The relationship between belief and conspiracy theories: Faithful people more inclined to believe in COVID-19 conspiracies

Religious people are more likely to believe in COVID-19 conspiracy narratives, says a study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

Faithful people more inclined to believe in COVID-19 conspiracies – Photo Shutterstock

The link between religiosity and belief in conspiracy theories related to the disease Covid-19 is explained by a conspiracy mentality, say the authors of the study.

Previous research has shown the human tendency to believe in conspiracies, and the current study examines how religiosity correlates with the endorsement of conspiracy narratives through a shared unshakable belief framework.

Researchers have looked at how belief in a higher power without empirical evidence created a fertile environment for the wave of conspiracy theories during the pandemic.

The study's hypothesis was that a belief system rooted in faith without evidence could predispose individuals to a conspiracy mindset. This was tested through an online survey with 616 participants.

The scientists concluded that people with higher levels of religiosity were more likely to exhibit a conspiracy mindset—which, in turn, was significantly associated with endorsing conspiracy narratives of COVID-19.

Specifically, religious beliefs, especially those developed from a young age, can make us have a “conspiracy mentality” and to accept such theories, even when they are not directly related to our faith.

However, the study has its own limitations. Despite the conceptual overlap, religiosity and conspiracy thinking are two distinct and different constructs—and correlation does not mean causation, as they can influence individuals in very different ways. The study's focus on the Christian religion may also limit the generalizability of the findings to other religious contexts, and the researchers also point out that education plays a crucial role — with higher levels of education being associated with less pronounced conspiracy-mindedness, according to Psy Post.

The research “Belief in the Absence of Evidence: Conspiracy Mindset Mediates the Relationship Between Religiosity and Support for COVID-19 Conspiracy Narratives,” was carried out by Hilmar Grabow and Anne Rock from the department of social and political psychology at the University of Kiel, in Germany.

Psychologist Keren Rosner explained why conspiracy theories are interesting to some of us. According to the expert “it is very difficult to make rational arguments for subjective beliefs.”

They are a form of valorization and differentiating yourself from the crowd, from the others: “we know it's not true, we have information, we are connected to some people who have power, who hold the truth that others don't know”. It's about ignorant people, who don't know what a scientific study means, they don't read, to come up with scientific arguments. And for some rational evidence, I come up with some mystical-fantastical interpretations“, says the psychologist.