Three Modern Conspiracy Theories

By definition, a conspiracy theory that has been proven should probably be called something else.  Perhaps the term “good old fashioned well-researched historical analysis” would apply.  The three theories offered below remain just that.  Theories.  Some of the stories are more far fetched than others.  They are offered here to illustrate the point that when a dearth of facts are available, someone is usually around to fill in the blanks with their own fiction.

Babylon – According to some Rastafarians, Babylon refers to the white patriarchy that has been oppressing the black race for centuries through economic and physical slavery.  It proclaims Africa, also known to them as “Zion” as the original birthplace of mankind and that Zion (especially Ethiopia) is a land that God (whom they call Jah) promised to them.  Its adherents worship Haile Selassie I, former Emperor of Ethiopia (1930–1974), as God incarnate and the reincarnation of Jesus Christ.

Rastas believe that Emperor Selassie did not die as reported in 1974 and that the racist white media (Babylon) propagated that rumor in order to squash the Rastafari movement and their message of overthrowing Babylon.  Babylon is considered to have been in rebellion against “Earth’s Rightful Rulers” ever since the days of the Biblical king Nimrod.

For Rastas, smoking cannabis, usually known to them as herb or ganja, is a spiritual act, often accompanied by Bible study.  They consider it to be a sacrament that cleans the body mind and soul, exalts the consciousness and brings them closer to Jah.  The burning of the herb is often said to be essential, “For it will sting in the hearts of those that promote and perform evil and wrongs.”  According to many Rastas, the illegality of cannabis in many nations is evidence that persecution of Rastafari is a reality.  They are not surprised that it is illegal, seeing it as a powerful substance that opens people’s minds to the truth — something the Babylon system, they reason, clearly does not want.


KAL Flight 007 – Korean Air Lines (KAL) Flight 007 was a civilian airliner that was shot down by Soviet jet interceptors on September 1, 1983, over the Sea of Japan over prohibited Soviet airspace.  Since that day the event has been the subject of ongoing controversy and has spawned a number of conspiracy theories, many of which are rooted in Cold War disinformation and propaganda campaigns.  Did the plane stray over the Kamchatka Peninsula and Sakhalin Island as it headed from Anchorage to Seoul because of mechanical problems or pilot error? Was the flight path, which took the plane hundreds of miles north and west of normal international air traffic lanes, an intentional deviation designed to save fuel or time? Or was the plane on a spying mission for a South Korean or American intelligence agency?

The Boeing 747’s flight recorder, or black box, was never recovered.  The lack of hard information has spawned many theories, some far-fetched, others plausible, most politically slanted, and all unsubstantiated.  One theory was that the Russians electronically lured the plane off course and shot it down in order to kill one of the passengers, Congressman Larry P. McDonald, chairman of the John Birch Society.  Another theory states that the pilot of flight 007, a former Korean Air Force officer, purposefully violated Russian airspace as a favor to American intelligence agencies who wanted to monitor the reactions of Soviet air defense systems.

Perhaps the best job of compiling the known facts accurately and dispassionately was done by Stanford history and political science professor Alexander Dallin in his book, “Black Box:  KAL 007 and the Superpowers”.   Dallin, through careful, non-ideological analysis of the known facts, reaches the disturbing conclusion that mechanical or human error alone almost surely did not cause the plane to stray.  The 747 contained three inertial navigation systems and even if all had failed the crew would have known they were off course from reviewing other flight data.  For example, weather radar, when placed in the ground mapping mode, would have shown the Kamchatka peninsula passing below.

Dallin also concluded that none of the several other proposed explanations fits all the known facts. A calculated attempt by the crew to save fuel or time seems unrealistic because the potential savings were limited. Hijacking, jamming by the Soviet Union and crew incapacitation seem even less likely. The idea that the plane was on a mission to take photographs or record radar images of Soviet military bases appears senseless because sophisticated satellites can do the job.

Much like the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the fate of flight 007 has been used by all sorts of groups and people to prove preconceived points. As an interesting aside, none of the bodies of the 269 passengers and crew were ever found.


Rome is the seat of the Antichrist – This theory is restricted almost entirely to various fundamentalist Protestant groups in the United States.  The theory states that the Vatican (through the person of the Pope) is the Antichrist and that its sole function in society is to destroy it.  If this theory was indeed true, the Catholic Church has had millennia to accomplish their goal.  Interestingly, even many Catholics believe that one day Rome will become the seat of the Antichrist as part of the lead up to the end times and final judgment.  This is in part due to the apparition of the Virgin Mary to two children in La Salette, France in 1846.  One of the seers said that the Virgin Mary said: “Rome will lose the Faith and become the seat of the Antichrist.”

This startling prophecy coincides with the prophecies in scripture which inform us that the city of seven hills (Rome) will become a harlot (a counterfeit Bride of Christ), which will commit spiritual fornication (idolatry) and tread upon the blood of the saints.

All of the information above ties in neatly with the third secret of Fatima and another conspiracy theory regarding the Catholic Church.  In June of 2000, the well-known third secret of Fatima was revealed by Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI), accompanied by a theological commentary.  The secret referred to a Pope being killed and a city in ruins.

What most people don’t know is that during the many years in which the secret was hidden from all but a few eyes, portions of it were leaked by people who had either read the secret or spoken to Sister Lucia (the seer who penned it).  The leaked information did not correspond with the secret released by the Vatican. Consequently a large number of people believe that the Vatican document is a fake, released to avoid the scandal that would occur if the real secret got out.

