For the Christian right, having a “faith-based” worldview extends far beyond claims about demons and angels. Unsurprisingly, the world of fundamentalist Christians is absolutely crawling with conspiracy theories, urban legends, and just plain bizarre beliefs about how the world works. Here’s a list of 10 of the weirder ones are currently in circulation.
1) Same-sex marriage is an elaborate scheme concocted by lesbians to entrap men. David Usher of the Center for Marriage Policy managed to cough up a theory that is an outstanding blend of homophobia, misogynist myths about the mendacity of women, and paranoia about the supposed gravy train that is child support. He argues that women will marry each other and conscript men into supporting them by “pretending they are using birth control when they are not.” The men will then “become economically conscripted third parties to these marriages, but get nothing in return,” presumably because the only reason a man would want to care for his own children would be in exchange for sex and housework. He also assumes that the only sources of income women have access to are child support and welfare; the possibility that women hold jobs doesn’t seem to occur to him.
Usher is trying to find a way to justify the increasingly ridiculous right-wing claim that same-sex marriage is somehow undermining “traditional” heterosexual marriage. He has zero-evidence for his claim outside of his belief that women are generally sleazy liars, and will “cheat” men out of the straight marriages they’re entitled to by sneaking off with women.
2) Planned Parenthood is trying to get kids “hooked” on sex. The anti-choice organization American Life League has been peddling the idea for a long time now that Planned Parenthood works like a mythical drug dealer, but with sex. The theory, summarized in this amazing video, goes like this: Planned Parenthood lures otherwise asexual young people into thinking sex is fun (something they are dead certain that you would never, ever think if not for Planned Parenthood). They then trick them into having sex by telling them contraception works, but (evil laugh), the contraception doesn’t work and the young people get pregnant and have to have abortions. Which means profit for Planned Parenthood! This neat little theory requires ignoring both the fact that Planned Parenthood is a non-profit and that the overwhelming scientific evidence shows that contraception does work, but ignoring facts and evidence is what the Christian right does best.
3) Gay men wear special rings for the sole purpose of giving innocent straights HIV. This one was trotted out recently by everyone’s favorite disseminator of Christian right urban legends, Pat Robertson. “You know what they do in San Francisco, some in the gay community there they want to get people so if they got the stuff they’ll have a ring, you shake hands, and the ring’s got a little thing where you cut your finger,” he explained, suggesting there’s a serial killing ring of gay men who kill with HIV for reasons undetermined. Robertson backpedaled, but as Anderson Cooper suggested, only because he got caught.
4) The abortion-mad Chinese eat human fetuses. This one is popular in anti-choice circles, because it hits both the abortion-obsessed and racist sweet spots. The claim is sometimes that the Chinese eat “fetus soup” as an aphrodisiac, because concern that other people are enjoying sex too much is always part and parcel of any anti-choice urban legend. This obviously false bit of racist propaganda is spread mostly through email, though prominent anti-choice activists like Jill Stanek have also perpetuated it.
5) Crazed liberals in Illinois want to teach 5-year-olds how to have sex.A Chicago school district has implemented a mandatory sex education program for each grade level, leading Christian right publications to accuse the district of practicing “pedophilia” by trying to get kindergartners to think about “sex and sexual acts.” While it’s no surprise that fundamentalists love the opportunity to titillate and outrage themselves by imagining kids getting blow job lessons, the reality is much more mundane….and pedophilia-preventive. Lessons for kindergarten and first grade will simply be about anatomy, with an emphasis on learning the difference between “good touch vs. bad touch,” specifically so children who are targeted by pedophiles know to report what’s happened. But perpetuating the belief that evil pervert liberals are targeting innocent children clearly matters more to the Christian right than stopping real-life perverts who are actually targeting children.
6) Obama is the Antichrist and plans to rule America by sharia law. Even though you’d think Obama would be getting on with this plan already instead of wasting time talking about bombing Syria, the belief that any day now a combination of sharia law and the apocalypse will be brought on by Obama still rules in Christian right circles. Public Policy Polling found that an alarming 13 percent of Americans are sure Obama is the Antichrist and another 13 percent entertained the possibility. Christian right-wingers are always on the lookout for “evidence” that Obama’s secret sharia plan is about to take off, leading to headlines likes this one from Breitbart.com: “Obama administration paves the way for sharia law.”
7) Charles Darwin took it all back the day he died. This one has been around since the 19th century, but still has a significant amount of play on the Christian right, as part of the ur-conspiracy theory which holds that scientists are just making up evolutionary theory as part of a grand atheist conspiracy conducted for reasons unknown. Interestingly, this is one legend leaders in the Christian right have been trying to put to bed recently, with even the group Answers In Genesis—which believes that dinosaurs and humans lived in harmony together—denying that Darwin recanted his atheistic views on his deathbed.
8) JK Rowling is trying to lure your children into Satanism with her Harry Potter books. Hardline Christian conservatives have always been afraid pop culture is a conspiracy of Satan’s to attract impressionable young people, so it’s unsurprising that Rowling’s Harry Potter series, with its portrayal of fantasy magic, made the top of the list of products to be feared. The hysteria hit a peak in 2001, with fundamentalist activists accusing the books of trying to “desensitize readers and introduce them to the occult” and “trafficking in evil spirits.” Things were made worse when the Onion published a satirical article Christian conservatives didn’t realize was satire, causing them to literally believe young kids told the Onion things like, “But the Harry Potter books showed me that magic is real, something I can learn and use right now, and that the Bible is nothing but boring lies.” The furor has died down somewhat, but plenty of evangelical leaders still routinely claim demons can possess your body if you read Harry Potter.
9) Pro-choicers in Texas were planning to pelt the state senate with jars of feces. This one rose up and was debunked within the space of six weeks over this summer of 2013. The claim, which unfortunately was given credence by the Texas Department of Public Safety back in July, was that evil pro-choicers were planning to sneak jars of poop into the debate and were only stopped by brave, poop-confiscating lawmakers. Eventually, the TX DPS reluctantly handed its actual documents regarding the protests over and sure enough, there is no evidence outside of urban legend-mongering from conservatives that there were any jars of any human waste whatsoever. Unfortunately, the legend was already out and circulating.
Humorless fundies are also perpetuating the claim that there was Satan-worshipping from pro-choicers at the protests, even though a cursory perusal of the evidence shows that the shouts of “hail Satan” were not a prayer so much as a joke aimed squarely at the Christian right protesters.
10) Birth control pill turns your uterus into a grave littered with teeny-weeny corpses of fully formed babies.Kevin Swanson, Christian right talk show host, expelled this one recently, claiming that “certain doctors and certain scientists” are finding that women on the pill have, “these little tiny fetuses, these little babies, that are embedded into the womb.” An evocative image, albeit one that requires not only falsely believing the pill “kills” embryos (it works by suppressing ovulation), but also simply refusing to believe that menstruation actually exists.
These are just a sampling of the stories you’ll hear in hushed, can-you-believe-it tones in Christian right circles, where the urban legend is a primary form of communication.