Satirical Religions

 Sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.   — Lewis Carroll

There are not as many things that distinguish humans from the rest of the animals as we might like to think: a capacity for tool-making, for language, for a degree of abstract thought, for empathy, and even the transmission of culture have been found in the animal kingdom.

There are probably a few things about which we can celebrate our uniqueness. I don’t know what animal belly-laughs like a human or composes music that can mean so much.  But then there’s what might make us fear for our future as a species — such as the human ability to believe anything.  And I mean anything.  With all that true belief comes the murderous self-righteous fury that easily arises against non-believers, which feeds itself in the community of believers.

elvis1Some people believe in the flat earth.  Some people believe in a hollow earth which spews forth demons.  There’s those who swear they can live well by eating air and nothing else.  Others rely confidently on character analysis of the stars through biorhythm.  Many worship books written by their gods.  Quite a number are certain that the moon landings were faked.  The Space Brothers will save us from our doomed planet.  Many of the best of us are actually extraterrestrials who haven’t woken up yet.  Ragnarok is coming (it’s like Armageddon with older gods).  Praise the holy name of Elvis

And this leads me to the amusing parodies and near parodies of religion I’ve come across.  There’s nothing like making fun to short out the belief circuits and make the dogma howl.

Before I go on, I should be explicit about my own, ahem, biases.  I am a part-time mystical existentialist Buddhist-Taoist agnostic.  I say part-time because I also occasionally can believe in myself as a Deist, and then again, as a Pantheist.  Of course there’s  moments when I feel more like a Transcendentalist.  And sometimes I just don’t know where to turn.

I’ve ended up writing about this primarily because I was greatly amused by my discovery of The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

250px-Touched_by_His_Noodly_Appendage This religion was founded in 2005 by Bobby Henderson as a reaction to the proposed teaching of Biblical creationism through the guise of ‘intelligent design’ as part of the science curriculum in Kansas.

The Flying Spaghetti Monster, also known as the Spaghedeity, created the universe.  Pastafarians, as His followers are known, must worship Him wearing pirate suits.  Henderson insists that this religion’s beliefs must be taught in the schools too, especially the evidence correlating global warming with the worldwide reduction in the number of pirates.

As Henderson has said: ‘I think we can all look forward to the time when these three theories are given equal time in our science classrooms across the country, and eventually the world; one third time for Intelligent Design, one third time for Flying Spaghetti Monsterism, and one third time for logical conjecture based on overwhelming observable evidence.’

Henderson has written a holy text, The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, which includes the Eight I’d Really Rather You Didn’ts

In a similar vein is the worship of the Goddess known as the Invisible Pink Unicorn.  The fact that the goddess is both invisible and pink is a sacred conundrum on the theological level of the Trinity.

Her followers like to point out that since nobody can see Her, nobody can prove She doesn’t exist.  

If this sounds like a satirical take on organized religion by atheists… well, that’s because it is.  I am only infrequently an atheist myself, but I do empathize and get a chuckle out of this reaction to Christian dogma.

I have to slip Frisbeetarianism in here, just because it makes me grin.  This is a religion invented by the comedian George Carlin (which I have mentioned before in another post).  Its basic tenet is that when you die your soul goes up on the roof and you can’t get it down.

One shouldn’t ignore the canons of DiscordianismDiscordianism is described by Wikipedia as a ‘modern, chaos-centred religion’…

One of the religion’s definitions of their creed goes like this:

“The veneration of Eris, a.k.a. Discordia; widely popular among hackers. Discordianism was popularized by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson’s novel ‘Illuminatus!’ as a sort of self-subverting Dada-Zen for Westerners — it should on no account be taken seriously but is far more serious than most jokes. Consider, for example, the Fifth Commandment of the Pentabarf, from ‘Principia Discordia’: ‘A Discordian is Prohibited of Believing What he Reads.’ Discordianism is usually connected with an elaborate conspiracy theory/joke involving millennia-long warfare between the anarcho-surrealist partisans of Eris and a malevolent, authoritarian secret society called the Illuminati. ”

Eh, Illuminati, Spumoni, whatever…  I’m more enthusiastic about The Church of Last Thursdayism: It is the idea that the world was created last Thursday, but with the appearance of everything being already aged: people’s memories, books in the library, fossils, light already on the way from distant stars, Grandma, and so forth.  This is charming and I dare you to prove it wrong. 

The friendly people at the Church of Google believe the search engine Google is the closest humankind has ever come to directly experiencing a real god.  They believe there is much more evidence in favour of Google’s divinity than there is for the divinity of other more traditional gods.  They have their Nine Proofs to substantiate this.  Proof No. 2, for instance, proclaims Google’s omnipresence: being everywhere at once.

One shouldn’t forget the Church of the SubGenius, either.  This is an example of a parody religion which I think has begun to take itself too seriously, or just maybe has gone on too long.  It moved from being inspiringly demented in one of its first texts The Book of the SubGenius: Lunatic Prophecies for the Coming Weird Times to becoming rather tired, crude and not very funny in some later works and on the Web.

The Church summarizes its philosophy (and this gives you a sense of the overall tone of the institution): 

BW1234 “The Church Of The SubGenius is an order of Scoffers and Blasphemers, dedicated to Total Slack, delving into Mockery Science, Sadofuturistics, Megaphysics, Scatalography, Schizophreniatrics, Morealism, Sarcastrophy, Cynisacreligion, Apocolyptionomy, ESPectorationalism, Hypno-Pediatrics, Subliminalism, Satyriology, Disto-Utopianity, Sardonicology, Fascetiouism, Ridiculophagy, and Miscellatheistic Theology.”

