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(Con)spirituality, Science and COVID-19: International meeting of experts addresses emerging public health threats

(Con)spirituality, Science and COVID-19: International meeting of experts addresses emerging public health threats

The (Con)spirituality, Science and COVID-19 Colloquium brought together leading scholars and practitioners from the UK, EU, USA, Canada and Australia to examine themes of (con)spirituality, science, QAnon, the Far Right, vaccine hesitancy and COVID-19.

Conspirituality – the merging of conspiracy theories with spirituality – has created major flashpoints during the COVID-19 pandemic, with some wellness influencers promoting theories that undermine public health measures such as social distancing and vaccination.

To address this growing crisis of authority, Deakin University and Western Sydney University hosted a virtual colloquium on 25–26 March featuring leading academics and practitioners from the UK, EU, US, Canada and Australia, including a number of scholars from the Alfred Deakin Institute, the Religion, Society and Culture Network, the Science and Society Network, the Consortium for Resilient Societies, and the Addressing Violent Extremism and Radicalisation to Terrorism Research Network at Deakin University. The presentations were recorded and are available on the project website.

Discussion focused on (con)spirituality, QAnon, the Far Right, vaccine hesitancy and COVID-19. Keynote speakers included sociologists of religion Professor David Voas (University College London), Professor Andrew Singleton and Associate Professor Anna Halafoff (Deakin University), anthropologist of religion Professor Cristina Rocha (Western Sydney University), religious studies Professor Paul Bramadat (University of Victoria) and Derek Beres, Matthew Remski, and Julian Walker – co-hosts of the influential North American website and podcast.  

The term ‘conspirituality‘ was first used in 2011 by independent researcher Charlotte Ward and sociologist David Voas to describe the merger of New Age spirituality and conspiracy theories, especially on the internet. But the pandemic has accelerated this phenomenon.

‘The potential for conflict between science and spirituality has always been apparent, but in the face of COVID-19, these tensions can become a matter of life or death. Understanding alternative belief systems has never been more important,’ says Professor Voas.

This colloquium provided a deeper understanding of this phenomenon during the COVID-19 pandemic, illuminating the internal diversities and complexities within (con)spirituality and vaccine hesitancy.

Associate Professor Anna Halafoff, sociologist from Deakin University and co-convenor of the colloquium, explained the focus of the research project of which the colloquium forms one part. ‘Our team chose to bracket the “con” in (con)spirituality, as our research investigates a wide spectrum of spiritual beliefs and practices that co-opt or critique scientific orthodoxy, including those that are non-controversial, those that may indeed be “cons”, and those that adhere to conspiracy theories and pose significant risks to society.’

Co-investigator Professor Cristina Rocha, from Western Sydney University, stressed the urgency of the event. ‘Measures to counter misinformation hinge on better understanding why some of those who espouse wellness and alternative spiritualities engage with conspiracy theories. Only then can we find ways to counter misinformation.  This timely colloquium helped us to think deeply about how to do that.’

The colloquium is part of the (Con)spirituality in Australia project, led by researchers from Deakin University and Western Sydney University. It is funded by the International Research Network for Science and Belief in Society, based at the University of Birmingham and funded by the Templeton Religion Trust.

For more information about the (Con)spirituality in Australia project, please visit, or you can reach us at


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