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A parody religion or mock religion is a belief system that challenges spiritual convictions of others, often through humor, satire, or burlesque (literary ridicule). Often created to achieve a specific purpose related to another belief system, a parody religion can be a parody of several religions, sects, gurus, cults, or new religious movements at the same time or even a parody of no particular religion, instead parodying the concept of religious belief itself. In some parody religions, emphasis is on having fun and being a convenient excuse for pleasant social interaction among the like-minded (e.g., the Church of the SubGenius). Other parody religions target a specific religion, sect, cult, or new religious movement.
One approach to parody religion aims to highlight deficiencies in particular pro-religious arguments — the thinking being that if a given argument can also be used to support a clear parody, then the original argument is clearly flawed. An example of this is the Flying Spaghetti Monster, which parodies the equal time argument employed by intelligent design and Creationism.
Occasionally, a parody religion may offer ordination by mail or on-line at a nominal fee, seeking equal recognition for this clergy under freedom of religion provisions, including the 1st and 14th amendments to the United States Constitution. A few US states have permitted The Church of the Latter-Day Dude or Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster officiants to legally solemnise marriage. Parody religions also have sought the same reasonable accommodation legally afforded to mainstream religions, including religious-specific garb or headgear.
Several religions that are classified as parody religions have a number of relatively serious followers who embrace the perceived absurdity of these religions as spiritually significant, a decidedly post-modern approach to religion. For instance, in Discordianism, it can be hard to tell whether even these "serious" followers are not just taking part in an even bigger joke. This joke, in turn, might be part of a greater path to enlightenment, and so on ad infinitum.
List of notable parody religions
Parodies of particular beliefs
The following were created as parodies of particular religious beliefs:
|Eventualism||A satire on Scientology-like religions which appeared in the movie Schizopolis|||
|Invisible Pink Unicorn||A parody of theist definitions of God. It also highlights the arbitrary and unfalsifiable nature of religious belief, in a similar way to Russell's teapot.|||
|Kibology||A humorous Usenet-based satire of religion|||
|Landover Baptist Church||A satiric parody of Fundamentalist Christianity.|||
|Last Thursdayism||A joke version of omphalism that argues that the universe was created last Thursday, created to demonstrate problems with unfalsifiable beliefs, and the variant Next Wednesdayism inspired by John Landis's running movie gag See You Next Wednesday.|||
|Pastafarianism, or the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster||A parody of intelligent design, Creationism, and religion in general, as a modern version of Russell's teapot.|||
|Tarvuism||A spoof religion that British comedians Peter Serafinowicz and Robert Popper invented for the television show, Look Around You, that parodied instructional religious videos such as those of Scientologists and Christians.|||
|First Church of the Last Laugh||The spoof religion behind the annual Saint Stupid's Day Parade in San Francisco.|||
The following are post-modern religions that may be seen as elaborate parodies of 'real' religions:
|Pastafarianism||A religion which claims to follow the Flying Spaghetti Monster, a deity composed entirely of spaghetti. It parodies Catholic councils with its First Council of Olive Garden, and Catholic saints with its scripture "The Loose Canon", supposedly written by John the Blasphemer. It's name is a parody of Rastafarianism.|||
|Bokononism||A fictional religion from Kurt Vonnegut's novel Cat's Cradle, which promotes harmless comforting lies called foma. Its principal text, The Books of Bokonon, is a parody of the New Testament. See also the Church of God the Utterly Indifferent in Kurt Vonnegut's The Sirens of Titan.|||
|Church of the SubGenius||It was founded in 1979. It often regarded as a parody of religion in general, with elements of fundamentalist Christianity, Zen, Scientology, new-age cults, pop-psychology, and motivational sales techniques amongst others, has become a movement in its own right, inspiring several books, art exhibits, rock albums, conventions, and novelty items.|||
|Dudeism||A religion based on the 1998 film, The Big Lebowski, in which the titular character, also known as "the Dude", is revered as a guru. The adherents consider the religion a modern form of Taoism.|||
|Discordianism||It is based on the book 1965 Principia Discordia. It is principal deity is the goddess of chaos Discordia (Greek Eris).|||
|Iglesia Maradoniana ("Church of Maradona")||It was form by an Argentinian group of fans of the association football player Diego Armando Maradona. The adherents baptize themselves by slapping a football, which is a reference to the 1986 "Hand of God" goal.|||
|Jediism||In 2001 following an Internet campaign, the fictional Star Wars "religion" of the Jedis became a parody religion in several Commonwealth countries as 1.5% of the New Zealand, 0.37% of the Australia and 0.7% of the UK population stated their religion as Jedi in the official census (see Jedi census).|||
|Kopimism||It is based on the belief that file sharing is a sacred virtue which must remain protected. It was given recognition by the Sweden government in January 2012. It was founded by a philosophy student, Isak Gerson.|||
|Matrixism, or The Path of the One||A new religious movement inspired by the 1999 movie The Matrix. It appeared online in 2004. The adherents claim belief in a multilayered subjective reality and await the return of their prophet, the One.|||
|Church of Euthanasia||The Church of Euthanasia is a "non-profit educational foundation devoted to restoring balance between Humans and the remaining species on Earth." The Church uses sermons, music, culture jamming, publicity stunts and direct action to highlight Earth's unsustainable population. The Church is notorious for its conflicts with Pro-life Christian activists.|||
Usage by atheist commentators
|“||I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.||”|
— Stephen F. Roberts
Many atheists, including Richard Dawkins, use parody religions such as those of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and the Invisible Pink Unicorn — as well as ancient gods like Zeus and Thor — as modern versions of Russell's teapot to argue that the burden of proof is on the believer, not the atheist.
