Today is the launch of my hero's journey novel Sephirot! An ordinary man is suddenly catapulted into a network of interconnected worlds where nothing is as it seems, and he has to rely on his wits and courage to find his way through. But will that be enough to get him safely home?
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Jonathan Swift commented, with his usual eagle-eyed clarity, "You cannot reason a person out of a position he did not reason himself into."
This, in a nutshell, sums up why it is so damned frustrating to argue with conspiracy theorists. Not only do they summarily dismiss any facts you might come up with, they have abandoned the necessity for facts at all. They've moved from the faith-based stance of "believe this despite the fact that there's no evidence" to "believe this because there's no evidence." After all, those conspirators are pretty smart guys.
They wouldn't just leave evidence lying around.
But once you've landed in that territory, you've opened yourself to falling for anything. As an example, consider the latest bizarre conspiracy theory that's been making the rounds, that has repeatedly caused the people who run Wikipedia to have to go back and fix the pages for an archaeological site in Turkey and an obscure Roman Catholic bishop who is the patron saint of toothache.
I swear I'm not making any of this up.
The whole thing started with a passage from the Book of Revelation -- specifically, Revelation 2:12-17:
To the angel of the church in Pergamum write:
These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. I know where you live—where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, not even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city—where Satan lives.
Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality. Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.
Notwithstanding the fact that most of the Book of Revelation sounds like a bad acid trip, this seems clear enough. The people of Pergamum are pretty okay for the most part, except for those who eat the sacrificial lamb or fool around out of wedlock; to them the angel says, "Don't make me come over there and give you a good talking-to."
Simple, right? Nope. There's a group of conspiracy theorists who have grabbed the "where Satan has his throne" part, and run right off the cliff with it.
The Antipas mentioned in the passage was a real guy; he was the bishop of Pergamum, and was martyred either during the reign of Nero or Domitian (it's uncertain which), allegedly by being placed inside a hollow brass bull and roasted over a fire. Somehow, he became the patron saint of toothache, instead of the patron saint of third-degree burns, which would have been more logical.
So the conspiracy theorists put their mind to trying to figure out where Satan's throne is. They reasoned, "Well, the biblical passage says that it's in the city where Antipas died, so if we can just figure out where that was, we'll know where Satan's throne is located!"
Um... let's reread the passage, shall we?
... is still called Bergama.
Despite all this, the conspiracy theorists were sitting around and scratching their heads in total perplexity. "This is really complicated, dude," they said. "Where can it be? They sure hid Satan's throne well, those sneaky guys!"
But you'll be relieved to know that after much pondering, they figured it out. Antipas of Pergamum was actually buried in...
... wait for it...
... Geneva, Switzerland.
Why Geneva, you might be asking? I know I sure as hell was. Well, they're happy to explain that it's because Geneva is home to the following evil organizations:
- The CERN particle accelerator
- World Economic Forum Headquarters
- World Trade Organization
- World Council of Churches
- World Federation of United Nations
- World Health Organization
- World Meteorological Organization
- International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association
- GAVI (The Vaccine Alliance)
- Lutheran World Federation
- Internet Governance Forum
- UN Watch