborn where cursed with mental issues

Nebuchadnezzar
so spectrum want to treat what is a punishment’s from GOD
and further go deeper into madness

why will there be a MASHING OF TEETH

the speaker at the 59min mark says why can one body of text mean so many different things to so many people
she should read chapter 32 and 33 great controversy

Satan’s campaign in his rebellion in heaven was free agency

No and no.

Careful, friend. Suspicion, mistrust and judgment won’t lead to an authentic exchange of ideas, but are actually the end of safe space and community through conversation.

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not sure what you mean
didn’t lucifer champion authenticity and freedom

safe space ?? vs grace ?? grace is the biblical version of safe space because it highlight error in love
your twisting things

I don’t argue against speaking your mind. That’s actually the point of conversation. I just argue against an underlying mistrust that is shown in words like “madness” regarding this place that is actually giving you the opportunity to speak your mind. Nevermind.

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Did you watch the presentation?

Dr. Crichton makes a very good point in noting that SDA’s (as well as Christians, in general, I would add) have done black youth a huge disservice by perpetuating the myth that Jesus had light, or even white skin.

Further, this evaluation is historically correct and cannot be refuted logically .

However, isn’t this a case of a conspiracy theory and more proof that rejection of such assertions requires more than a quick wave of the hand, or appeals for censorship of views which are contrary to that which goes against popular opinion and political correctness?

I’d also suggest that for gentiles like myself, the claim that my salvation can only be accomplished by idolizing a Jewish man (NOT his mother according to the SDA’s/EGW) born two thousand years ago has also had deleterious effects on my psyche and self esteem.

But then again, this is a minority opinion in a world where nearly a third of the population refers to themselves as Christians (whatever that means) and can be drowned out as easily as a whisper in a whirlwind.

Carmen, did you create this definition yourself or it is the transcription of a conversation? This statement (and the following) has number of issues for me:

  1. If a person “sees” the false explanation or meaning, would they not discard it as false? It seems this person is not mentally ill because they “see” or understand the falsehood. Or are you instead describing someone who is purposely using chaos to create a lie and deceive others? and if so, what is the process for the other person be equally deceived or equally deceitful in purpose?
  2. Conspiracies are always considered evil, using your example how would someone learning about an evil plan to be carried out by others (usually powerful people) feel “safe” let alone “in control”? My experience is that precisely the opposite is true.

Why not? lets just consider consider what may have happened if someone had revealed the theory that a conspiracy to assassinate Lincoln existed, before it became a conspiracy fact, could this have potentially represented an act of love? - Also, take a moment to think what may have happened if someone did not reveal (as they did) the Gunpowder Plot of 1604, just before hundredths of people were killed.
Conspiracies happen every day and the people who uncover them or make them public often are patriots and heroes risking their own lives in the process and on this topic Paul wrote: Eph 5:11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.

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Yes. Why do you ask?

(And yes, it was noted, particularly by Dr. Sun-Lee, that there are real conspiracies. But the overall use of the term “conspiracy theory” within the context of the conversation was in the sense in which I described it in my comment, where people use as a label that implies a false idea–what they nicely and academically called an “epistemic deficit.”).

The panelists were impressive and the conversation deep, but unfortunately it was unbalanced. It was like watching “The View” without Meghan McCain present (let alone a more conservative voice). For a group denouncing “us vs. them,” this panel was all “us.” It would have been more helpful if “them” had been there to offer another perspective, and then see if “us” and “them” could indeed build a community of “one.” Sadly, the composition of the panel didn’t make that possible. (And no, I’m not suggesting they needed a QAnon rep on the panel; I’m just referring to someone(s) who saw value in investigating potential for real issues in our public and public health square and not just labeling them as conspiracy theories in accordance with the practice of one political party).

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The vast majority of conspiracy theories promote being afraid of something. The SS lesson this week dwelt on the words “fear not”, which Christ used dozens of times. That might give you a clue. If a conspiracy theory encompasses being afraid of something, someone or some group, then it should be looked on with suspicion. If a conspiracy theory is judging someone, then it should be evaluated for it’s motive. Leave the judging to God. If a conspiracy theory is suspicious of a culture, skin color, ethnicity, sexual orientation (I know that will offend some, but they offend me) or even religious belief and speaks negatively about that group or person, it should be looked upon with suspicion. If the conspiracy theory supports depriving individuals or groups of people the same rights and privileges as others, then is should be looked at as suspicious. If a conspiracy theory is promoting punishment, deprivation, isolation, bullying, or any other antisocial behavior toward anyone, it should be looked at as suspicious. If the conspiracy theory is promoting behavior you wouldn’t wish on yourself, then it doesn’t meet the “as you would have them do to you”, test. If you can’t honestly say that the conspiracy theory is “What Jesus Would Do”, then you need to reassess your participation.

This isn’t difficult. When you see some puffed up personage who has the ego of Mt. Everest trying to tell you to hate someone, trying to disparage some group, some ethnicity, or religion, trying to excuse hateful behavior toward any group, or even trying to rationalize or justify what you know in your heart to be wrong, you really need to re-examine your allegiance. “If they speak not according to these words, there is no truth in them”.

This isn’t rocket science; this is simply using your moral compass, the words of Jesus.

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Lindy,
Were you replying to someone? I noticed you seem to be making a statement as if you were directing it to someone specific. I don’t think you were directing it to me but I will pick it up anyways because after reading your seven or eight test conditions of suspicion, as you define them, I have the distinct feeling we haven’t truly established what a conspiracy theory is. The easiest way to think of one is as a collection of events, transactions, acts related to human behavior that lead someone (theorist) to believe (I personally favor “demonstrate”) that either a person, a group, or any type of institution is planning a (usually) criminal) or evil act of any sort, it could be as simple as a campaign to deceive the public on a news report or as serious as bring about a war, depending on who the parties are.
Conspiracy theories are usually discovered after the fact, since the conspirators generally don’t disclose what they are doing

That’s a good question because:
Someone will volunteer that the answer is yes and no.

Yes, because Ellen White says something like that.
And
No, the Bible doesn’t say anything like that.

Some of us think that’s an important distinction.