Dawkins also created a parody of the criticism of atheism, coining the term athorism, or the firm belief that the Norse deity Thor does not exist. The intention is to emphasize the claim that atheism is not a form of religious creed, but instead merely denial of beliefs. A common challenge against atheism is the idea that atheism is itself a form of "faith", a belief without proof. The theist might say "No one can prove that God does not exist, therefore an atheist is exercising faith by asserting that there is no God." Dawkins argues that by replacing the word "God" with "Thor" one should see that the assertion is fallacious. The burden of proof, he claims, rests upon the believer in the supernatural, not upon the non-believer who considers such things unlikely. Athorism is an attempt to illustrate through absurdity that there is no logical difference between disbelieving any particular religion.
- Dan Vergano (26 March 2006). "'Spaghetti Monster' is noodling around with faith". USA Today. Retrieved 2013-10-03.
- "Atheists sue Washington County over denial to perform marriages". Star-Tribune.
- "Official: Pastafarian strainer titfer is religious headgear". The Register. 14 July 2011. Retrieved 3 October 2013.
- "Review: "Schizopolis"". Variety (magazine). 28 May 1996. Retrieved 3 October 2013.
- "Pastafarians: Finding God on world wide web". The Times of India. 28 May 2010. Retrieved 3 October 2013.
- Nigel Suckling (December 2006). Unicorns. AAPPL. p. 94. ISBN 978-1-904332-68-8.
- William H. Swatos; Peter Kivisto (1 January 1998). Encyclopedia of Religion and Society. Rowman Altamira. p. 237. ISBN 978-0-7619-8956-1.
- Dale McGowan (25 February 2013). Atheism For Dummies. John Wiley & Sons. p. 210. ISBN 978-1-118-50921-0. Retrieved 3 October 2013.
- "Faith takes strange forms on the Web". Stars and Stripes (newspaper). 15 June 2008. Retrieved 3 October 2013.
- "Say 'Hebbo' to Tarvuism!". Chortle.co.uk. 14 October 2010. Retrieved 30 October 2010.
- Dumas, D (4 September 2010). "Look Around You: Science Video Reductio ad Absurdum". Wired (magazine). Retrieved 3 October 2013.
- Thill, Scott (17 January 2009). "Education Spoof Look Around You Schools Adult Swim". Wired (magazine). Retrieved 3 October 2013.
- "St. Stupid's Day Parade mocks economic and religious institutions". 1 March 2011. Retrieved 3 October 2013.
- Meilena Hauslendale (1 August 2007). The Spiritual Revolution: Guide to Spiritual Development & Independence. Lulu.com. p. 39. ISBN 978-0-615-14902-8.
- Lawrence R. Broer (30 August 1994). Sanity Plea: Schizophrenia in the Novels of Kurt Vonnegut. University of Alabama Press. p. 62. ISBN 978-0-8173-0752-3. Retrieved 3 October 2013.
- Peter Knight (1 January 2003). Conspiracy Theories in American History: An Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. p. 170. ISBN 978-1-57607-812-9. Retrieved 3 October 2013.
- Carole M. Cusack (2010). Invented Religions: Imagination, Fiction and Faith. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. pp. 87–105. ISBN 978-0-7546-9360-4. Retrieved 4 October 2013.
- "How ‘The Big Lebowski’ became a cultural touchstone and the impetus for festivals across the country". The Boston Globe. 15 September 2009. Retrieved 3 October 2013.[dead link]
- "The man who founded a religion based on 'The Big Lebowski'". CNN. 20 March 2013. Retrieved 3 October 2013.
- Christopher Penczak (2006). The Mystic Foundation: Understanding and Exploring the Magical Universe. Llewellyn Worldwide. p. 259. ISBN 978-0-7387-0979-6. Retrieved 3 October 2013.
- "Diego Maradona's 48th birthday celebrated by Church of Maradona". The Telegraph (London). 30 October 2008. Retrieved 3 October 2013.
- "Jedi 'religion' grows in Australia". BBC News. 27 August 2002. Retrieved 3 October 2013.
- "Bad Movie Hurts Jedi Down Under". Wired (magazine). 31 August 2002. Retrieved 3 October 2013.[dead link]
- "No place for Jedi in survey". The Guardian. 14 February 2003. Retrieved 3 October 2013.
- "Sweden recognises new file-sharing religion Kopimism". BBC News. 5 January 2012. Retrieved 3 October 2013.
- George D. Chryssides (1 November 2011). Historical Dictionary of New Religious Movements. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 227–. ISBN 978-0-8108-6194-7. Retrieved 3 October 2013.
- Church of Euthanasia FAQ
- Dianna Narciso. Like Rolling Uphill: Realizing the Honesty of Atheism. p. 6. ISBN 1-932560-74-2.
- Dawkins, Richard (2006). "Chapter 2: The God Hypothesis". The God Delusion. London: Bantam. ISBN 978-0-593-05548-9.
- Richard, Dawkins. "Let's Hope It's A Lasting Vogue". On Faith (Newsweek). Retrieved 2007-04-12.
- Inside the Spiritual Jacuzzi article by Jesse Walker about parody religions and other "customized faiths"
- Crazy Watering Can music video, illustrates the use of religious symbolism via parody of a symbolic watering can with religious significance (similar to Bertrand Russel's teapot).