Is there a link between belief in fake news and belief in religion?

fake-news-aThe airwaves are currently filled with both outrage towards and defense of the fake news that has been competing with “real news” of the day. Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor-designate Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn (Ret.) and his son have been promoting a clearly fallacious story that Hillary Clinton was involved in a sex-trafficking operation. A man from North Carolina believed it and went into a Washington, DC pizzeria, which was presumably the center of the operation, with an assault weapon. Fortunately, no one was hurt and he was arrested.

Mainstream media is concerned that its reputation will be tarnished by the proliferation of fake news. Who will be the arbiter of what’s true and what’s not? Ultimately, the judges will be the American people; the media consuming public.

Since President-elect Donald Trump broke all records for falsehoods with fact-checkers like Politifact, it’s no small wonder that there is an overlap between those who supported Trump and those who tend to believe news stories that simply are not true.

But are there other indicators of who among us may be prone to believe fake news? One thought that crossed my mind is those who believe the gospel of organized religions. This is only a hypothesis at this time, but it may be worth exploring.

There are people who believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. To many others, that story is preposterous. That simply “does not occur in nature.”

For those among us who look to empirical information to be the basis of our judgments, the idea of the resurrection is quite a stretch since there is no evidence as to that happening, or how it could have happened. The same would be true with the story of Noah’s Ark or any number of other Biblical stories. The same would hold true for accounts from the Koran.

Donald Trump received quite a bit of support from the Evangelical community. These are the people among us who are most likely to take a literal interpretation of the Bible or other “scriptures of faith.” Is belief in scripture an indication of being “factually challenged” as belief in fake news is?

Again, I do not know the answers to these questions. But if there is a correlation, then we should open a further dialogue about how a propensity to believe the scriptures of religion may be a precursor to susceptibility about what is true and what is not. Facing such a dilemma would be challenging and painful, but perhaps would be a wise direction in the evolution of humankind.

Arthur Lieber Arthur Lieber (439 Posts)

Since 1969, Arthur Lieber has been teaching and working in non-profit educational organizations. His focus has been on promoting critical, creative, and enjoyable learning for students in informal settings. In the 2010 mid-term elections, he was the Democratic nominee for US Congress from Missouri’s 2nd Congressional District.


  • Stacy Mergenthal

    It’s interesting. The thought has occurred. It goes to follow that superstitious people are likely targets for bridge salesmen. If they will believe in witch curses, dark omens, and “miracles”, they might believe a pyramid scheme is a great way to get rich fast and Donald Trump is the messiah. It is a simple matter to make the message believable to certain audiences, as these fake news creators are proving. (I highly recommend the VICE news segment on HBO if you haven’t caught it yet.)

    In my humble opinion, it all comes back to critical thinking skills and the alarming lack thereof. Some people are taught that thinking and requiring evidence are not necessary, faith is all that matters. In fact, religion REQUIRES complete faith in the face of a lack of evidence. Do people, lacking any evidence, have faith in Donald Trump’s leadership? It makes sense. But like you pointed out, it’s difficult to know with a certainty.

    This line of questioning/thinking would make an interesting poll.