Friday, 2 March 2018

Why the 'conspiracy theory' slur is so effective

The answer is given in the first paragraph of that wisest, most insightful of tragi-comc novels - The Screwtape Letters, by CS Lewis (1942):

There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.


When we talk of true conspiracy theories and devils, we are talking of the same thing - the devils are the true, the ultimate, conspirators.


The commonest error is to believe they do not exist. This is a natural consequence of Modern Metaphysics - a set of basic assumptions concerning reality.

At bottom, when pushed, most modern people (and all of the Global Establishment, and nearly-all of the people close to them - the rules, those of great fame, wealth, status, power) believe that reality is a mixture of random and wholly determined.

(This is incoherent - which is how we know for sure that Modern Metaphysics is false. Nonetheless, it is what almost-everyone believes.)

In short - our standard, mainstream, near-universal metaphysics is nihilism - the assumption that nothing really matters.  


Thus - the standard view - taught in schools, implicit in the mass media and all official discourse etc - is that there is no responsibility for anything; because either it is directly caused by something else, or else it 'just happens'.

From this angle, conspiracy is not possible, because there cannot be an origin for conspiracy. Either bad things happen by chance ('cock-up, not conspiracy'); or they happen because of long (and ultimately circular) chains of causation.

Determinism actually means that nobody or nothing really causes anything; because there is no origin of causes - everything is a cause and also a consequence of everything else: there is no uncaused origin.

Morally - everybody is a victim and an oppressor, both - just trapped in a web of causes.

There can be no conspiracy, because conspiracy requires agency; and mainstream metaphysics denies agency.


The other error Lewis described was to 'feel an excessive and unhealthy interest' in devils.

In terms of conspiracy theories; this means that people believe in devils but not God.

Probably this accounts for the mass of people who are interested in conspiracy theories. Their error is metaphysical - they believe in demons (or aliens) that are evil of intent; but they do not believe in the reality of God as ultimate creator, and as good.

So you get the mass of atheist conspiracy theorists, whose moral scale goes between evil demons/ aliens/ Illuminati at one extreme - and the masses of ordinary people at the other extreme; and the intention of the evil ones is to enslave and exploit the masses - probably also to torment the masses from sadistic pleasure.

The masses merely want to be 'left alone' to have a life of peace, prosperity, comfort, convenience, enjoyment and fun...

In the end, those with an 'excessive and unhealthy' interest in conspiracy theories, uncontextualised by an understanding of God, are merely hedonists. Their bottom-line, ultimate complaint is that the conspirators make most people more miserable... and the anti-conspiracy atheists want people to be happy.


That's about it! The global conspiracy aims to privilege the conspirators at the cost of reducing the average level of human happiness...

So, in the end it all devolves into wrangling about what socio-political System will provide the greatest pleasure and the least suffering - claim and counter-claim, evidence and refutation, assumptions of intention and denials... Their Establishment system is sub-optimal - but our Alternative system leads to a higher average gratification...

The wrangling never stops and vere advances; because who really knows which System leads to maximum gratification?

And, in the end, who really cares? By this account, we will all suffer and die, anyway; whatever the system. And plans for universal happiness (the 'utilitarian' project) always end by deciding who most matters, which person or group has priority. It always ends in a pleasure-grab by one 'worthy' group at the expense of another judged less-worthy...


So, in a world of atheism and hedonism, a world where people do not believe in causal agency; it is effective and substantially correct to label someone as a conspiracy theorist when they try to explain the Big Picture.

Effective because any explanation that tries to establish responsibility will fail in a world where the metaphysical assumptions are nihilistic. Substantially correct, because a world of devils without God makes no sense.

What does make sense is what is true: our world is the creation of God, who is good - and in this world there are real devils, demons and their servants - who conspire to oppose the goodness of God's creation.

The reality is Spiritual Warfare; and all true conspiracy theories are rooted in that reality.



4 comments:

  1. That's a very important distinction you make there, Bruce. Believing in the demons too much reminds me of the saying that the devil can't bear to be mocked. So believe that there is spiritual warfare, because clearly there is and it's becoming more and more obvious, but at the same time don't give the devil too much importance. Know he exists and watch out for the lies and deceptions he spreads but also know that he can't touch anything or anyone that doesn't allow him to. Take him seriously but not too seriously.

    The modern world doesn't like to acknowledge the existence of evil because, I suppose, that would be acknowledging the supernatural in some way. That's why it refuses to recognise demonic forces.

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  2. @Bruce -

    "So, in the end it all devolves into wrangling about what socio-political System will provide the greatest pleasure and the least suffering - claim and counter-claim, evidence and refutation, assumptions of intention and denials... Their Establishment system is sub-optimal - but our Alternative system leads to a higher average gratification...

    The wrangling never stops and vere advances; because who really knows which System leads to maximum gratification?

