Are Christians more susceptible to hoaxes than other people? It might seem like an odd question, but Derek Thomas of Reformation21 has a column up asking whether or not Christians tend to be more gullible than average. He writes:
Indeed, it might be argued that Christians are among the easiest targets of a hoax. A Christian’s belief in the sinister nature of evil makes him a ready target for the latest conspiracy theory. History, for a Christian, is purposeful and behind it lies both the power of God and the machinations of a powerful foe. But as C. S. Lewis noted elsewhere, we can make both too much and too little of Satan. There is a mindset that wants to see his schemes under every rock and pebble.
I don't know about you, but several years ago (it seems to have died down since) my email inbox was routinely inundated with earnest and unasked-for email forwards about the Satanic dangers of Harry Potter--usually in the form of a satirical Onion article that was unfortunately taken as fact by well-meaning Christians. Around that time, the Madalyn Murray O'Hair urban legend was still making the rounds in Christian circles as well. I distinctly remember wondering if other religions and groups--Muslims, say, or atheists--circulated their own versions of these silly hoaxes, or if there was something about the evangelical subculture that led us to just accept these scare-stories without bothering to research them.
Some would claim, of course, that adherents of Christianity or other religions are by default too gullible. But I think Thomas' essay above hits on one of the crucial elements here. When we take spiritual evil seriously and dwell (perhaps too much) on the threat of sin, we also risk developing something like low-level paranoia--a fear that Satan is lurking behind every corner--and a corresponding urge to just accept every frightening tale we hear.
Thoughts? Are Christians more gullible than others? Why or why not?