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Forum: Conspiracy Theories

The Humanist Association of Toronto

Every Saturday we meet to discuss a topic decided upon the previous week. These are topics of humanist interest, from a humanist perspective. The topic of the discussion will be decided in a prior meeting, usually two weeks in advance.

This week’s topic is: “Conspiracy Theories” by HAT member Karen Lynn. _______________________

Conspiracy theories are moving into mainstream culture and will most certainly affect the outcome of the presidential election in November. They also have infiltrated the public understanding of COVID-19.

New York Times
What Is QAnon, the Viral Pro-Trump Conspiracy Theory?
Explaining the “big tent conspiracy theory” that falsely claims that President Trump is facing down a shadowy cabal of Democratic pedophiles.

The Atlantic
Shadowland (a series)
America owes its existence, at least in part, to conspiracy thinking. In the colonies, a theory was born that King George III was plotting the enslavement of all Americans. Even without evidence, this theory helped tip the scales toward revolution…Yet conspiracism here and around the world has destroyed great institutions, eradicated knowledge, endangered democracy, and ended lives… This project is an attempt to illuminate the forces that have created this unreality—and chart a course for how we might feel our way out.

Questions for Discussion:
Where do conspiracy theories come from?
How do they evolve?
How dangerous are they?
How can we disrupt conspiracy theories?
Are religions a type of conspiracy theories (see quote below)?

“The Seventh-day Adventists and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are thriving religious movements indigenous to America. Do not be surprised if QAnon becomes another. It already has more adherents by far than either of those two denominations had in the first decades of their existence. People are expressing their faith through devoted study of Q drops as installments of a foundational text, through the development of Q-worshipping groups, and through sweeping expressions of gratitude for what Q has brought to their lives. Does it matter that we do not know who Q is? The divine is always a mystery. Does it matter that basic aspects of Q’s teachings cannot be confirmed? The basic tenets of Christianity cannot be confirmed. Among the people of QAnon, faith remains absolute. True believers describe a feeling of rebirth, an irreversible arousal to existential knowledge. They are certain that a Great Awakening is coming. They’ll wait as long as they must for deliverance.” Adrienne Lafrance in The Atlantic, June 2020

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