History Repeated: Religious Conspiracy Theories Then and Now

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In this episode, Maxinne Connolly-Panagopoulus discusses the range of Dr. Carmen Celestini’s work on religious conspiracy theories, Christian apocalyptic thought its impacts on the American political system. and tracks some of the parallels between early and modern conspiracy theories. They cover early grassroots movements such as the Anti-Masonic Party and the Know Nothings, who sought to fight against what they perceived as a threat to Christian values from a New World Order. This is paralleled to QAnon and current theories which hold a similar distrust of the government, the media and beliefs of a Satanic New World Order. We then move to discuss The John Birch Society and how their form of improvisational conspiracism linked to contemporary right-wing mobilisation and the Christian Identity Organisation. Threaded throughout our discussion, we ask explore the motivations for joining such a movement and what keeps people there despite moving targets and failed prophecies. Finally, Carmen describes the state of the field of conspiracy movements today, and where she sees it going in the future.

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