Although I have never worshipped J.R. ‘Bob’ Dobbs, the church’s prophet, I have appreciated his insight: “You’ll PAY to know what you REALLY think.”   The Way of Slack has also been a meaningful one in my life:  “The Slack that can be described is not the true Slack.”  Some people might interpret Slack as goofing off, but it is holier than that.

The Dobbsists like to believe that they inspired the science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard (later known to his devoted followers as Elron) to start Scientology as a cash cow.  I think we can define Scientology as a “near-parody” given its origins.

Several sources paint the same picture, including one of the editors of an old-time science fiction magazine who says that at a sci-fi group meeting Hubbard stated: `Writing for a penny a word is ridiculous.  If a man really wanted to make a million dollars, the best way to do it would be to start his own religion.’ 

The Scientologists have not been amused at this story.  They took a German magazine to court over this description of events, and lost.

During one period Elron resigned as the Church’s chief executive and removed himself to a small fleet of Scientologist crewed ships which floated in the Mediterranean.  The crew addressed him as The Commodore.  He was attended by ‘Commodore’s Messengers’: teenaged girls dressed in white hot pants who waited on him at all times. 

When he died (with a sedative used to combat anxiety found in his blood), the Church of Scientology announced Hubbard had discarded his body to do higher level spiritual research on a planet a galaxy away.  Hard to believe, but true.

Now we come to MOOism.  Somebody named Floyd Gecko is apparently involved since the Church’s description of its philosophy is the following:

“MOOism is what you get after you remove everything that made sense about Discordianism, and let Floyd Gecko rant about what’s left.”
–Jocasta the Unicapitary

There’s enough here to engage the interest of academics, for some reason.  Apparently several sociologists of religion have studied it.

The accidental resemblance of MOOism to a computer game about conquering the universe called Master of Orion (or MOO, as the clued-in know) got me to thinking about how I could start my own religion.   I think there may be fertile ground in the video game world for starting some kind of insidious cult, or at least a parody of one.  Next year….

I’d like to end this with a quote from the longshoreman philosopher Eric Hoffer, who had a lot to say about true believers:

“The compulsion to take ourselves seriously is in inverse proportion to our creative capacity. When the creative flow dries up, all we have left is our importance.”

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16 Comments on “Satirical Religions”


  1. I sit in the back row of the Church of Chickenshit Conformity.

  2. fencer Says:

    Thanks for dropping by… I spend a fair time in those pews too.

    Regards


  3. Great compilation. I especially appreciated the irony of starting a satirical religion only to have proponents and followers take it seriously. You sound like you have syncretic tendencies, Fencer.

  4. fencer Says:

    Hi Ann,

    That would be quite a good idea for a novel, starting a mock religion, and what happens to the ‘prophet’ as many insist on taking it seriously. At what point does the ‘prophet’ begin to fool himself and go along for the ride?

    To tell you the truth I had to look up ‘syncretic’, although I had a vague notion of its meaning. Wow, that’s a whole wide world there: the Japanese especially seem to be big on creating new religions by combining older ones.

    I think I’m more of an eclecticist (if there be such a word). I seem to be more interested in stacking interesting stuff from different sources for contemplation rather than trying to amalgamate them into a new paradigm for myself.

    Regards


  5. Thanks Fencer. I’d be something of an eclecticist myself. Should we call ourselves Mosaics? ;)

    As you say, this would all be a very interesting and fertile basis for a novel.

  6. fencer Says:

    Hi Ann,

    Yes, we could be Mosaicists!

    Regards

  7. Half-Mad Says:

    Floyd Gecko just finished getting his Ph.D.. I suspect you should be able to determine how so many sociologists managed to find him.

  8. fencer Says:

    Hi Half-Mad,

    Thanks for dropping by… I didn’t know that about Dr. Gecko.

    Regards

  9. qazse Says:

    fencer,

    As always a well researched and articulated piece with a touch of self disclosure – all wrapped in a logical vector. Thanks.

    (Religion seems like a weed which overtakes our spiritual ecosystem)

  10. qazse Says:

    PS Maybe, this rush to believe in just about anything is a function of man’s survival instinct to minimize ambiguity. Or maybe, we are just stupid.

  11. fencer Says:

    Hi qazse,

    It’s a shame that the root meaning of religion is to tie together again… an ideal seldom met.

    Regards

  12. FlipC Says:

    Just stumbled over this entry, nice to see so many one and only true religions listed here.

    My current habit when reading the papers or watching the news is to substitute in a fake TV/film based religion for the real one and make up a corresponding Holy Day/ritual/whatever. Puts everything into perspective.

  13. fencer Says:

    Hi FlipC,

    Thanks for dropping by…

    That habit is like what Sam Harris notes in his book The End of Faith:

    When US President George Bush addresses the National Prayer Breakfast, he might as well say: “Behind all of life and all history there is a dedication and a purpose, set by the hand of a just and faithful Zeus.”

    Regards

  14. FlipC Says:

    Pfft Zeus is a wimp, he needs to pray to an up-to-date god ;-)

    Not the Nine O’Clock News – General Synod’s Life of Christ

  15. fencer Says:

    Hi FlipC,

    Pretty amusing reversal… John Cleese has always been a role model for me. Thanks for that!

    Regards


  16. […] “There’s nothing like making fun to short out the belief circuits and make the dogma howl.” […]


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