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The Flat Earth Society

Updated on June 4, 2010

 To most of the world the notion of a spherical earth is not a theory, it is a fact. If not since Aristotle first suggested it, then at least since NASA showed us our planet, glistening like a smoky blue jewel in a vast black ocean. But to some people this theory is a cruel joke and a widespread conspiracy. Some of these people maintain that the truth is that our planet is a flat disc, centered around the north pole and surrounded by a towering ice wall. Some of these people are members of the Flat Earth Society.

The modern belief of a flat earth can be traced back to English inventor Samuel Rowbotham. Based on his own research of our planet and his interpretation of certain bible passages Rowbotham came to believe that the earth was flat, despite prevailing scientific theory to the contrary. In 1849 Rowbotham put his theories into print publishing a 16 page pamphlet called Zetetic Astronomy: Not A Globe that was later expanded to a 430 page book. During his lifetime Rowbotham gained both notoriety and thousands of followers by engaging in public debates with the leading scientists of the day.

The following is an excerpt from a Flat Earth Society newsletter: “…'Science' today and 'scientists' consist of the same old gang of witch doctors, sorcerers, tellers of tales, the 'Priest-Entertainers' for the common people. 'Science' consists of a weird, way-out occult concoction of gibberish theory-theology...unrelated to the real world of facts…”

After his death followers established the Universal Zetetic Society that remained active until it began to lose notoriety after WWI. Then, in 1956 another Samuel, Samuel Shenton, took over the Zetetic Society with new zeal. In the same year he founded the Flat Earth Society that exists today. Not for lack of trying Shenton only managed to attract just over 100 members to his new society before he passed away in 1971.

The torch was passed then to Charles K. Johnson of California under whose guidance the membership swelled to over 3000. In 2001 when Johnson passed away the membership dwindled and the society became inactive until 2009. As of March of this year (2010) the society under Daniel Shenton has 60 active members, a number of message boards and a regained presence in pop culture.

So what do they believe?

 Due to biblical interpretations and scientific theory Flat Earth Believers believe that the earth is a disc that is centered around the north pole. This disc is actually one end of a cylindrical planet. The disc is surrounded by an ice wall that prevents people from falling off the edge of the earth.

They also believe that NASA and certain government organizations have staged the moon landings and made up stories about satellites (they do not believe sustained flight in space is possible) in order to turn people away from the truth. There are divided theories among Flat Earth Believers as to what the truth is exactly. For some it is the word of the bible literally interpreted, for others it is that there is a worldwide government conspiracy in pursuit financial gain.

When founder Samuel Shenton was asked about the NASA images of a spherical planet his response was, “It's easy to see how a photograph like that could fool the untrained eye.” In fact the group went so far as to state that the moon landings were staged by Hollywood and based on a script by Arthur C. Clarke (a theory held not only by Flat Earthers). When Clarke heard this theory he sent a facetious letter to NASA:

"Dear Sir, on checking my records, I see that I have never received payment for this work. Could you please look into this matter with some urgency? Otherwise you will be hearing from my solicitors, Messrs Geldsnatch, Geldsnatch and Blubberclutch"

They believe that this secret is kept from the masses by a few hundred men who guard the ice wall using helicopters and snow mobiles and a coalition of the few countries that have been to space. In addition the members of the Flat Earth Society don’t believe in gravity. Substituting a theory called Universal Acceleration that suggests that celestial bodies are constantly moving in an upward motion causing the pulling effect that we call gravity.


 The following is copied directly from These are excerpts of the FAQ section of the Flat Earth Society website. Better than anything I could say their own answers will help you to understand their position.

Q: “Is this site a joke?”

A: This site is not a joke. We are actively promoting the Flat Earth movement worldwide. There are members who seriously believe the Earth is flat…

Q: “Why do you believe the Earth is flat?”

A: It looks that way up close. In our local reference frame, it appears to take a flat shape, ignoring obvious hills and valleys. In addition, Samuel Rowbotham et al. performed a variety of experiments over a period of several years that show it must be flat. They are all explained in his book.

Q: "Why are other planets round, but not the Earth?"

A: The Earth is not one of the other planets. The Earth is special and unlike the other bodies in numerous ways.

Q: "If you go directly south won't you eventually fall off the edge of the Earth?"

A: Yes, you will. In order to use this fact as proof [of a round earth] you need to record a video of someone flying directly south around the world without falling off the edge. Furthermore you need to prove that your navigational equipment allows you to travel directly south without deviating.

Q: "NASA and other world space agencies have pictures of the Earth from space, and in those pictures the Earth is clearly a globe; in this day and age, hasn't it been proven beyond any doubt that the Earth is round?"

A: NASA and the rest of the world's space agencies who claim to have been to space are involved in a Conspiracy to keep the shape of the Earth hidden. The pictures are faked using simple imaging software.

Q: "What is the motive behind this Conspiracy?"

A: Although their main objective can only be speculated upon, the most favoured theory is that of financial gain. In a nutshell, it would logically cost much less to fake a space program than to actually have one, so those in on the Conspiracy profit from the funding NASA and other space agencies receive from the government.

The main question that occurred to me (aside from the obvious scientific ones that have been asked hundreds of times) is:

There are many ways the government can make money, why engage in a complex and expensive theory when they could just raise taxes?

It also seems to me that the majority of their answers to the frequently ask questions are questions in themselves. When asked to prove that the earth is flat they only respond by saying that we can’t prove the earth is round, so it must be flat.

A map of the flat earth

A map of the earth as a disc, and the UN emblem that is claimed to support the theory.
A map of the earth as a disc, and the UN emblem that is claimed to support the theory.

The map

This is an image of the map of the flat earth as it is believed to exist by members of the Flat Earth Society. Their belief in a world-wide government conspiracy to hide the truth is in their opinion supported by the United Nations emblem, which appears to be a map of a flat earth.

The purpose for writing this article was not a chance to poke fun at the proverbial pale kid playing D and D (or the kid staunchly believing in strange theories) it was urged on by an endless curiosity in people who will cling so closely to a faith. Any faith whether it be scientific or religious.

It is this curiosity that reminds me constantly to always ask questions, and then to listen to the answers I get. Changing theories to suit facts, instead of facts to suit theories.


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    • ar.colton profile image

      Mikal Smith 5 years ago from Vancouver, B.C.

      Takes all kinds of clowns to make a good circus!

    • funnychap profile image

      Robert D'Silva 5 years ago from Mumbai

      hard to believe that there are such people in the world today! Well written.

    • ar.colton profile image

      Mikal Smith 7 years ago from Vancouver, B.C.

      Thanks a lot! I have to admit I cheated a little bit. The last line about changing facts to suit theories is actually a line from the Guy Ritchie movie Sherlock Holmes.

      I am so flattered that you found this article so interesting. I'm glad to provide as much information as I can. The FES site has a lot more info if you're interested.

    • lalesu profile image

      lalesu 7 years ago from south of the Mason-Dixon

      A.R., this is one of the most interesting hubs I've read to date.

      I especially like your closing statement, "It is this curiosity that reminds me constantly to always ask questions, and then to listen to the answers I get. Changing theories to suit facts, instead of facts to suit theories."

      ~ Laura