A new poll from the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) found that the QAnon conspiracy theory – a core belief of which is that a group of “Satan-worshipping pedophiles” are pulling the strings of the country – is believed by some 15% of Americans. If that number is accurate, it would make this world view more widely believed than several major faiths.
What was once a fringe conspiracy theory borne on the furthest reaches of the internet is now mainstream. Put another way: more Americans believe in a shadowy cabal of elites that worship Satan and cannibalize children than believe in Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Mormonism put together.
So, is QAnon the newest big religion?
A New Faith in Town
The pollsters were flabbergasted at their own findings. 15% of the US population really believes in an unhinged conspiracy theory? Robby Jones, founder of PRRI, told the New York Times in an interview that “if [QAnon] were a religion, it would be as big as all white evangelical Protestants, or all white mainline Protestants. So it lines up there with a major religious group.”
That analysis is correct. Per a Pew study on faith in America, Evangelicals make up about 25% of the US population, Catholics make up about 20%, and Mainline Protestants make up roughly 15%, putting them about on par with QAnon.
Non-Christian faiths make up about 6% of the population, meaning that QAnon truly dwarfs them, as it is nearly three times more popular in this country than all of them put together.
Of course, in most cases, it took these faiths thousands of years to amass followings that large. QAnon amassed that many followers in four short years. The mysterious "Q" (after whom the movement is named) didn't first post online until late 2017. Q has also gone global – there are reportedly adherents of this ideology as far as Latin America and Europe.
While perhaps a bit informal, this belief system still mimics many aspects of religion. A mysterious central figure, cryptic prophecies, fanatical believers who dissect and re-dissect every word.
QAnon adherents even utilize Christian language, referring to “Great Awakenings” and “Storms” that sound like events straight out of Revelations. They also frame their battle against the cannibalizing, Satanic cabal as a fight of good vs evil – a theme common in many religions.
Despite many fantastical claims, there have been no miracles performed under the banner of QAnon.
While the enthusiasm still appears to be strong, some wonder how long these believers will keep the faith if "Q" doesn't eventually reveal himself – or somehow pull the curtain back on the supposed Satan worshippers.
However, even if the movement does fizzle, it certainly does say something about the times we live in that a conspiracy theory could, essentially overnight, become more popular than major religions that have existed for thousands of years.
Could this movement be a guide for what faiths of the future might look like, or is QAnon just a passing fad? What is your reaction?