Bielefeld, Germany, does not exist. Or so the story goes. The German city has been the playful subject of a long-running online conspiracy theory. Now the city that isn’t is offering big bucks—to whomever proves its non-existence is true. (Confused yet?)
In reality, Bielefeld is a city of just over 300,000 people. Several international companies have headquarters there. The city has a university, a botanical garden, and even a second-tier football (soccer) club.
Yesterday, officials in Bielefeld announced that city leaders will award $1.1 million to the person who delivers solid proof that the city does not exist.
There are “no limits to creativity” for entrants. But only unquestionable evidence will qualify for the prize.
The idea that Bielefeld does not exist was first floated as a joke by computer expert Achim Held. He posted the mocking claim on the internet in 1994. Held wanted to poke fun at online conspiracy theories. Such theories hold that large but secret organizations control world events.
Today, the Bielefeld theory asks three questions: Do you know anybody from Bielefeld? Have you ever been to Bielefeld? Do you know anybody who has ever been to Bielefeld? The theory relies on the fact that most people will answer “no” to all three questions. Of course, anybody who answers “yes” is quickly seen as being in on the hoax.
People sometimes try to “prove” that God doesn’t exist by claiming they’ve never seen God or known anyone who’s seen God. Belief in God requires faith in something beyond our human vision or understanding.
The Bielefeld Conspiracy has become a marketing goldmine for the city. Even German Chancellor Angela Merkel once jokingly cast doubt on the existence of Bielefeld, which is located about 205 miles west of Berlin. . . . Or is it? (Wink, wink.)
Whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him. — Hebrews 11:6
(A castle in “non-existent” Bielefeld, Germany. Friso Gentsch/dpa via AP)