I once heard it posited by an expert in comparative religion that there are just as many religions on this planet as there are individuals. This is, of course, an exaggeration, but it does illustrate the wide swath of paths to the Divine that humanity has taken over the centuries. Even if you look at one of the “Big Five” religions currently operating on this planet (Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism), you’d find thousands upon thousands of denominations, sub-churches, and numerous other tiny sects hidden within.
As history grinds forward, and churches fracture, there only seem to be more and more religions forming every day. Some may see this an an over-complication of a simple process (i.e., exploring one’s spiritual side), but some see it as being good to have options.
Indeed, some of the options in religious followings have skewed so far from any sort of known “traditional” courses, that we have our choice of downright weird, totally absurd churches that we can indeed join.
Some require little participation; some require money; some just require proselytizing. But all of the following churches are real religious organizations that you can ally yourself with… should they strike your spiritual fancy.
The Church of the SubGenius
One of the most popular punk rock religions, The Church of the SubGenius was founded in 1979 by one Ivan Stang, and is still going strong in 2016. The Church of the SubGenius is often called a parody religion, and Stang himself has admitted as much, often saying that he invented the Church as a way of poking fun at a lot of the religious conventions around him (notably, conservative Christianity, and the rise of the New Age churches). The Church, however, does possess a complex belief system, and, while it’s completely off-the-wall, even espouses a workable life philosophy.
The central deity of The Church of the SubGenius is one J.R. “Bob” Dobbs, who is represented by a dead-eyed, smiling piece of 1950s advertising clip art. “Bob” is the world’s ultimate salesman, and has discovered the truth about humanity: That those who think they are “weird,” are actually a superior species to the “normals” (called “pinks”) because they possess yeti DNA. Those with yeti DNA can pay the Church $35 to become an ordained minister. Those who aren’t “weird,” actually belong to a vast and insidious conspiracy of capitalism that is so treacherous, its own members don’t know they’re involved. Those who are ordained in the Church are going to be rescued by a race of aliens from Planet X when they come to take back the Earth on July 5th, 1998 (oh yes, and The Conspiracy is so vast, that we don’t actually know what year it is; 1998 could still be ahead of us).
The Church of the SubGenius believes in Slack (as in “cut me some slack”) which is another way of telling people to do what makes them feel good. It’s a casual libertarian philosophy, but whose streak of human exceptionalism is actually kind of tongue-in-cheek. It’s also very pop culture based, and much of the iconography of The Church of the SubGenius comes from old sci-fi and monster movies. If you have an afternoon to blow, you can study up.
Although organized churches are hard to find, Discordianism is considered a true religion by its loosely-gathered adherents. Discordianism is a religion that worships Eris, the ancient Greek goddess of discord, and is based on the fundamental notion that the world cannot be understood, and that humanity’s initial response to any and all things is an immediate reaction of confusion. Discordians seek to extend that confusion indefinitely.
The church was founded in 1963 by Malaclypse the Younger and Omar Khayyam Ravenhurst with the publication of the PRINCIPIA DISCORDIA, a massively confusing expanded pamphlet describing the church in the most uncertain terms imaginable. It sounds like wild, mad raving, and it’s hard to discern any actual philosophy out of it at first. After a while, though, you do begin to glean a type of Zen Buddhism out of it, wherein concepts like order and chaos are but illusions.
Since the church is devoted to disorder, it only makes sense that the actual organization or the religion is complete bedlam. Those in charge encourage schisms, and while there is a hierarchy in place similar to the Roman Catholic church, there is no way of knowing who is at what level. One thing we can agree on: The central symbol of the religion is Eris’ golden apple of discord, inscribed with the Greek word καλλίστῃ, or kallisti. That golden apple will be familiar to scholars of the ILIAD.
The Church of Euthanasia
Founded by Chris Korda and Robert Kimbrick, the Church of Euthanasia is exactly what is sounds like: A faith that encourages its members to kill themselves. While this sounds like a dark path meant for depressives, it’s actually meant to be a more peaceful church that is more devoted to the overall health of the planet than it is to the souls of its adherents. Its founders call it the very first anti-human religion, and their website calls it “A non-profit educational foundation devoted to restoring balance between humans and the remaining species on Earth.”
Their one commandment is to not procreate, and on their website, they have a ticker, reminding one of the ever-growing human population on Earth. It was only until the most recent century that humans began to acknowledge that our population was beginning to strain against the actual resources of the planet, and the Church of Euthanasia is there to make sure population shrinks by encouraging death.
Sadly, there is indeed a dark edge to what they preach, and any instance of mass death on this planet is seen as a boon for the church. They also encourage cannibalism, eating your own waste, and other pretty gross things to ensure that you are not straining the planet at all. The Church of Euthanasia is essentially an extreme form of environmentalism mixed with outright misanthropy.
There was a rumor going around for a few years that, if enough of a nation’s population were to write “Jedi” (as in the Jedi from STAR WARS) as their religion on a census form, then the state would have to officially recognize it as a local faith. This is not true it turns out, and it sounds like those who would write “Jedi” on a census form are more interested in pranking the census system than they are actually declaring themselves to be adherents to the Jedi way of life. Which is, it turns out, only vaguely sketched out over the course of the STAR WARS film series.
Most people who tried to set up Jedi churches have been openly trying to mock the legislation of churches by feigning faith in Jediism to rid the official doctrinization of other, more popular churches. But, pranking aside, someone in this country actually founded a Church of Jediism that you can actually join. Its website is a very serious-looking affair, and you can indeed become an actual Jedi, should the philosophy seem keen to you.
The church is also a very politically progressive organization, and seems keen on promoting free speech and inclusion. There is a central doctrine, but only some of it comes from STAR WARS.
The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster
This is not so much an actual church as it is a smart-alecky way of saying that you are an atheist. The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is based on a quote from the famed atheist lecturer Richard Dawkins, who was once told that the burden of disproof of God rested on his shoulders. His response was that he couldn’t prove God didn’t exist, but he couldn’t prove The Flying Spaghetti Monster didn’t exist either. Dawkins’ many superfans took this as an opportunity to essentially make fun of all religion by starting one that was deliberately absurd.
As such, adherents to the Church of the FSM have fought for their religious rights by using absurd actions that point out, like the Jedi, the ridiculousness of the legislative aspects of religion. One FSM member once fought, under the guise of religious freedom, to wear a colander on her head in her driver’s license photo. The FSM members feel that any freedom granted to people for their religion should be dismantled. As followers of Richard Dawkins, the FSM members take an incredibly dim view of all religious matters.
This hasn’t stopped people from having fun with it, though. You can buy FSM t-shirts, FSM logos that look like Jesus fish to mount on the back of your car, and even posters of Michelangelo’s “Birth of Man,” but with The Flying Spaghetti Monster itself in the place of God. What a card.