Are religious people more likely to believe in conspiracy theories?

This is a question that I have had in the back of my mind for a while, and I wonder what your thoughts are, and if there is any evidence for or against it.

My reason for thinking this is true, is that both groups tend to answer unexplained events with some "authority figure". For religion, examples include "nobody knows what causes lightning, so Zeus must do it when he's angry" or "I do not understand how evolution can come up with new designs, so there has to be an Intelligent Designer".

For conspiracy theories we can include "The twin towers collapse could not have happened as claimed, hence some dark authority is behind it" or "Oswald could not have shot Kennedy on his own, so the FBI/CIA/Cuba must be involved".

Another reason for my thinking is the fact hat the US is the most common birthplace of conspiracy theories - and the US is also the most religious nation in the developed world.

What do you think?
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hdhondtAsked:
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JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
No. No more likely than any other decent person.

I do not live in the US but I do not come to your conclusion.

A religious person who believes in a faith, who tolerates others, who is inclusive and generally decent is likely to be just a normal person.
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Dave BaldwinFixer of ProblemsCommented:
Your assumption that the US is also the most religious nation in the developed world is wrong.  Many of the Catholic countries like Spain and South American countries are noticeably more religious than the US.
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BillDLCommented:
In general I have found that "conspiracy theorists" are non-conformist assholes who simply love an argument for no particular reason other than their own self gratification and the sound of their own voices.  The most vocal are often the same kind of social justice warriors who deliberately obstruct police officers, firefighters and other authorities by taking videos of them and arguing with them while they are trying to deal with incidents, or put bags over traffic speed cameras, or deliberately go out of their way to try and circumvent legalities that are in place to preserve law and order and protect lives.  There are also the more passive keyboard warriors who sit at home stirring up their non-conformist theories but don't like face to face confrontations to argue their beliefs with others.

Of course, that's just a generalisation, but so too is the expression "religious people".  There are thousands of "religions" believed and practiced througout the world, and not all of them encourage peace and love.

We live in an age of 140 character tweets, "news" being disseminated by sharing things on social media, and inflammatory and misleading "news" headlines.  Many people these days cannot be bothered actually reading beyond a headline and instantly share it, often without actually understanding what they are sharing with their other gullible and unimaginative "friends".  There is so much misinformation around these days that I have heard younger people at work proclaiming that the earth is flat because a shared social media post told them it was.

I suspect that you might be misconstruing "religion" with gullibility and likening religious people to sheep because (in general) they have faith in one or more entities that can never be proved, just as most conspiracy theories will never be proved or disproved.  This is not necessarily so.  Some religions that spring up prey on peoples' insecurities and other vulnerabilities to ensnare them in a cult of some kind, but in general religious people are no more gullible than irreligious people and are neither more nor less likely to be swayed by wacky theories than them.  Just because people flock into a church and listen to a minister or priest teaching prophesies surrounding a God or other saviour that can never be proven does not necessarily mean that they are more likely to be induced into believing that the Twin Towers were blown up by the CIA, that JFK was killed by Martian ray guns, or that Elvis is still alive and serving at Wendy's in Fresno.

The gullible ones are those with smartphones stuck in their hands and pointed at their faces to read and pass on the next exaggerated or fictitious knee-jerk headline that is shared between their 4,000 "friends" within seconds, even if it is a proclamation that the earth is flat or that you can find the meaning of life within hidden messages on dollar bills.
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hdhondtAuthor Commented:
@dave
I did say "developed countries". As for Spain, it has a higher number of Catholics but the number of those practising religion seems to be less than in the US.

@bill
I've met a number of otherwise sane conspiracy believers. They seem to be more interested in the "failure" of accepted wisdom to explain their theories. But maybe I have only met unusual ones.
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Paul SauvéRetiredCommented:
really, i think that religion has no relation to conspiracy theorists

they're just run of the mill, ordinary nuts.

for example, every time there is mass shooting (ex. Las Vegas, Sandy Hook Elementary School, etc.) these nuts come out of their closets and say they were staged!!! all they do is add misery to the victims families and the survivors.
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BillDLCommented:
>>> "Spain has a higher number of Catholics but the number of those practising religion seems to be less than in the US." <<<

It depends what you mean by "practising".  My personal observation of Roman Catholicism is that more people who claim to be Catholic, or who were raised in catholic families, actually attend the Chapel regularly than those who claim to be of other denominations of Christianity and attend their church regularly.  The main reason, I believe, is that in catholicism you have a priest who is able to give anonymous people absolution for sins (and crimes) committed.  With a penance of saying a few "Hail Mary" incantations the sinner/criminal is allowed to return to the adultrerer or adultress, the brothel, the criminal syndicate, or other den of iniquity free from any guilt or blame until the following Saturday when all the sins will again be forgiven by a man masquerading as an entity somewere on a level between mere mortals and God.  In most other denominations of Christianity the onus is on the sinner to beg an unseen deity for forgiveness and to actually make physical amends for sins.

