You are here

  1. Home
  2. Dr David Robertson

Dr David Robertson

Profile summary

Web links

Professional biography

I began studying religion at the University of Edinburgh, focusing initially on the New Testament, but quickly switching to New and Alternative Religions. My interest in theory grew steadily as I worked on an MSc (by research) on contemporary Gnostic groups and my PhD on Conspiracy Theories in the New Age movement. All of these come together in my current project, a critical history of Gnosticism in the History of Religions school.

I'm also fascinated by communications technology. As well as running the Religious Studies blog here at the Open University, I co-founded the Religious Studies Project, a podcast showcasing cutting-edge social-scientific research on religion, supported by the BASR, NAASR and IAHR.


Research interests

  • Critical theory in the study of religion
  • Conspiracy theories in, as or about religion
  • Contemporary Gnosticism
  • The History of Religions school
  • New Religious Movements
  • Teaching and Learning in Religious Studies 

Current research project: Gnosticism and the History of Religions

A critical history of this problematic category and its relationship with scholarly and popular discourse on religion in the twentieth century. It will show how ideas about Gnosticism developed in late 19th and 20th century scholarship, drawing from continental phenomenology, Jungian psychology and post-Holocaust theology, coming to be constructed as a perennial religious current based on special knowledge of the divine in a corrupt world. Today it acts as a dog-whistle for the phenomenological essentialism of the History of Religions school.

Teaching interests

I have a passion for using unconventional subjects like new religions and conspiracy theories as ways into thinking critically about religion, society and "belief". I am currently Chair of A332 Why is Religion Controversial? Before this I was an Associate Lecturer on A227 Exploring Religion between 2017 and 2020, joining the Module Team in 2019. I have contributed a Module to the interdisciplinary course DD218, Understanding Digital Societies, on "Disinformation, Misinformation & Conspiracies", and co-wrote a module (with John Maiden) on secularization and religious innovation the 1960s for A113 Revolutions.

Impact and engagement

Religion Media Centre, 5/5/2020 -

Religion Media Centre, 30/6/2020 -

Workshop on ‘Conspiracy theories, disinformation, and security threats: How should governments respond?’ 15/5/2017 (organised by Centre for Research and Evidence on Security Threats (CREST), University of Lancaster and Research Information and Communications Unit (RICU) within the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism).

I am currently an advisory board member of INFORM.

External collaborations

The Religious Studies Project | Founding Editor, Interviewer and Podcast Co-Host

An innovative podcast and website project presented in association with the British Association for the Study of Religions and working with an international team in six countries. Featuring weekly interviews with leading international scholars in the academic study of religion, in addition to features essays, book reviews, roundtable discussions, opportunities digests and more.

British Association for the Study of Religions | BASR Bulletin Editor

Implicit Religion (Equinox) | Co-Editor

This international journal offers a platform for scholarship that challenges the traditional boundary between religion and non-religion and the tacit assumptions underlying this distinction. It invites contributions from a critical perspective on various cultural formations that are usually excluded from religion by the gatekeeping practices of the general public, practitioners, the law, and even some scholars of religion. Taking a broad scope, Implicit Religion showcases analyses of material from the mundane to the extraordinary, but always with critical questions in mind such as: why is this data boundary-challenging? what do such marginal cases tell us about boundary management and category formation with respect to religion? and what interests are being served through acts of inclusion and exclusion?


Study of Religion and The Dawn of Everything (2023-09)
Tremlett, Paul-François; Harvey, Graham; Robertson, David and Cusack, Carole
Journal of the British Association for the Study of Religion (JBASR), 25 (pp. 86-105)

“I Believe in Bees": Belief, Reconsidered (2023)
Williams, Jack and Robertson, David G
Implicit Religion, 25(1-2) (pp. 1-14)

Religious Literacy as Religion Literacy: A Response from the UK (2022-10)
Robertson, David G.
Method & Theory in the Study of Religion, 34(5) (pp. 475-483)

How conspiracy theorists argue: epistemic capital in the QAnon social media sphere (2022-03)
Robertson, David G. and Amarasingam, Amarnath
Popular Communication, 20(3) (pp. 193-207)

Introduction: epistemic contestations in the hybrid media environment (2022-03)
Valaskivi, Katja and Robertson, David G.
Popular Communication, 20(3) (pp. 153-161)

[Book Review] Free Zone Scientology: Contesting the Boundaries of a New Religion by Aled Thomas (2022)
Robertson, David G.
Journal of Contemporary Religion, 37(2) (pp. 392-393)

Legitimizing Claims of Special Knowledge: Towards an Epistemic Turn in Religious Studies (2021-06-23)
Robertson, David G.
Temenos - Nordic Journal of Comparative Religion, 57(1) (pp. 17-34)

[Review Essay] A Gnostic Study of Religions (2020-01-24)
Robertson, David G.
Method and Theory in the Study of Religion, 32(1) (pp. 75-88)

“Tuning Ourselves” (2017-01-01)
Robertson, David G.
Religion and the Arts, 21(1-2) (pp. 236-258)

Silver Bullets and Seed Banks: A Material Analysis of Conspiracist Millennialism (2015-11-30)
Robertson, David G.
Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions, 19(2) (pp. 83-99)

Conspiracy Theories and the Study of Alternative and Emergent Religions (2015-11)
Robertson, David G.
Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions, 19(2) (pp. 5-16)

David Icke’s Reptilian Thesis and the Development of New Age Theodicy (2013-09-07)
Robertson, David G.
International Journal for the Study of New Religions, 4(1) (pp. 27-47)

Gnosticism and the History of Religions (2021-09-09)
Robertson, David G.
Scientific Studies of Religion: Inquiry and Explanation
ISBN : 9781350137691 | Publisher : Bloomsbury | Published : London

UFOs, conspiracy theories and the new age: Millennial conspiracism (2016-02-25)
Robertson, David
Bloomsbury Advances in Religious Studies
ISBN : 9781474253208 | Publisher : Bloomsbury

Conspiracy Theories about Secret Religions: Imagining the Other (2022)
Robertson, David G.
In: Urban, Hugh B. and Johnson, Paul Christopher eds. The Routledge Handbook of Religion and Secrecy. Routledge Handbooks in Religion (pp. 380-390)
ISBN : 978-0-367-85741-7 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : Abingdon, Oxon

The Counter-Elite: Strategies of Authority in Millennial Conspiracism (2018)
Robertson, David G.
In: Dyrendal, Asbjørn; Robertson, David G. and Asprem, Egil eds. Handbook of Conspiracy Theory and Contemporary Religion
ISBN : 978-90-04-38202-2 | Publisher : Brill

Introducing the Field: Conspiracy Theory in, about, and as Religion (2018)
Robertson, David G.; Asprem, Egil and Dyrendal, Asbjørn
In: Dyrendal, Asbjørn; Robertson, David G. and Asprem, Egil eds. Handbook of Conspiracy Theory and Contemporary Religion
ISBN : 978-90-04-38202-2 | Publisher : Brill

Handbook of Conspiracy Theory and Contemporary Religion (2018-10-02)
Robertson, David; Dyrendal, Asbjorn and Asprem, Egil eds.
Brill Handbooks on Contemporary Religion
ISBN : 978-90-04-38202-2 | Publisher : Brill | Published : Leiden

After world religions: Reconstructing Religious Studies (2016-02-05)
Robertson, David and Cotter, Christopher eds.
Religion in Culture: Studies in Social Contest and Construction
ISBN : 9781138919136 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : London