16 years ago, I wrote this in my journal:
I bought some more rechargable batteries and we have more solar chargers on the way so when Y2K comes we’ll still have flashlights, radios, and even a little TV. At times I get skeptical about Y2K, but things are getting weird lately…
Big companies like Ford are already pulling out of the stock market, Great Britain is already pulling troops out of Kosovo to prepare for civil unrest at home, and our government has said that unemployment will double and that 10% of businesses will close. Put it all together and it means more than a recession.
There was also a rumor on the internet that near major cities, blue and white signs have been put up with single letters and numbers. It was suggested that they would give directions to UN troops or some troops that didn’t know English. It sounded nuts to me, but now my brother has seen them so I guess so.
Boy, there’s still a lot more to stock up on on. We really need a lot more money, but it’s okay because we know that the Lord will provide what we need. “Thank you, Jesus. We don’t know what’s gonna happen, but we know that as long as we have you, we have everything. Thank you again.”
There’s still so much to buy and do! Gasoline, diesel, oil, a wood stove (if possible), a siphon, food, clothes, etc, etc, etc. But we’ll get what we need. I shouldn’t worry about it unless I’m actually in the process of writing a list. Okay, bed time!
— July 24th, 1999
Dear Former Self,
I’d love to know where you’re getting this information. Ford pulled out of the stock market? I seriously doubt it. Great Britain pulled its troops out of Kosovo? How do you know it’s because of Y2K? And there is no way the government would make an announcement that unemployment will double. It’s more likely that someone who claims to work for the government made this up and told it to the writers at News Max or World Net Daily.
You and your family are way too gullible. For example, the theory about the blue and white signs. Someone somewhere said these signs are for UN troops, and you thought that sounded nuts. But now that your brother has seen the signs, you think they really are for UN troops.
You missed a step in your reasoning. Just because the signs exist doesn’t mean they’re for UN troops, it just means there are blue and white signs out there. They could be for anything. But you’d rather jump to wild conclusions. It definitely makes life more interesting, I’ll give you that.
This is one of the many problems with conspiracy theorists. They cling to one small piece of evidence and use it to justify an array of ridiculous beliefs. They’re not interested in finding out what’s true, they just want to confirm what they already believe. Just like religious people.
It’s no coincidence that conspiracy theorists usually come from very religious families. From an early age, they were taught two things: 1) It’s okay to believe something without evidence, and 2) You should look for reasons to keep believing it. That sort of reasoning doesn’t lead to truth, but to confirmation bias.
It would be one thing if this flawed thinking was confined to religion, but it tends to carry over into other areas. So when religious people hear a conspiracy theory from an authority they trust, they go ahead and believe it without evidence and immediately start looking for things to confirm that belief.
For example, many pastors have told their congregations that the president is a secret Muslim who wants to help Iran build a nuclear weapon. There’s zero evidence for this, but some people believe it anyway. And when they hear the president is going to visit the Middle East, they take it as evidence that he’s going to have secret meetings with the Supreme Leader of Iran.
For conspiracy theorists, trust is more important than evidence. They trust their pastors, their favorite authors, their favorite bloggers, their favorite radio hosts, and so forth. If one of these authorities tells them climate change is a hoax, that there’s a cure for cancer that’s been covered up, that homeopathy is better than chemotherapy, that fluoride is being used to keep us docile, that the moon landing was staged, etc., then as long as they don’t have any preexisting biases against the theory, they will lap it up.
This is exactly what’s happening in your family. Your mom is a big fan of Gary North, and he believes the government is hiding the extent of the Y2K problem and planning to impose martial law. She trusts him, and you trust her, so now you both believe it even though you don’t have any real evidence. And every time someone mentions Y2K (like when Jay Leno made a joke about it on the Tonight Show), you become more convinced it’s going to be a disaster.
Unfortunately, this way of thinking is going to mislead you for another 14 years. Even after you leave the Christian faith, you’re going to keep falling for all sorts of crazy scares and conspiracies. Eventually you’ll realize you have faith in these conspiracies the same way you had faith in Christianity. Once you make that connection, you’ll discover the power of skepticism and finally break free from the last of your bullshit beliefs.
By the way, you mentioned that the Lord will provide what you need, yet you keep buying more supplies. Christians say this a lot, and it always baffles me. If God will provide, why are you the one doing all the work? Some people say, “God helps those who help themselves.” But if you’ve already helped yourself, then what do you need God for?
Well, good luck. Just 4 more months until the end of the world.
— Matt, July 24th, 2015
This is part of an ongoing series called Letters to My Former Self.