Purportedly the real secret refers to an apostasy in the Church starting with the Pope (in other words, the Pope would stop teaching the Catholic faith and fall into error). It also describes a council which will pervert the Church (believed by many to be Vatican II which reversed many traditional Catholic principles and beliefs). This was known for at least forty years prior to the release of the Vatican version of the Secret. What is most notable is that Sister Lucia said the secret had to be released by 1960, or after her death (whichever came first). Why she chose that specific year is unknown but, curiously, the Vatican II council was started in 1962, with both Popes of the council (John XXIII and Paul VI) saying that they would not release the third secret.

Another related prophesy is also very intriguing; Pope Pius XII (the Pope prior to John XXIII and the II Vatican Council) said: “We believe that the present hour is a dread phase of the events foretold by Christ. It seems that darkness is about to fall on the world. Humanity is in the grip of a supreme crisis.”

About Guy McCardle

Guy McCardle is an American science writer and skeptic. He is a certified Infection Prevention Specialist and served proudly as a Captain in the Army Medical Corps during Operation Iraqi Freedom. A devoted father and husband, he offers his unique viewpoints regarding science and the public interest.
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11 Responses to Three Modern Conspiracy Theories

  1. I’m always up for any discussion of Rastafarianism. Thanks, hadn’t heard that one before!

  2. Guy McCardle says:

    It’s pretty fascinating stuff. I had no idea the movement has only been around since the 1930’s.

  3. Eric Hall says:

    Any idea how formal or widespread Rastafarianism is? The only thing I really know about it is from stating that Bob Marley died because he wouldn’t have his toe amputated due to his belief.

    • Guy McCardle says:

      I’ve read that Rastafari is not a highly organized religion, some followers claim that it is not a religion at all. Rather, they consider it to be a way of life.

      It is estimated that there are approximately 100,000 Rastafarians in Jamaica. The countries of Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Ghana and Sudan are all home to Rasta communities.

      As far as medical prohibitions go, cosmetic surgery is forbidden, and some followers do not believe in blood transfusions or birth control. I think Marley’s objections to amputation may have come from his interpretation of the Moral Code. The first point of which states, “We strongly object to sharp implements used in the desecration of the figure of Man; e.g., trimming and shaving, tattooing of the skin, and cutting of the flesh.”


  4. vince says:

    “The three theories offered below remain just that. Theories. Some of the stories are more far fetched than others. ”

    you should maybe indicate that the usage of the term “theory” here is how non-scientists use the word and the definition as used here is much wider than the standard scientific usage

    “The 747 contained three inertial navigation systems and even if all had failed the crew would have known they were off course from reviewing other flight data. For example, weather radar, when placed in the ground mapping mode, would have shown the Kamchatka peninsula passing below.”
    very interesting, and this is semi-hard evidence or acknowledged fact

    • Louise Hudson says:

      I agree with your point about the common use of the word “theory.” “Theory” is now used for everything from a guess to a supposition to speculation to a “feeling.” I would go so far as to say that there is not one conspiracy theory being discussed today that is anywhere near the scientific definition of a theory. I, for one, would be happier if the word “theory” were used only in terms of a scientific theory, and that conspiiracy “theories” be called something closer to wjat they are: conspiracy stories or guesses or speculation or outright fiction. Oh, well, we have no English language police (and it’s a tually a good thing we don’t) so we’ll have to continue hearing about conspiracy dreams being called “theories” when they are anything but. I just wish more websites like this one and the mainstram press would do more to condemn the use of “theory” for every idea people come up with.

  5. Scott Zaboem says:

    Hmm, if you are going to refer to the definition of a term like ‘theory’ and call into question some other concept based in part upon this definition, I would much prefer that you actually tell us what definition you are using, at least for the context of this article. Two out of your three conspiracy theories above seem more a matter of religious faith than traditional conspiracies. I admit that the line between religion and conspiracy theories is quite fuzzy, and there is considerable room for crossover. The appropriate response to each, however, is completely different.

  6. Guy McCardle says:

    Good point Scott and Vince. I suppose it is fair that I let you know what definition of the word “theory” I am using. Sometimes I forget that people cannot read my mind.

    Here goes. For the purposes of the article we’ll say that a theory is…”a proposed explanation whose status is still conjectural in contrast to well-established propositions that are regarded as reporting matters of actual fact”.

    Thanks for reading Skeptoid’s blog.


  7. Anthony Roach says:

    I don’t know about Rastafarianism or Catholicism, but your facts on KAL 007 is clearly historically inaccurate.

    You state that the flight data recorders were never recovered. That’s not true. On November 18, 1992, Russian President Boris Yeltsin released both the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder of KAL 007. You can read it here:

    This is the second Skeptoid article I have read this week that either misstates something or is historically inaccurate.

  8. Bob Powell says:

    Re the “miracle at Fatima”, how does Marzulli’s theory correlate with this? He also states the weather was dreary with downpours and almost everyone had an umbrella. Further, something shaped like a cloud passed in front of the sun and dropped an object. The object was described as a silver disc that was spinning, rising and falling toward the ground while giving off various colors. The finale that day, according to his research, was the disc did a flyover the crowd and shot back up, disappearing from the crowd. He completely rejects any religious significance with the event. I’m still trying to sort this out. Good article and I believe the key to the Fatima event was the mother’s statement and the Friar’s assessment.

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