Righting America

A forum for scholarly conversation about Christianity, culture, and politics in the US
Two Peas in a Pod: QAnon Conspiratorialism and Young Earth Creationism | Righting America

by William Trollinger

Picture of Doug Jensen holding arms out and blocking a police officer at the January 6th riots.
Doug Jensen gestures to U.S. Capitol Police in the hallway outside of the Senate chamber at the Capitol in Washington on Jan. 6. Jensen, 41, of Des Moines, Iowa, was jailed Jan. 9 on federal charges, including trespassing and disorderly conduct counts, for his alleged role in the Capitol riot. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta).

A significant percentage of the American public – and even a more significant percentage of white evangelicals – has dropped down the most bizarre of rabbit holes. 

According to a report put out by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), a survey done in 2021 revealed that 16% of Americans are QAnon believers. That is to say, 16% of Americans believe that  

  • “The government, media, and financial worlds in the U.S. are controlled by a group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles who run a global child sex-trafficking operation.”
  • “There is a storm coming soon that will sweep away the elites in power and restore the rightful leaders.”
  • “Because things have gotten so far off track, true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country.”

As the New York Times (NYT) reported, PRRI founder and chief executive Robert P. Jones 

never expected to be dealing with serious survey questions about whether powerful American institutions were controlled by devil-worshiping, sex-trafficking pedophiles. To have so many Americans agree with such a question, he said, was “stunning.”

(According to the same NYT article, this means that 41 million Americans are QAnon believers . . . which is a frightening number. But it turns out that in 2021 the U.S. population was 332 million, and 16% of that is actually right around 53 million. Even more frightening.)

And here are some more numbers from the PRRI report:

  • 25% of Republicans are QAnon believers, as opposed to 9% of Democrats.
  • 47% of Republicans who most trust One America News Network or Newsmax are QAnon believers, as well as 26% of Republicans who most trust Fox News.
  • 69% of QAnon adherents believe that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump, 67% understand Trump to be a true patriot, and 59% blame liberal or left-wing groups for the January 06, 2021 Insurrection.
  • 72% of QAnon believers think that “the values of Islam are at odds with American values and way of life,” and 68% think that “God has granted America a special role in human history.”

And all of this leads to the fact that – as PRRI polling reveals – 23% of white evangelical Protestants are QAnon believers (other polls have the numbers higher) and 20% of QAnon believers identify themselves as white evangelicals. 

Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis (AiG) sit quite comfortably within the QAnon-loving camp. Not only have they established that to hold a “secular worldview” is to be a pedophile, but they opened Ark Encounter to right-wing conspiratorialist Trey Smith for the filming of The Coming Storm: A Donald J. Trump Documentary. The title of this nearly unwatchable video – the production values are non-existent, and the unwatchability is exacerbated by Smith’s determination to stick his face as close to the camera as possible – gives away the QAnon connection. So does Smith’s assertion that the Antichrist is present in contemporary culture, as evinced by Hollywood culture and the omnipresent ”witchy people” in the background. So does the fact that Smith – speaking just before the 2020 election – echoes QAnon predictions that God commanded that Trump would have two terms as president.

It is not surprising that young Earth creationists would find the QAnon conspiracy persuasive. The folks at AiG are the same folks who find the notion of climate change to be a hoax, as is the idea of the COVID pandemic (and thus, vaccination mandates are oppressive).   

It is not much of a leap for young Earth creationists to adopt QAnon nonsense. According to Paul Braterman – Professor Emeritus in Chemistry from the University of Glasgow – both QAnon and young Earth creationism are examples of conspiracy theories. As Braterman says about the latter, 

It meets all the criteria, offering a complete parallel universe with its own organisations and rules of evidence, and claims that the scientific establishment promoting evolution is an arrogant and morally corrupt elite . . . Like other conspiracy theorists, creationists immune themselves from fact-based criticism.

AiG’s Bodie Hodge responded to Braterman’s argument in an AiG article, “Fact Checked: No Conspiracy Here (But a Lot of Fallacies There)”, in the process inventing some, well, nonstandard fallacies (e.g., “emotive language fallacy,” “insufficient evidence fallacy”). What is particularly interesting in Hodge’s lengthy and often tedious narrative is that he fails to make the obvious defense that young Earth creationism is nothing like the QAnon conspiracy. In fact, he has not one negative word to say about QAnon . . . just like his boss and father-in-law, Ken Ham. Pretty telling.

As PRRI’s Robert P. Jones observed about the QAnon conspiracy

There’s a real temptation to dismiss this as farcical and kind of outlandish . . . but this [is] actually a serious movement that’s making inroads into not only mainstream religious groups and putting down roots in more mainstream institutions.

Susan Trollinger and I said something quite similar about young Earth creationism in the introduction to Righting America at the Creation Museum:

All of us have a stake in understanding what is happening at the museum and its role in preparing and arming crusaders for the ongoing culture war that polarizes and poisons U.S. religion and politics. Put simply, as bizarre as the museum may seem to many Americans, what happens inside its doors matters to all of us.

QAnon and young Earth creationism. We have to pay attention.