Ironically, this particular sceptic does not seem to recognise the greatest conspiracy of all time (the centuries long type referred to) – religion.
Is religion a conspiracy?
My understanding of a conspiracy is a centrally controlled secret agenda to pursue specific goals through deceit. I fail to see how that could apply to “religion” collectively. A multitude of diverse religious beliefs originated independently in various parts of the world. These may range from pure superstitions to belief systems where deities are worshipped. The fact that there are, and have been, such a diversity of religions, proves that there is no central conspiracy. This is reinforced by the prevalence of religious rivalry and wars.
One may then proceed to ask whether individual religions are conspiracies. Again, it is hard to imagine (say) all Christian or Islamic groupings secretly conspiring while fighting in the open. Co-operation among religious groups occur, but there is no evidence to believe in the existence of a clandestine control.
That brings us to the level of individual churches. On this level we do find a varying degree of clandestine activity, depending on the church in question, especially when it comes to finances and yielding power. Certain activities within individual churches may indeed be regarded as conspiratorial. Even so, I would not claim that the belief systems propagated by such churches are fundamentally conspiracies. This would imply that the leaders of such churches don’t in fact believe what their churches preach, yet condone the message in order to pursue an ulterior agenda. Such a claim would be extraordinary and therefore require extraordinary proof to attain credibility. That proof is largely lacking.
Religion can be abusive in many ways. It can distort morals, extort money, exert power and act selfishly. It can accommodate conspiracies, but to claim that religion itself “is a conspiracy” would be misguided.