    And, in the end, who really cares? By this account, we will all suffer and die, anyway; whatever the system. And plans for universal happiness (the 'utilitarian' project) always end by deciding who most matters, which person or group has priority. It always ends in a pleasure-grab by one 'worthy' group at the expense of another judged less-worthy..."

    I absolutely agree with you! This seems like an obvious reason why modern politics is a waste of time and can't solve any of the problems it claims to set out to solve...

    But, and yet still, bizarrely no one wants to acknowledge what you say in these insightful few paragraphs? Why? If you try (and I have with no real success) to do so, people will not even have the conversation with you to get this seemingly obvious and inevitable conclusion (after only a short period of a concentrated thought experiment of playing out the scenarios) into the light of day and move past this misplaced obsession with politics in daily life...that can lead us nowhere worth going! And yet most people treat a faith in Politics as the saviour waiting-in-the-wings, if only we gave it another chance then this time, somehow, it will just work!

    Infuriatingly many politically obsessed people are often extremely intelligent so why cant they see the futility of the political table tennis match that is centre stage, 24/7 in the media, the imagined twarted saviour of mankind - if only (add your preferred political persuasion here) the other lot were not spoiling it for the rest of us, the ones who clearly hold the keys to the fabled elixir of 'progress' we hear so much about these days? You can even ask then 'what kind of world are you aiming at with your chosen political ideology? When and how will you know when this best-of-all-possible-worlds has ARRIVED? Presumebly then we will no longer require politics and we can rest at ease then, satisfied by 'progress'?! Progress towards what? A fairer world? Equality? Is that it? What then even in principle? And how will this all have solved the fundamental problems of the human condition that has existed all along despite the carnival of political debate to destract everyone?

    No one wants to have these much needed conversations..to acknowledge the inevitable futility of the political game! What is wanted, no...DEMANDED, is that we support the cause of 'progress' and placing politics at the centre of our lives, with voting and worrying about Politics ,and how we can change the system to make it better, etc, etc. but we must NEVER connect the dots, never openly discuss 'where is this all going?' with each other, never look at the bigger picture (the only perspective that reveals the absurdity of what we are doing in the public forum of media and politics).


    Sorry for the rant. I am just exasperated that clearly there are others who can see what is going on but we are in a tiny minority to see the situation the way we do.

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  3. @David - Whenever I have raised these issues, the attitude is 'well all that is fine and idealistic; but we have a business to run'.

    It is essentially the mainstream form of modern cowardice, compared with how people used to be when religion meant something to them. An example from seven generations ago - just demonstrating how principled middle class professionals used to be in resisting interference:

    "On 18 May 1843, 121 ministers and 73 elders led by Dr David Welsh, the retiring Moderator, left the Church of Scotland General Assembly at the Church of St Andrew in George Street, Edinburgh, to form the Free Church of Scotland. ... Eventually 474 of the about 1200 ministers adhered.

    "...for those who left, the issue was clear... The Disruption was basically a spiritual phenomenon – and for its proponents it stood in a direct line with the Reformation and the National Covenants.

    "Splitting the Church had major implications. Those who left forfeited livings, manses and pulpits, and had, without the aid of the establishment, to found and finance a national Church from scratch...

    "There was also the issue of needing to train its clergy, resulting in the establishment of New College...New College opened its doors to 168 students in November 1843, including about 100 students who had begun their theological studies prior to the Disruption."

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disruption_of_1843

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  4. Ay, Sterner stuff in them days it seems! Of course cowardice is part of it and it takes strength to stand against the tide of opinion and risk being rejected and hated by the modern zeitgiest. But even before one reaches the position of religious outsider, it seems that enough of the folly of mankinds history has now passed away to show us that a new political ideology or transhumanism or some combination of both or something similar is NOT the answer to the basic enduring and central problems of the human condition, nor can it ever be, even in principle; as you yourself have eloquently pointed out many times before on this blog. The only hope is in adopting a spiritual worldview, of chosing a religion and living according to its principles as best we can. Modern nihilism does not offer even a remotely good alternative to meet the deeper needs of the humam condition. In such a spiritually centreless wordview only constant distraction and hedonism can avert the dire meaningless that is at the centre of each persons life and the situation is especially worse for those without children or loving close family relationships. No wonder a plague of depression is gripping the masses and we clamour for endless self-help books and therapies. Most of us are looking in the wrong place and only God can provide the peace of the soul that most crave but seek in vain amongst the celebrity lifestyle gurus and the mindfullness fashion fads. These things are too vague and only offer a very superficial and temporary measure at best. We only want the nice bits of spirituality and acknowledging the reality of evil and its dedicated servants is not popular...such 'conspiracy theorists' are not popular. Worse still, we need to recognise that we have evil in our own hearts and it poisons us daily without acknowledging it and repenting it! An uncomfortable truth, not generally acknowledged by the new age spiritual self-help books.

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