Anti-Islamic Christian Conspiracy Theorist Attacks Anti-Catholic Christian Conspiracy Theory about Nimrod for Not Being Anti-Islamic Enough
A Christian radical who made his career from fomenting anti-Islamic sentiment is now openly attacking other lunatic Christians’ conspiracy theories because they aren’t anti-Islamic enough. Joel Richardson is the author of a number of Islamophobic books like Islamic Antichrist and is a frequent contributor to World Net Daily, a conservative news and opinion of site of dubious credibility. He is the director of a documentary from the site’s film division called End Times Eyewitness. An article posted on WND on Sunday explains Richardson’s new claims, which directly challenge a different Antichrist conspiracy theory, one that directly contradicts Richardson’s own.
To understand what’s going on here, we should probably start with the original Antichrist conspiracy theory and then how Richardson is attempting to undermine it to promote a separate one more in tune with modern evangelical Christian politics.
The conspiracy theory in question was promulgated by Alexander Hislop in his 1853 pamphlet, later expanded into an 1858 book, called The Two Babylons. In the book, Hislop, a Presbyterian theologian, alleged that the Biblical figure of Nimrod founded a Satanic mystery school that became the foundation of the Roman Catholic Church, whose popes secretly indulge in worship of the diabolical Nimrod, the model of the Antichrist. Hislop railed against the Catholic Church and demanded that Christians excise it from the community of believers: “Let every Christian henceforth and for ever treat it as an outcast from the pale of Christianity. Instead of speaking of it as a Christian Church, let it be recognised and regarded as the Mystery of Iniquity, yea, as the very Synagogue of Satan.”
The trouble with this claim, which remains popular among the anti-Catholic wing of evangelical Christianity, is that it cuts off a lucrative potential market for Christian conspiracy theories. Since the late 1970s, when evangelical leaders made common cause with Catholics in the wake of Roe v. Wade, the fiction of a unified conservative faith community has made it more difficult to use traditional Protestant Anti-Catholic propaganda for financial gain while trying to appeal to Catholics to bolster the political power of Christian conservatives. Richardson, therefore, takes issue with Hislop’s conspiracy theory, one that he assumes many in his evangelical audience intuitively believe, as he told Carl Gallup’s Freedom Friday, as transcribed by WND:
“These traditions concerning Nimrod – if you read any number of books that deal with this topic, they have all these stories concerning Nimrod,” he explained. “About how Nimrod married Semiramis, this woman from the Middle East, and they started this religion, and then she killed him and he was reincarnated as Tammuz – just this incredible detailed story. … But all of these stories – none of them are found the Bible.
The “Mystery Babylon” is a fictitious city that Richardson and some Rapture-ready evangelicals believe will be Satan’s counterpoint to the New Jerusalem, the city of God. It derives from the words written on the head of the Whore of Babylon (“Mystery, Babylon the Great”) in Revelation 17:5. In Revelation 17:18, the woman is identified as the “great city” which reigns over the earth, one made up of seven hills and ruled by tyrannical kings. Rome, with its emperors and seven hills, is quite clearly indicated, but Richardson does not want to allow for that because it would compromise the unity of Christianity against Islam, in his view.
Richardson is right, though, that ancient legends about Nimrod take many forms, but this is because there was a theological disagreement about him. Jewish folklore contained two strains of Nimrod stories, some making him a hero and others representing him as a Nephilim-giant who opposed God. The claim that he married Semiramis is an odd one, deriving from a conflation of the Biblical figure of Nimrod with the mythical Assyrian king Ninus from Greek historiography. This conflation occurred in the Pseudo-Clementine Recognitions, and it carried over into Hislop’s Two Babylons, where it forms the historical foundation for his conspiracy theory.
