Conspiracy theories have been around for ages, but it’s easy to think we’re living through their “golden age.” Late last month, QAnon’s unknown leader posted online for the first time in over a year, and standard conspiracist talking points have entered the mainstream.

So what to do? Suggestions on how to counter conspiracy theories often focus on ideas and the importance of getting more accurate information out there. But if we’re going to tackle them seriously, we also need to talk about emotions, argues religion scholar Donovan Schaefer.

A huge part of these theories’ appeal is how they make believers feel: smart, special, certain. “Unraveling their beliefs,” Schaefer writes, “requires the patient work of persuading devotees that the world is just a more boring, more random, less interesting place than one might have hoped.”

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Molly Jackson

Religion and Ethics Editor

A protester holds a Q sign as he waits to enter a campaign rally with then-President Donald Trump in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., in August 2018. AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Buying into conspiracy theories can be exciting – that’s what makes them dangerous

Donovan Schaefer, University of Pennsylvania

Overcoming conspiracy theories isn’t just about information. A scholar of religion explains that the emotions they inspire are part of their appeal.

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