There are many opponents of Christianity who use the argument that Christianity is some sort of conspiracy to brainwash unsuspecting human beings and make us docile lapdogs who accept anything that the church or the government pitches. I chuckle when they think that this is some grand scheme cooked up by Constantine or by the council of Nicaea to deceive the masses. How do these conspiracy theories even hold water? Because people have a fundamental misunderstanding of how the church operates and what the true function of Christianity is.
First of all, there is no centralized aristocracy that benefits from the "church" or Christianity. The Vatican and the Catholic church represent one of the most organized entities in Christendom. However, the Vatican does not represent the whole of Christianity. Catholicism is one denomination of thousands of denominations. A brief Google search indicates that there are roughly 41,000 Christian denominations. Certainly, other denominations are organized in a similar way but all follow different rules of polity. There is no centralized "church" as many opponents propose. The organization within denominations is more for dissemination of information and doctrinal/theological fidelity, not mind control of the masses. But even with that, denominations such as Baptists, who are congregational in their polity, give every church within the denomination autonomy with the Southern Baptist Convention being used more as a model and mechanism for the allocation of funds to the member churches rather than acting as a ruling body.
Secondly, conspiracy theorists propose that churches are simply a mechanism to rob people of their funds. If they only knew how giving has historically and progressively decreased in the church across every denomination, they may think again. There is no central church bank that takes money from the masses. Greedy churches are more reflective of their leaders than of Christianity as a whole. Everyone always lobs pejoratives at the church for accepting tithes and offerings but the church's work in the community, feeding the homeless, foreign missions, giving to causes beyond itself and utilization of the monies collected to remain operational are rarely discussed. Churches have bills just like everyone else.
What many visualize as "the church" is the Catholic church and the ecclesiastical hierarchy that begins with the Pope and flows down to the other offices within that church. The church scandals from the Middle Ages have tainted the perception of the church. That was one period in the 2000 year history of the "church". What opponents do not understand is that the "church" began as a nomadic group of thirteen men (Jesus and His 12 disciples). Later, they got really organized after the death of Christ by meeting from house to house on the first day of the week. How is that for a criminal super-organization? Meeting house to house, eating together and talking about Jesus? Sounds very conspiratorial, doesn't it?
Another thing that demonstrates the church is not some huge conspiracy is the fact that those who were critical in the foundation of the church were all martyred for their service. All of the disciples, save for John, were martyred. The foundation of the church, Jesus Christ Himself was killed by the Roman government with collusion from the Jewish religious leaders. If there was some grand conspiracy, wouldn't it stand to reason that there would be some cooperation from Jesus, the religious leaders, the Roman government and the disciples who would be at most, surrogates/couriers for the centralized message? That is not how it went down. Jesus was murdered. The disciples were hunted. Nero burned Christians at the stake and even their burning bodies as torches to light areas during evening (Roman Candles?)! It was a dangerous proposition to become a Christian, especially during the inception of the "church"! Jesus even said Himself to Peter that you are going to be led away to a place where you do not want to go (See John 21:18). He was speaking of Peter's eventual death. Who becomes a part of a religion where the ultimate goal is death? Death to self and potentially death because of your beliefs are both consequences of becoming a Christian!
What many need to understand finally is this: becoming a Christian is a voluntary exercise! Yes, we evangelize. We do so, not because we are trying to suck you into a grand conspiracy but rather because we are concerned about winning souls for Christ! We evangelize, not to put pressure on the lost but to remind the lost that Jesus loved them enough to die for them and forgive their sins. It is up to the individual to accept or reject Jesus. Rejecting Jesus does not mean that you've avoided being hoodwinked, it means that you'd rather live your life without Him. The structure and order that a relationship with Jesus brings to the life of the believer is often shunned by those who would rather continue in sinful patterns that are pleasurable to them. They don't want their applecarts upset. Rejecting Jesus has eternal consequences but it may or may not affect your temporal existence. For proof, look at the atheist authors and lecturers who have become rich denigrating Christianity or who live seemingly "normal" lives. Conversely, accepting Jesus may or may not enhance our temporal existence. Christians have issues just like everyone else. The big difference is that our place in eternity is secured regardless of our temporal circumstances.
Not only is becoming a Christian a voluntary exercise, believers can choose whatever church they please. There are many ministries that simply meet in a home. Not all churches are megachurches nor are all churches connected to some vast network of shadowy, illuminati groups. The choice is strictly up to the individual.
There is no church conspiracy. The New Testament, while organized by the Council of Nicaea who met in 325 AD, existed as a loose collection of accepted epistles before these men ever met. This meeting occurred about 290 years after the death of Christ. It should be noted that ALL of the gospels and epistles were already written and many copies of them existed with the latest gospel being written about 90 AD [the Gospel of John]. These men met not to establish the guidebook for their conspiratorial exploits but to separate fact from fantasy.
They did not meet to "put the New Testament together" but rather they discovered what God intended to be in the New Testament (Geisler, Norman "I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist", p. 367). Geisler posits that the Bible is not an authoritative list of books but rather an list of authoritative books. Many of the so-called lost gospels were often so incredulous and contained such extreme embellishments that they simply could not be included within the Biblical canon. For instance, the Gospel of Peter included an instance of a talking cross that emerged from an empty tomb. Other "lost gospels" seemed to try to discredit Christ by claiming that he was married with children. How could this contradictory material be included without destroying the credibility of the Bible?
The Council of Nicaea was diligent in that they also weeded out pseudographs that were written by non-apostolic authors but were ascribed to the apostles to increase their credibility and believability. It would be like me releasing a novel and putting John Grisham's name on it to ensure that it sells! If you have ever read the Bible and paid attention to it, the integrity from Old to New Testament is impeccable. It would be virtually impossible for the Law, the Prophets, the Gospels and the Epistles to be so closely aligned without divine authorship! There are prophecies in the Old Testament that were fulfilled by Jesus hundreds of years after they were penned. That is God-breathed inspiration, not man-made conspiracy!
Bottom line? Get over the conspiracy theories. There is no conspiracy within the church. Are there churches that have not acquitted themselves well? Yes. Attribute that to human error and sin rather than condemning the entirety of Christendom. If you choose not to believe, that's your choice. Ask any Christian you know whether they are more docile since accepting Christ? We still get angry, we still make mistakes and we still sin. If you are following the election, you will see that many "Christians" are vehemently anti-government! So much for controlling the masses. There is no conspiracy alive that can fully subdue the human will of any given person. The government has more than enough guns and jail cells to control man's actions. They don't need the help of Jesus to do that.