There are very few countries in the world that actually have an official or state religion.  In the case of Catholicism, only  Costa Rica, Liechtenstein, Malta, Monaco, Italy, and the conveniently autocratic Vatican City are officially "catholic".  Andorra, Argentina, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, and probably other countries recognise catholicism in their constitutions but have not formally made it an official or state religion.  With that said however, Southern Ireland (Eire) which is independent of the United Kingdom, leans so heavily towards catholicism that it may as well be a state religion.  Abortion has never been legal there, even for strong medical reasons, because of the Roman Catholic influence on government.  A 12 year old girl who is raped and subsequently falls pregnant can never be given an abortion without Papal dispensation, and if it is proved that the parents have taken their daughter outwith Eire for an abortion they will be charged.

So, there's a difference between "practicing" a religion and going through the motions of attending the place of worship because of peer pressure, fear of being castigated by the rest of the village, or to simply refresh your absolution in order to carry on committing sins with impugnity.

There is a big difference between James Randi exposing Uri Geller's illusions as such rather than being feats of psychic power as claimed by the illusionist and thousands of people having been somehow able to lie about the moon landings having been faked in the Nevada Desert or some other earthly place.  Conspiracy theorists will always choose something of great enormity that can and probably will never be proved by themselves, nor can actually be disproved.  It's easier to "prove" somebody's guilt by selectively picking holes in things and leaving a seed of doubt than it is to genuinly prove somebody's innocence.  For all the very few people with the audacity to instigate a conspiracy claim there will always be tens or thousands and even millions of people to promulgate the idea without having much of a clue about the facts for and against the theory.

How many people have stood on the surface of the moon near a lunar landing craft to witness what shadows are cast and to know whether there is a wind?  Despite this, NASA's alleged cover-up about faked and non-existent moon landings will be a perpetual theory spread around by those left with that little seed of doubt planted by the theorist.  How could NASA prove beyond that seed of doubt tat the moon landings did take place?  As I said, it's harder to prove an actual event than to disprove an alleged event by picking little holes in the story.  We could always ask Buzz Aldrin:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-tvEo68VYik
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hdhondtAuthor Commented:
I was a catholic teenager, so I understand the benefit of confession. Masturbation is a mortal sin, and every time I confessed I was indeed truly sorry. It was great that the slate was wiped clean every time, and I could feel very sorry again next time. But it did feel a lot better when, in my late teens, I got rid altogether of the guilt feeling that is catholicism.

I know you can never prove a negative. Try to prove there are NO fairies in my garden. Similarly, I cannot prove to a religious person that God does NOT exist; all we can say is that, as far as we can see, the laws of nature do not require his assistance.

Re the lunar landing hoax, of course every single point the conspiracy theorists come up with has been debunked. The one thing that bugs me most is that the USSR accepted NASA's claim. Surely they would have known if no manned US spacecraft went to the moon. And it certainly was in their interest to prove that, if the soviets could not reach the moon, neither could the US. Yet they stayed silent and cancelled their own moon program.
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BillDLCommented:
I have often wondered what NASA would have done if the the moon-walking astronauts forgot to remove the lens cap from their camera or the negatives became exposed before they were developed.  Would they have taken new photos during a reconstruction of the event in a suitably lunar looking landscape on earth for release to the public?
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hdhondtAuthor Commented:
Well, there's always the idea floated in William Karel's "Dark side of the moon". I first saw it on TV a decade ago. For the first 15 mins or more it had me thinking that, yes it's possible; after all Nixon was paranoid. Then it dawned on me what the movie was all about and I thoroughly enjoyed the rest. I love the way they take recorded footage of everyone involved and show it totally out of context. I can recommend it.
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hdhondtAuthor Commented:
It does look as if I'm wrong. Apart from the arguments given in the answers, I also found this Skeptic.com publication, which shows the acceptance of conspiracy theories in various demographics, but does not mention religion.

https://www.skeptic.com/downloads/conspiracy-theories-who-why-and-how.pdf
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JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
Thanks for the update and I was happy to help you with this.
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BillDLCommented:
Thank you hdhondt.  I will download and read that PDF.
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