The American political landscape has been dominated in the last half decade by an increasing confusion about the nature of “Truth.” This wasn’t always a problem for the media; for generations we simply believed whatever Walter Cronkite told us. Even when we began to embrace a need for a variety of reporting outlets and styles, we always assumed that the very nature of the fourth estate would be self-policing. Misinformation would be rooted out by other reporting, and outlets with a track record of untrustworthiness would lose readers.

“Fake News” was originally a verifiably false report which was pushed by the power of the people: misinformation could be elevated in the public consciousness simply by it being spread. This was a danger in the unregulated mediums of social media which lead to our current apprehension about all news. If any news can be fake, why can’t all news? And if all news is fake, why not believe an outlandish theory that captures my imagination and my heart?

So we see the rise of QAnon, the meta-conspiracy du jour. These QAnon people are generally republican voters almost by definition, which means there is a lot of crossover with evangelical groups. Christian Nationalism is closely linked to QAnon belief. In fact, a majority of republicans believe in at least some of the QAnon lies, and about half of ALL Americans in a survey were unable to correctly identify one of QAnon’s most outlandish theory that Satan-worshiping child-sex-traffickers run the government. How could we possibly have come to this?

Although it is difficult to disentangle correlation and causation, it is not coincidence that those who are historically devoutly religious in a traditional way seem to be most swayed by QAnon nonsense. There is, of course, the way in which the whole movement wraps itself up in the trappings of religion; perhaps you remember the “shaman” in fur and horns proclaiming victory on the dais in the Capitol?

More importantly, people who have been conditioned to believe without evidence, and who hold belief without evidence as a virtue, are naturally going to gravitate towards wildly inaccurate conspiracy theory. They’ve literally been told since birth that those who “believe without seeing” are blessed, that faith is a virtue in-and-of-itself, that the greatest truths in the world are untestable and unverifiable. This hermeneutic of belief is fundamental to their culture, their worldview, their identity; of course it was going to be co-opted at some point.

There are lots of conclusions to draw from this, as well as solutions. For now, though, it might be enough to say simply, “we brought this on ourselves.” Our country’s backwards adherence to supernatural belief created an epistemology which prizes falsehood. We literally have centered our biggest national holiday around a fantastical lie about an old man breaking and entering our homes, leaving our children to traumatically discover later in life that not only their parents and friends have lied to them since birth but also an entire national cabal of coconspirators all complicit in the same fabrication. Growing up in this framework, who wouldn’t later in life assume that the entire political establishment was lying to them?