Thursday, May 28, 2020

Is the QAnon Conspiracy a Religion?

I've made fun of the QAnon conspiracy a couple of times now here on Augoeides. A recent article from The Week now argues that QAnon has evolved into a full-scale religion. To be clear, it doesn't fit my definition of a "real religion" - a system designed to produce spiritual awakening and experiences. But it also is true many of the more dogmatic traditional religions out there don't fit that definition either. Broadening the definition to fit the conventional connotation of the term, the claims made in the article do seem to have some merit.

The QAnon movement started on 4chan, an anonymous message board influential in online culture but generally considered outside the bounds of the respectable internet, not least because it has repeatedly made the news in connection to child pornography. That makes the site an odd first home for QAnon, whose narrative centers on a cabal of powerful figures in government, business, academia, and media who make time for child sex trafficking and satanic sacrifice in their busy schedule of world domination. Q is the movement's anonymous digital prophet whose forum posts ("Q drops," now migrated from 4chan to a similar site called 8kun) reveal both the nature of the cabal and Trump's heroic plan to defeat it. QAnon's most fervent followers reach a point of obsession, clinging to it even at cost of total estrangement from their bewildered families.

An in-depth report on QAnon in The Atlantic's June issue closes with the suggestion that QAnon could become the latest in a series of "thriving religious movements indigenous to America." But research from a Concordia University doctoral student, Marc-André Argentino, shows the church of QAnon already exists and seems poised to spread. Argentino attended an online QAnon church where, he reports, two-hour Sunday services with several hundred attendees consist of prayer, communion, and interpretation of the Bible in light of Q drops and vice versa. The leaders' goal, Argentino says, "is to train congregants to form their own home congregations in the future and grow the movement."

As an aside, how very Scientology of them. The original Dianetics Foundation came under fire for practicing psychotherapy without a license, so L. Ron Hubbard reincorporated it as the Church of Scientology and re-branded dianetics as "spiritual counseling."

It's not inconceivable that they'll succeed, especially after pandemic restrictions ease and in-person gatherings resume. (The pandemic, of course, fits neatly into the QAnon narrative as a plot to oust Trump before the mass arrests and executions of cabal members can begin.) Many QAnon members express a desire for community, describing how they try to convert loved ones to their cause and browse QAnon hashtags to make like-minded friends. QAnon church would fill that need, as religious gatherings long have done.

That's what makes me think the church of QAnon may be a portent of things to come: Traditional religiosity is declining in America, but humanity will not cease to be religious. It will merely diversify its sources of increasingly customized religiosity. From lapsed evangelicals, as many QAnon adherents seem to be, to religiously unaffiliated "nones," people crave the community, meaning, and purpose church provides, even if they abandon or reject its teachings.

I also will point out that QAnon's claims have been thoroughly debunked by (A) simply looking at the facts, (B) interviewing the folks who made it up just to see how far conspiracy nuts would go with it, and (C) noting that none of its predictions have ever come to pass. The only way to believe them now is to deny the facts and accept it all on faith. That does sound a lot like a traditional religion to me, albeit a highly dysfunctional one. More savvy religions push their followers to take on faith tenets that cannot be proved or disproved by factual evidence, like what the true nature of God is and what the afterlife is supposed to be like. QAnon has no such restraint.

As an occultist, I do want to point out how stupid the whole "satanic sacrifice" thing is. While much of the world is owned and run by a relatively small oligarchy, it's powered by money - particularly excessive finance capital - and not by the blood of sacrificed children. Even the supposed rationale for sacrificing children, to harvest "adenochrome," is nonsense. Adenochrome is adrenaline. Adrenaline is epinephrine. And you can buy epinephrine on Amazon - it's basically fucking primatene mist. It also doesn't get you high - trust me, I've used it to treat my asthma for years.

So apparently the evil oligarchs are too darn evil to order their epinephrine online or at the pharmacy like everyone else. They have to murder children because it's so much more evil. And I will add, like I always do, that statistically speaking the members of the ruling oligarchy are not Satanists or occultists. In the United State, most of them are Christian - just because something like eighty percent of the population is. Occultism is an entirely niche interest, only a tiny fraction of the population is interested in studying it, and even a smaller percentage are actually practitioners.

But this is a religion. I must be lying, right? The fact is that these folks seem to be pretty resistant to facts. In a way I can appreciate cultivating faith so strong that no evidence can shake it, but at the same time I can't do anything but condemn the corresponding ignorance.

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