Richardson, to his credit, recognizes that he is combatting Hislop, and he directly criticizes not just Hislop’s ideas but also his character, alleging that he suffered from “mental psychosis.” He devotes a long monologue to explaining why Catholicism shouldn’t be considered anti-Christian or Satanic. But why? The answer is made stunningly clear: He fantasizes about a unified Christendom launching a holy war—one might even call it a jihad—against Islam, which he alleges is the faith of Satan, with Mecca as the new Babylon:
Well in the last days, the question is, what is the reigning beast empire? We’ve got seven historical, Satanic empires? What is the empire of our day, where Satan’s stronghold is over the Earth? … The answer is that it’s the Islamic empire. Islam is the last beast empire. The system of the Antichrist, the religion of the Antichrist is Islam. And so if we look to the spiritual and financial capital of the Islamic world, it’s the city of Mecca and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Richardson devoted so much spleen to bashing Hislop because he wanted to appropriate Hislop’s arguments and remove them from Catholicism to Islam. It’s the exact same argument, but with the details shifted from Rome to Mecca. He even attempts to paganize Mecca in the weirdest way possible. It’s well-known that the Kaaba in Mecca had served as a pagan temple before Muhammad (though the Qur’an says it was a temple to God founded by Abraham), yet instead of attributing its use to the Arab gods, Richardson says it was a Hindu temple of Shiva! This is an especially deep cut in fringe religious literature. Hindus and Muslims have long struggled for supremacy on the subcontinent, and so some Hindu nationalists invented the idea that the Kaaba was originally a temple of Shiva on account of a dubious linguistic claim (that Kaaba is a corruption of the Sanskrit Gabha, or temple), an allegation that the circumambulation of the Kaaba is borrowed from Shiva worship, and that Islamic violence can be attributed to Shiva’s ferociousness. Subtle arguments these are not.
Interestingly, while the arguments are mostly of modern original, centuries ago, when the balance of power was different, the Hindus alleged that the Black Stone of the Kaaba was actually a divine Hindu lingam, which Muhammad had stolen and placed in the Kaaba to show contempt for Hinduism. Edward Moor recorded this story in 1810, based on his travels in India.
The older version suggests victimhood, while the newer, more aggressive version asserts ownership.
But we are getting a bit off topic. Richardson has accepted Hindu nationalist propaganda at face value simply because it is anti-Islamic.
Richardson started from a conclusion that Islam is a world-historical threat to Christianity and the West, and from this he has tried to back-form Biblical prophecies to justify a war against Muslims. The interesting part of the sad exercise is watching him have to tear apart an earlier generation of Christian conspiracy theories to do so, all while remaining willfully blind to his own use of the same arguments that he denigrates in the hands of his opponents. If Hislop was mentally ill for seeing Catholics as perpetuating pagan idolatry, what does that make Richardson when he sees the same in Islam?
“The city of Mecca, quite simply, is the greatest city of idolatry that mankind has yet to produce,” he said. “Every day, 1.62 billion people, the world’s second largest religion after Christianity as a whole, bow five times towards that city and pray towards that great pagan idol called the Kaaba.” Richardson, oblivious to logic and irony, claimed that the Christian cross and crucifix were not icons but merely symbols. The difference? He doesn’t say, but his suggestion that Muslims are duped into praying at an idol while Christians merely pray in the direction of a symbol by choice implies that Muslims are a mental grade below Christians.
I’d love to hear him explain why it’s OK for Catholics, if they aren’t Satanic Nimrod-worshipers, to believe they literally eat the body and blood of Jesus. Surely that is a whole horrific layer beyond merely praying in a given direction, particularly since evangelicals take the same bread and wine to be merely symbols. The point is that Richardson is another pious hypocrite happily picking and choosing layers of selective outrage to further a conservative political agenda. I know that 9/11 did a real number on the American psyche, but this whole End Times lust for a global religious and/or race war is disturbing. We saw yesterday that Trump advisor Steve Bannon wants a global war against Islam, too. Are we so far removed from World War II that these ideological looney tunes don’t realize how horrible a global war would be? Or do they really think that Jesus will ride in on his horse to save all the white folks?
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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