Unpacking the relationship between religiosity and conspiracy beliefs in Australia.Br J Soc Psychol 2019; 58(4):938-954BJ
We examined the interrelation between religiosity, anti-intellectualism, and political mistrust in predicting belief in conspiracy theories. Improving on previous psychological research on the link between religiosity and societal and political attitudes, we assessed the predictive power of religious self-categorization and the importance attached to one's own (non)religious worldview predicting belief in conspiracy theories separately. Applying quota sampling in a study in Australia (N = 515), the sample consisted of 48.9% believers (i.e., those who self-categorized as religious persons) and 51.1% non-believers (i.e., those who self-categorized as non-religious persons). The results showed that believers and non-believers did not differ in the belief in conspiracy theories. Unpacking this further though, we did find that the extent to which religious worldviews were endorsed predicted belief in conspiracy theories. Among believers, the importance attached to their religious worldview was directly associated with higher belief in conspiracy theories and this link was partly mediated by higher anti-intellectualism. Political trust, in turn, served as an inhibitor of the link between religiosity and conspiracy beliefs. Among non-believers, there was no direct association between the importance of non-religious worldview and belief in conspiracy theories. However, we found that higher trust in political institutions accounted for the negative association between non-religious worldview and lower belief in conspiracy theories. The results underline the importance of distinguishing religiosity as a self-categorization and religiosity as a worldview. We find that it is not the self-categorization as religious, but the extent to which religious worldviews are endorsed that could predict people's beliefs in conspiracy theories.