Spring 2022

Religion and Conspiratorial Thinking

Listed in: Religion, as RELI-323


Andrew C. Dole (Section 01)


Conspiratorial thinking within evangelical Christianity has been much in the news over the past several years;  but this is only the latest phase of a long and broad history.  This course examines the intersection between religion and conspiracy theories from three different perspectives.  The first perspective is historical:  there is a specific history of within the West that begins with Jon Robison’s Illuminati conspiracy and over time identifies such groups as Jews, communists, Roman Catholics, and liberals as conspiratorial groups.  The second perspective is epistemological:  we will examine theoretical reflections on how conspiracy theories work, including how they deal with contrary evidence, and on the conditions under which subscription to a conspiracy theory can be rational or irrational.  And the third perspective is sociological:  we will examine how the acceptance of conspiracy theories can be strengthened or weakened by the dynamics of human groups, and how conspiratorial thinking influences group dynamics.  We will find that each of these perspectives makes visible a different mode of intersection between religion and conspiratorial thinking, the combination of which should do much to explain why the two are so often found in conjunction with each other within the historical record.

The course will require the close reading and understanding of challenging texts, engagement with the ideas these present in class discussion, and the written exposition of positions and arguments.  The final paper for the course will be a research paper on a topic of your own choosing.

Spring semester. Professor Dole.

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: readings, participation in class discussions, oral presentations, attention to written work Students with documented disabilities who will require accommodations in this course should be in consultation with Accessibility Services and reach out to the faculty member as soon as possible to ensure that accommodations can be made in a timely manner.


2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2014, Spring 2022